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    We've all heard the phrase, "You are what you eat," but does your diet impact your hair health?


    It does! Just like the foods you eat affect your skin, there are foods for healthy hair that can improve the way your mane looks and feels. The connection between diet, nutrition and the health of our hair is often underestimated.


    Find out the vitamins and nutrients you need to work into your diet to help support a healthy scalp and hair — no matter what type of hair you have.


    The Building Blocks of Healthy Hair

    The nutrients we consume are the building blocks of our hair, influencing its strength, shine, vitality and overall health.


    Hair is made up of a shaft and a root. The root extends deep into the layers of the skin and is surrounded by the hair follicle, which is connected to a sebaceous gland. Your body produces keratin, a natural protein that helps form hair and keep it healthy. Some hair products that contain keratin hydrolysates have been shown to help hair by making it stronger, softer and shinier, according to The Cleveland Clinic.


    When you're deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients, it can show in how your hair looks and feels and even result in hair loss. It can also result in hair growth slowing or stopping, particularly if you aren't getting enough protein in your diet. A biotin (vitamin B7) deficiency can result in hair loss, as can a deficiency in other vitamins, zinc and iron, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The good news is that when your body starts getting enough of these nutrients again, your hair can grow back and be strong and healthy. That's why it's so important to eat a healthy diet and prioritize good foods for improved hair.


    Target Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Scalp Health

    One of the best foods for healthy hair? Fish. More specifically, fatty fish. But if salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel or herring aren't your favorites, you can incorporate other sources of omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, such as canola, chia seeds, flaxseed oil and fortified eggs.


    Omega-3 fatty acids help balance skin hydration and regulate oil production. There have been several studies in humans and animals on the benefits of taking omega-3 and omega-6 supplements to help with hair growth. Some studies showed that taking a supplement helped to reduce hair loss in humans.*


    Omega-3s may also promote skin health — and what's good for skin health (like your scalp) can help hair health. A deficiency in omega-3s can result in dry skin and dandruff. So, if you're noticing more flakes on your scalp or shoulders, increase the healthy fats in your diet for hydrated skin and hair follicles from the inside out. Or, consider taking a fish oil supplement after checking with your doctor. You'll be tossing that shiny, healthy hair around in no time.


    Add Antioxidants for Hair Protection

    Some other foods for hair health to add to your plate include antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E. A diet rich in antioxidants may help maintain hair color, prevent premature graying and keep hair looking vibrant.


    • Vitamin A helps support our immune system, tissue production and skin health. A deficiency in vitamin A has been associated with hair loss, likely because it's essential for cells that make hair grow. Vitamin A can be found in milk, eggs, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, mangoes, carrots, pumpkin and kale.
    • Vitamin C helps supports collagen synthesis and is particularly important for skin health. A deficiency in vitamin C can cause hair breakage. Vitamin C is in citrus foods, leafy greens like spinach, kale and collard greens, guava, tomatoes and peppers.
    • Vitamin E may help support a healthy scalp and hair due to its antioxidant properties. It's found in leafy greens, vegetable oil, nuts, seeds and fortified breakfast cereals.


    Some delicious ways to incorporate these foods into a hair-healthy diet include:


    • Breakfast: Whole-grain fortified breakfast cereal (vitamin E) topped with strawberries (vitamin C) and low-fat milk (protein).
    • Lunch: Start with a leafy green salad of spinach or kale (vitamin C) that features carrots (vitamin A), peppers (vitamin C), tomatoes (vitamin C), walnuts (omega 3s) or almonds, and a lean protein like chicken or a fortified hard-boiled egg (B vitamins, omega 3s and protein).
    • Dinner: Pair a sweet potato (vitamin A) with a salmon fillet cooked in healthy vegetable oil, like flaxseed or canola oil (omega 3s), and steamed spinach (vitamin E) to round out the meal.
    • Snack: Blueberries or raspberries (vitamin C) with almonds or walnuts (omega 3s), or have an orange (vitamin C) with low-fat yogurt (protein) that's sprinkled with chia seeds (omega 3s).


    Hydrate for Hair Health Success

    As mentioned earlier, dry and dehydrated skin can lead to a dry, itchy scalp and flakes. Dry hair also looks dull and unhealthy, and it's more likely to break. You might notice this when you pull it back in a ponytail. The answer might lie in proper hydration.


    Aim for 2.7 liters of water per day to keep all of the body's systems operating optimally, including your hair growth systems. (Keep in mind this amount may vary based on exercise, environment and overall health.) A scalp that's healthy and hydrated from the inside out can produce hair that's strong, shiny and healthy. Remember, you can also get hydration from certain foods, like vegetables and fruits. This is a simple hair tip that will benefit all the processes in your body.


    Explore Hair, Skin and Nail Supplements

    You might also want to talk to your healthcare provider about taking a supplement in addition to a hair-healthy diet. Hair supplements that are formulated to help stimulate and support strong hair growth are popular today.


    The current science tends to address nutrient deficiencies and how those contribute to hair loss, hair health, as well as overall skin and nail health. A deficiency in vitamin B7 — also known as biotin — has been associated with hair loss and skin and nail problems; so, an intake of this vitamin may help.*


    Collagen helps make up essential proteins like keratin, which supports nails, hair and skin. So far, it seems the research shows that consuming collagen supplements can improve skin's appearance, moisture, elasticity and reduce the signs of wrinkles.* That said, the jury is still out as to whether this particular supplement helps with nail and hair growth. In any case, supplements like these should be taken in conjunction with a smart, hair-supporting diet.


    Nourish Your Hair From Within

    By prioritizing well-rounded meals rich in essential nutrients, healthy fats and antioxidants, and staying adequately hydrated, we can build better locks from the scalp to the tips. Who doesn't want that? Ensuring your diet doesn't have any deficiencies can help set you up for strong, healthy hair — and nails and skin.


    Remember, true hair health starts with what you put on your plate. So, the next time you choose a snack, ask yourself if it'll help you get to your hair goals.


    Written by: Diana Kelly Levey


    *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


    These articles are intended for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in these articles. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.