Great Lengths: Supplements for Healthy Hair
Did you know that the secret to thicker stronger hair isn’t just in the latest shampoo or styling product from your salon? While those products can help, the secret to gorgeous hair is actually found in your kitchen. That’s right; strong, long hair depends on the nutrients in your diet.
Just like your skin, the strands of your hair are made up of cells, and these hair cells require a regular supply of critical nutrients to stay healthy. Without them, both the structure and growth of your hair are compromised. The primary macronutrient that contributes to thick, healthy hair is protein but there are also some essential micronutrients, including zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. And while it’s possible to get all of these through your diet if you’re serious about giving your hair that extra boost you may want to look into including some specific supps into your routine.
Protein + Your Hair
You know you need protein in your diet to fuel your muscles and reach your fitness goals, but guess what? Your hair needs it, too. Protein is the building block of hair. Our hair is made up of tough, fibrous structural proteins called keratin, as well as other chains of amino acids. Environmental exposures (think shampoo, flat iron, ponytails) break these chains and lead to brittle, dull and damaged hair. When it comes to nutrition, you can think about your hair similarly to your muscles. As your muscles break down and you reach for protein to rebuild, the same goes for your hair. To repair the damage to your hair and strengthen it, you need to be adding protein to your daily diet.
Good sources of protein are ones you’re likely already reaching for if you’re training hard: protein powder, eggs, meat, legumes and fish.
Focus on Collagen
If you’re serious about your hair, then you should include a collagen supp in your diet (either in place of your current protein or in addition to). The reason? Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, made up of non-essential amino acids (glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine). Non-essential means that you don’t need them from the diet for general health but adding them into your body in supplemental doses is proving to deliver numerous health benefits including connective tissue support, glowing skin, gut health and stronger / longer hair.
Other Key Nutrients For Hair Health
Beyond collagen and protein, there are other nutrients that are fundamental to hair strength and growth. These include zinc, iron, B vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids, all of which have been proven to support your locks.
1. Iron & Zinc
Both iron and zinc have been shown to help hair follicles grow. Highest levels of iron are found in lean meats but also present in plant-based sources including lentils and spinach. Pro tip – pair these foods with vitamin C -rich foods like peppers or oranges to boost absorption. Your best boost for zinc? Pumpkin seeds & wheat germ, both of which are a great topping on oats or yogurt.
2. Vitamin D
Usually associated with bone health, recent studies are showing Vitamin D to encourage hair growth, specifically through hair follicle cycling. The best way to get this vitamin is actually from spending some time in the sun or via a supplement as few foods contain vitamin D naturally.
3. Omega – 3 Fatty Acids
Omega- 3 fatty acids are essential fats that offer a host of support to our body. In regards to hair, Omega-3s support a healthy scalp by reducing inflammation and diminishing hair loss as well as support hair thickening and growth. Our diets are usually in need of an omega-3 boost, and a fish oil supplement is an easy way to get your daily dose. Beyond a supp, you can find this healthy fat in salmon, tuna, egg yolk and walnuts.
4. Biotin (B-Complex Vitamins)
Biotin (vitamin B7) and the other B vitamins play a role in metabolic function in the body but are also essential for healthy skin and hair. In fact, many people deficient in biotin see hair loss. You can cover your B-vitamins through a balanced diet that includes whole grains, vegetables, eggs and meat. If your hair growth is lacking look to add a multi or a biotin-specific supplement.
Oxidative stress has been linked to hair loss, and antioxidants are compounds that can neutralize species and prevent oxidative damage. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant which specifically contributes to a healthier scalp. Antioxidants are high in fruits & vegetables and spinach, kale and wheat germ are especially good sources of vitamin E.
The Bottom Line
Healthy hair starts from within. If you build your plate to include lean meats, leafy greens, nuts, beans, or fish you’re giving your hair a good start. That said if you’re really trying to ‘up-the-ante’ and give your hair a little extra boost, adding a collagen supplement or other nutrients in supplemental doses might be the ticket you need to take your locks next level.