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By Alyssa O'Brien, RD, LD
May 16, 2017
Have you ever gasped at the reflection of your thinning hair in the mirror? Are you brushing out clumps every day, noticing new bald spots, or did your stylist mention something? Why is this happening? Can it be stopped? If you are dealing with hair loss, you might feel frantic to find a solution, and you’re not alone. The devastating effects of hair loss can happen to both women and men. According to the American Hair Loss Association, women make up about forty percent of all hair loss cases. If it's happening to you, instead of buying a new shampoo that promises results, head to the grocery store because food can make a bigger difference. We have several real food solutions to help you resolve the underlying cause of hair loss, regrow those precious strands, and regain your confidence.
When you think of protein do you think of energy, muscles, and brains? What about your hair? Without enough protein, your hair, like the rest of your body, will fall short (pun intended). Most people do not think about their hair before they start dieting to lose weight. A restrictive, low calorie diet usually means you’re skimping on protein, particularly red meat and eggs, (which we now know helps with weight loss, but that’s another topic). Working with countless clients, we’ve seen that adding more meat, fish, and eggs will give your body the building blocks needed to make healthy cells and grow strong, thicker hair. Imagine this, if protein is lacking in the diet, your body needs to decide if it’s going to keep your muscles and organs functioning, or grow more hair. Which one do you think wins out.
Protein also supports making good hormones. Sometimes thinning hair is caused by hormonal imbalances, especially as we age. One easy way to make sure your hormones stay balanced is by eating a serving of protein with every meal. That might mean making changes and rethinking your meals. Try not to think too hard, just start eating more of the proteins that you like - maybe poached eggs and sausage or a salmon filet for breakfast instead of cereal, or steak salad instead of pasta salad at lunch.
Animal proteins have the highest amounts of other key micronutrients required for hair growth, like iron, zinc and biotin. For example, beef is a great source of iron. If you have low iron, your hair could start thinning. Eggs, with the beautiful golden yolks, have biotin that strengthens and supports growth. However you want to cut it, protein rich foods will help you grow thicker locks.
Adding more omega 3 fats to your diet can help keep your scalp hydrated and speed up hair growth. That’s important when it starts falling out faster than it’s growing. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that supplementing with omega-3 was effective against hair loss and improved hair density (1). The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 will also open up your hair follicles allowing for more growth. So you might be asking, what is omega-3 and where can I get it? Omega-3 is a type of essential fat that we need to get from food. The best sources of this fat are from cold water fish and seafood. Think mackerel, salmon, and sardines. Head to our website to find tasty ways to prepare these foods. Other sources of omega-3’s include pasture raised meats, like grass-fed beef, egg yolks, nuts, and seeds. We recommend eating lots of food sources plus taking a supplement of omega-3 in most cases. Try a high quality omega 3 supplement from NutriKey or Metagenics.
Zinc is a powerful mineral shown to slow and stop hair loss. It also speeds up follicle recovery. According to research, zinc can promote significant hair growth in women with thinning hair. Interestingly, people with hair loss tend to have low zinc levels (2). What are some reasons you might be low in zinc? High stress living, a poor diet with too many processed foods, chronic infections, and even exercising too much can deplete your zinc making you more prone for hair loss. Next time you’re at the grocery store you can protect your zinc levels by putting some pumpkin seeds, shrimp, and garbanzo beans in your cart. When you eat that big salad you’ll have some pumpkin seeds to throw on top for crunch!
No matter what is at the root of your hair loss, we know that eating more nutrient dense, real foods will go deeper than any shampoo treatment. Protein is the foundation for good hair, omega-3’s will help it grow faster and shine, and zinc will make it thicker. To learn even more about, listen to our recent Dishing Up Nutrition podcast featuring 3 Foods to Stop Hair Loss. If you have more complex hair loss concerns, we suggest a one-on-one appointment with a nutritionist to help you find a solution.