Want smooth, shiny, thick hair? Dermatologists will tell you to shampoo your scalp (not your hair), condition your ends (not your roots), and protect your hair from sun and chlorine by wearing hats and swim caps. But there’s more to healthy hair than good grooming—the foods we eat can also contribute to the luxuriousness of your locks.
As I point out in my book, Eat it To Beat It!, foods are our best medicines and you can improve your health considerably by making smart choices in the grocery aisle.
Here are the top five foods for thicker, shinier, healthier hair.
Probiotics are powerful little helpers.
These good bacteria help balance the community of microorganisms that live in our intestines. And a recent study by MIT researchers suggests that probiotics help produce that “healthy glow” we all want, by making skin more radiant and hair more shiny, thick, and lustrous.
The researchers suggest that probiotics decrease inflammation in the top layers of the skin leading to healthier skin and hair. They report that probiotics can decrease stress-related inflammation in the skin through a “gut-brain-skin axis.” Cool!
Vitamin D is essential for keeping your hair growing strong and preventing breakage—it helps keep the follicles healthy, through the growth, shedding, and regrowth of new hairs. One of the best dietary sources of vitamin D (besides cod liver oil) is sockeye salmon, which contains 447 IUs of vitamin D per 3-ounce serving, or 112% of your daily intake.
Zinc is a powerful nutrient for hair growth—it helps accelerate the repair of damaged hair follicles, which keeps your hair healthy through all of its growth phases. Zinc deficiency is also associated with hair loss. You’ll find the highest levels of zinc in oysters. Beef is also high in zinc, as well as the amino acids taurine and arginine, that also help keep hair healthy.
The brassicas (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale) are packed full of healthy nutrients and have been shown to help decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also rich in phosphatidic acid, little fatty acid messengers involved in cell creation and survival. A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that phosphatidic acid also promotes hair growth due to its growth-promoting effects on the cells in our hair follicles.
Dave Zinczenko, ABC News nutrition and wellness editor, is a New York Times No. 1 bestselling author. His latest book, "Eat It to Beat It," is full of food swaps, meal plans and the latest food controversies. Sign up here for his free newsletter now!