by Laurie Wertich, Medically Reviewed by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. 12/2021
Diets are a dime a dozen. You can choose from just about any program—eating for your blood type, eating an immune-supportive diet, low carb, high protein, sugar free, gluten free, and more. But did you know there is a healthy hair and nail diet, too? There is—and the good news is that you don’t have to buy a book or subscribe to any program to get lustrous hair and nails. All you have to do is make sure your diet includes the proper nutrients that will give your hair and nails some extra strength and shine.
If you want shiny, healthy hair and strong nails, start incorporating these nutrients into your diet:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a critical component of a healthy diet for many reasons, including the fact that these essential fatty acids (EFAs) support scalp health and lock in moisture. A deficiency in EFAs can result in dry scalp or dandruff. So if you want to prevent dry, brittle hair, omega-3s are key. If you want to increase your omega-3 intake, you can swallow a tablespoon of fish oil each morning or simply be sure to consume foods rich in omega-3s, such as eggs, salmon, spinach, tuna, walnuts, flaxseeds, or chia seeds.
- Biotin: Biotin is part of the B-vitamin complex. In truth it is vitamin B7, though it is sometimes referred to as vitamin H (as in hair). A deficiency in biotin can result in brittle hair or hair loss. Biotin helps strengthen nails and repair split ends. Biotin can be found in foods such as bananas, eggs, oatmeal, and rice, but it never hurts to supplement with a B complex vitamin.
- Protein: Protein intake is critical to a balanced diet. Dietary protein is one of the building blocks for strong hair and nails, both of which are comprised of a protein known as keratin. Vegetarians and vegans have to be especially careful to ensure their diet is meeting their protein needs. Most people think of meat as protein—and it is—but there are many sources of this vital nutrient. Choose from lean meats, chicken, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and soybeans.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps produce sebum in the body, which acts as a conditioning agent for the scalp. Vitamin A helps to keep hair looking and feeling healthy. To ensure you’re consuming enough vitamin A in your diet, include foods such as apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, spinach, sweet potatoes, eggs, and mangoes.
- Zinc: Zinc does more than help maintain your immune system—it helps regulate the body’s ability to make new proteins that become the building blocks of healthy hair and nails. A deficiency in zinc can result in dry, brittle hair and even alopecia (hair loss). To maintain optimal zinc levels, be sure to consume beans, whole grains, shellfish, cashews, lean meat, and poultry.
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