The condition of your hair and scalp can be a good indication of your general health and wellbeing.
Hair growth is impacted by age and genetics, while stress and hormonal factors can have an effect on hair condition, and over-exposure to chemicals from hair dyes, or heat from hair straighteners, can damage hair.
Eating a healthy diet can provide essential nutrients for maintaining a healthy scalp and hair. Hair takes time to grow so it can take a while to notice the benefits, but the nutrients in your diet really can help.
Great foods for healthy hair include soya, lentils, beans, quinoa, wholegrains, almonds, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, Brazil nuts, baked beans and other pulses, and here we highlight the 5 key nutrients they provide.
Hair is made of protein so including protein foods in your diet is essential for maintaining healthy and strong hair. Inadequate protein in your diet is likely to lead to dry, brittle hair, so including protein foods at each meal will help your body make the most of it.
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy are great sources of protein, but there are also lots of plant protein sources - in particular soya and soya products, mycoprotein (sold as Quorn), lentils, beans, chickpeas, quinoa, buckwheat, seitan, nuts and seeds.
Biotin is a B Vitamin and helps the body make use of the energy from food. Inadequate Biotin can cause brittle hair and may lead to hair loss, however deficiency of Biotin is rare. Only a small amount is needed by the body and the bacteria found naturally in your bowel are able to make Biotin.
Biotin is found in a wide range of foods including wholegrains, egg yolks, fish, almonds and sweet potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms and spinach.
Melanin is a natural pigment which determines the colour of your hair. Copper is a mineral involved in the production of melanin and so it can help maintain the natural colour of hair.
Copper is found in a variety of foods including shellfish, almonds, peanuts, wholegrain cereals and dark chocolate.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that helps maintain healthy hair by keeping cells healthy, including your scalp.
Brazil nuts are a particularly good source of Selenium but other sources include fish, meat, eggs, bread, cereals and nuts.
Zinc is also an important mineral to help maintain hair condition and a deficiency in Zinc can lead to brittle hair and hair loss. Zinc is involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and influences hair follicles and hair growth.
Really good food sources of Zinc include beef, shellfish, dairy foods, eggs, baked beans and other pulses, bread, wholegrain cereals, nuts and pumpkin seeds.
Other nutrients for healthy hair
There is also evidence the following nutrients may be beneficial hair health.
The hair follicle and root are fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply. Iron is essential for healthy blood and a deficiency in iron can disrupt the blood supply to hair follicles and impact hair growth. Deficiency in iron can lead to hair loss.
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plant food containing iron. It also helps the body make collagen; a protein that helps strengthen hair.
The fat-soluble Vitamin A is needed to make sebum, an oily substance created by the sebaceous glands near the root of each hair. It provides a natural conditioner for a healthy scalp. A lack of sebum can lead to a dry and itchy scalp.
Vitamin E helps protect cells from damage, so may provide protection to hair from the negative impact of strong sunlight, pollution, smoke and chemicals. Vitamin E may help prevent scalp dryness.
Keeping well hydrated can also be beneficial for your hair health. Drinking enough water to maintain hydration has many benefits, including increasing blood circulation. As hair receives nutrients through the blood supplied to the hair follicles, drinking the recommended six to eight glasses of water a day is a positive step for healthy hair.
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