Brittle hair? Thinning hair? Losing hair? Greying hair? It could be down to genetics, stress, or maybe you’re not eating right. Besides keratin treatments, organic shampoos and that amazing peach conditioner, what you put inside yourself has a pretty big impact on how your hair and skin look. Make sure to stock up on your local variant of these ingredients for healthy, shiny, and smooth tresses.
Buckwheat has got a ton of history behind it — from China to Poland, and a little bit of Southeast and Central Asia in between. Aside from being an amazing alternative to wheat, and one of the poster children for gluten-free baking, it’s rich in iron and B vitamins — two essential hair nutrients. B vitamins like biotin and pantothenic acid boost hair growth, while an iron deficiency (a problem in some groups) leads to hair loss. Buckwheat is also a fast-growing sustainable crop, a staple in both grout and noodle form, and easy to prepare.
Jumping from one tiny packet of protein and carbs to another, lentils — or pulses, if you will — are super easy to incorporate into dishes, and a great source of vegan complete protein. Protein is the stuff your hair is literally made of, and not getting enough can lead to brittle (and thin) locks. Lentils are also rich in iron and fiber. Dehull and soak your lentils for the best bioavailability — and then give these recipes a delicious test drive. Do it for science (and your hair).
#3. Sweet potatoes.
While beta-carotene isn’t a great human source of vitamin A, it is a great antioxidant and protects your skin from sunlight sensitivity. Sweet potatoes are also great sources of complex carbs while keeping a low glycemic index, giving your body clean fuel to burn. And let’s face it — sweet potatoes (and yams) are absolutely delicious.
Eggs are rich in all of the B vitamins, vitamin D and retinol, the form of vitamin A we turn beta-carotene into. Vitamin D does wonders for your skin and bones, but it may also be the key to curing baldness. While that doesn’t translate as well in dietary terms (although it does affect your follicles), the B vitamins in eggs make up for it — biotin, niacin, B12 and pantothenic acid are all linked to stronger hair (and nails). Remember to keep the yolks!
#5. Flax seeds.
Flax seeds are rich in unsaturated fats — specifically the mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. However, what makes flax seeds so special is that they have a higher concentration in omega-3 than omega-6. That rarity may be the cause for better skin and hair versus a diet containing sunflower oil. Considering the skewered ratio in which most people in the West consume omega-3 and omega-6, this could be important.
A common fruit in Mexico and South America, guava is incredibly rich in vitamin C — more so than oranges and lemons put together. Twice. Aside from being an essential vitamin and an antioxidant, vitamin C is necessary for protein synthesis. Without adequate amounts of vitamin C, your body can’t use all the protein you’ve been eating. And, well, guava tastes awesome. Mmm. Guava.
#7. Chili peppers.
A trick to better hair growth is a healthy circulation — and what better to get your blood pumping than chili peppers? Aside from being a source of vitamin C, chilies contain capsaicin — a phytochemical that evolved to act as a repellent against mammals. Thing is, we actually like the burn so that didn’t really work out too well, now did it? Note: Cinnamon is another spice that promotes circulation.
#8. Pumpkin seeds.
Although they’re a bit of a pain to open, pumpkin seeds are among the best sources in the world for zinc — and zinc is amazing for hair. It speeds up the healing process, plays a role in preventing prostate cancer, and prevents hair loss. Besides, Halloween is coming up — and that means pumpkins galore.
On the fishy side of things, no food beats salmon at dietary omega-3. So if you’re tired of flax seeds, then your best bet for a healthy fatty acid ratio is a pink fillet. Do note that farmed salmon is nowhere near as nutritious as wild salmon — and that isn’t very sustainable.
An alternative source of animal-based omega-3 is the oyster, and its farmed cousin, the mussel. Both bivalves are also incredibly rich in minerals and vitamins — specifically vitamins B12 and D, iron, selenium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Oyster and mussel farming is also a good way to get your omega-3 without risking bycatching, the destruction of coral reefs, and many of the other destructive effects of large-scale fishing operations.
#11. Leafy greens.
On the veggie side of things, minerals and vitamins are rarely found in such high concentrations as they’re found in leafy greens. From your spinach to your mustard greens, kales and collards, leafy greens are great sources of iron, vitamin C, folate and beta-carotene — all for practically no calories, but enough fiber to get you full. Win, win, and win.