We all love to have beautiful, strong and shiny hair. However, sometimes our hair starts to show signs of weakness. It becomes dull, dry and lifeless and sometimes it even starts to shred excessively. When the hair loss starts to be visible, we all start to worry.
Hair problems are often down to nutritional deficiencies. This is especially true in the case of people who follow vegetarian and vegan diets. They do need to pay special attention to create a balanced diet for themselves. Otherwise, they may become deficient in certain important nutrients, primarily vitamins, proteins, minerals and fats. The nutritional deficiencies can rapidly start to show and the first signs concern the health of the all so precious hair.
Let’s take a look at these important nutrients that we absolutely must consume in other to preserve or restore our hair health.
- Protein: Protein deficiency is very common among vegetarians and even more among vegans. It is challenging to consume enough protein from plant-based sources as mostly protein is found in meat and fish. However, we must find appropriate, plant-based protein sources, as it is the building block of our hair as well as of our essential organs. If we are protein deficient, our bodies utilize whatever protein we consume to tissue growth in essential organs. The body will always prioritize these organs, therefore our hair will suffer first. Therefore, consuming some protein is not enough. We have to consume enough for our hair to glow. The best plant-based protein sources include quinoa, seitan, tofu, soy, tempeh beans, lentils, nuts, chick peas and white beans. Milk, cheese, dairy products and eggs also contain plenty of protein.
- Iron: Iron is a very important mineral and deficiency leads to anemia, which can cause hair loss by disrupting the nutrient supply to hair follicles and the hair growth cycle. Unfortunately, iron is found mostly in animal products, especially in red meat. Nevertheless, there are plant-based sources, including lentils, spinach, broccoli, okra, kale, salad greens, watercress, beets, dried apricots, figs, prunes, soy beans, pulses and almonds. However, the iron from plants is not as easily absorbed by the body as iron from meat, therefore these foods need to be consumed in large quantities to avoid iron deficiency. In case you have very low levels of iron, a good quality supplement may help to overcome your deficiency.
- Vitamin C: While Vitamin C is generally important for the human body, it has a particular role to help our hair glow. It helps the absorption of iron and boosts the production of collagen, a protein made up of amino-acids, which is the major component of hair. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, broccoli, kiwi, oranges, strawberries, guava, red pepper, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts and cantaloupe.
- Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for our scalp and hair, because they keep them hydrated. Unfortunately, omega-3 fatty acids are primarily found in fish including salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel, the consumption of which is not in line with most vegetarian diets. In case you want to avoid eating fish, you need to consume flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, avocados, walnuts, soybeans and leafy greens to maintain your strong and lustrous hair.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is necessary for our bodies to make sebum, an oily and waxy substance that lubricates and waterproofs our skin and hair. If our bodies do not produce enough sebum, we might find our scalp itchy. Also, our hair may become dry. In order to help our bodies produce sufficient amount of sebum, we should eat liver. However, that is not an option for vegetarians and vegans. Vitamin A from plant-based sources can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy vegetables, squash, dried apricots, cantaloupe, red peppers and mango.
- Zinc and Selenium: The consumption of zinc and selenium is important for maintaining a healthy scalp and preventing hair loss. Seafood and eggs generally contain ample amount of these minerals. Plant-based sources include spinach, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, beans, mushrooms, Brazil nuts, whole-wheat bread, sunflower seeds and whole grains.
- Vitamin E: Sufficient intake of Vitamin E can help us avoid sun damage to our hair and skin. Nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, tomatoes, Swiss chard, avocado, asparagus, mustard greens, kale, papaya and kiwi are all excellent plant-based sources of Vitamin E.
- Biotin: Biotin is a B complex vitamin, which can help grow healthier and stronger hair, skin and nails by improving the keratin infrastructure, which is a basic protein that makes up hair, skin and nails. Biotin deficiency is fortunately very rare, but when it occurs it may show signs of brittle hair and nails. If you eat eggs, milk, Swiss chard, carrot, nuts, strawberries, raspberries, onion, avocado, cauliflower and cucumber you probably don’t need to fear biotin deficiency.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is a complex vitamin that our bodies need for healthy hair growth by supporting the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to hair strands. If hair strands do not receive sufficient amount of oxygen, the hair cannot grow in a healthy manner. Unfortunately, B12 vitamin is only found in meat, seafood, eggs and dairy. Vegetarians may consider eating eggs and dairy to consume sufficient amount of Vitamin B12. Vegans may consume soy milk and cereals fortified with B12. Also, they may benefit from taking a supplement to maintain healthy hair.
Let’s include these foods in our diets and maintain our shiny, beautiful and strong hair!