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Apr 27, 2010

Best Foods for Healthy Hair

Ready to look like a million bucks? Grab your fork.

By Dave Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, Men's Health

How important is hair? Very. In one recent survey, nearly half of women said that a bad hair day could worsen their mood, and 26 percent said they had cried after a bad haircut. That same survey asked women what their biggest complaint with hair was, and topping the list were fine or thin locks. The upshot: Good hair can make you happier, more confident, and yes, more attractive.
That’s why we decided to offer a simple solution: a diet-based approach to healthier hair, from the authors of Eat This, Not That! And why not? Just as eating the right food can help you build stronger bones and softer arterial walls, it can also help you construct stronger, more-consistent hair follicles. That means every meal is an opportunity to fortify your roots with another shot of hair-strengthening nutrients. Ready to look like a million bucks? Grab your fork.
Lean Beef
In a review of 40 years of hair loss research, Cleveland Clinic scientists discovered a link between hair loss and iron intake. That’s not to suggest that iron is the root cause of all bald spots, but the researchers determined that hair loss becomes more severe when iron levels are low. That means if you want to thicken your mane, you need to beef up your intake of iron. The best way: a 6-ounce steak, which has about 40 percent of the iron you need daily. Plus beef and other meat provide “heme” iron, which the easiest for your body to absorb, compared to iron from plant sources.
Other great sources of iron: Oysters, chicken liver, fortified cereals, oatmeal, and soybeans.
These tiny, sesame-like seeds are loaded with health-promoting compounds called lignans, which have been shown to both lower cholesterol and battle cancer. But one Taiwanese study attempted to establish a link between lignans and hair loss, and sure enough, it was successful. After 6 months, nine of the 10 balding men in the study reported that their rate of hair loss had slowed. The study used 50 milligrams to achieve the results—that’s the amount you’ll get in 1½ tablespoons of flaxseed. Just be sure grind it or buy it pre-ground—your body has trouble breaking down the seed’s tough outer shell.
Other great sources of lignans: Flaxseeds are by far the best, but sesame seeds also contain a decent dose.
You know those oblong white orbs you purchase by the dozen? Turns out they’re one of the most under-appreciated stealth health foods in your mane-managing arsenal. For one, they’re incredibly versatile. Even the clumsiest home cook can construct half a dozen egg dishes without glancing at a recipe book. Why does that matter for your hair? Because each egg provides nearly four grams of complete protein, and protein is the main compound your body uses to build silky strands. That’s why you see so many protein-fortified hair products at your salon. What’s more, eggs are loaded with animal-derived vitamin B12. Low levels of this vitamin can lead to graying hair, and if you decide to dye, you’ll be exposing your mop to a whole new world of potentially damaging chemicals. Keep a couple boiled eggs around as snacks, and crumble some into your salad for instant hit of protein.
Other Sources of B12: Sardines, Salmon, beef, shrimp, and dairy.
If you’ve spent any amount of time watching the Discovery Channel, then you’re probably already fascinated by the natural world’s tendency toward symbiotic relationships. (Those little birds that climb into the crocodile’s mouth to clean his teeth? Yeah, that’s symbiosis at it’s absolute craziest.) Well, the nutrients in your body work in the same way. Iron, as important as it is for growing strong hair, has a difficult time squeezing its way into our bodies. In fact, we usually absorb less than 25 percent of the iron we eat—many of us far less. So how do we improve that number? By pairing iron with its symbiotic partner, vitamin C. Research shows that high doses of vitamin C can greatly improve your body’s ability to absorb iron, which in turn can keep your hair firmly rooted in your scalp. And for each kiwi you eat, you’re taking in nearly your entire day’s worth of vitamin C. Eat it with iron-rich foods to improve your chances of lustrous locks.
Other great sources of vitamin C: Red bell peppers, papaya, strawberries, and oranges.