It's all about balance when it comes to optimal nutrition for maintaining healthy hair. "Hair is a fast-growing tissue and it's likely to make demands on your body," says Brian Thompson, principal trichologist and director of product development at Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre in New York and London. "You need a mixture of protein, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals. But if you consume too much of any one thing, particularly certain vitamins and minerals, you can create problems with hair growth."
Good hair nutrition begins with getting enough protein, which is the building block of your hair. Then you need complex carbohydrates to help assemble the proteins for hair growth. "Once you've considered protein, then getting iron in absorbable forms is one of the single most important minerals as far as hair growth is concerned," says Thompson. Other important vitamins and minerals include B complex, which is associated with energy production and building good hair and skin issues, folic acid, B12, and zinc.
In his book The Hair Bible: A Complete Guide to Health and Care (Aurum, 2003), famed hairdresser Philip Kingsley stresses the importance of eating a healthy and protein-packed breakfast each day. He says that in the morning your energy levels to your hair follicles are at their lowest. Here, a list of foods that Thompson and Kingsley recommend be consumed along with fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you don't have high cholesterol, Thompson recommends eating red meat twice a week for optimal hair health. Not only does beef have the protein you need, but also B vitamins, iron, and zinc, important minerals for healthy hair.
Recommended Serving Size: 3.5 ounces of roasted, lean beef, 175 calories
EGGS OR EGG WHITES
Vegetarian? Can't eat red meat for health reasons? Then egg whites are the way to go. "If you can't eat an animal protein, egg whites are the next best thing," says Thompson. "Their value is underestimated in our society."
Recommended Serving Size: One large egg, 84 calories
BROWN SHORT-GRAIN RICE
You should have complex carbohydrates, which feed you energy over a longer period of time than refined carbohydrates, with your protein source at meals. Brown short-grain rice is an ideal form. It's also a good source of B vitamins and some fiber.
Recommended Serving Size: 1/4 cup dry rice, 179 calories
Try low-fat cottage cheese for a protein-packed breakfast or lunch on the go when you don't have time to make eggs. Top it with some fresh berries for an added serving of fruit. Plus, cottage cheese is also a good source of calcium.
Recommended Serving Size: Scant half cup of 1 percent fat cottage cheese, 72 calories
Although it's not a good food to eat if you're trying to lose weight, Kingsley recommends eating a normal serving of bacon for extra B vitamins, zinc, and protein.
Recommended Serving Size: Fried bacon, 3.5 ounces, 576 calories
Try it smoked or fresh at breakfast, lunch, or dinner for a good dose of protein along with B vitamins, including B12, and other vitamins and minerals.
Recommended Serving Size: Fresh salmon fillet, 3.5 ounces, 180 calories Smoked salmon, 2 ounces, 71 calories
Originally published on LHJ.com, July 2005.