At certain times of the year, particularly fall and spring, my hair seems to go into a holding pattern — it grows in slow motion and thins out as well. Are there any foods that will help my hair grow healthier? — S. Sullivan
Your hair is your crowning glory that needs a well-balanced and protein-rich diet to thrive. Brush up on these fabulous foods to help your tresses grow longer and stronger.
Fat of the Land: Essential fatty acids amp up the body’s optimal cellular functioning — including hair growth. Toss walnuts (a store of omega-3s, biotin and Vitamin E), flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds into everything from oatmeal and muffins to salads and stir-fries to protect skin cells in the scalp and follicles from DNA damage.
Buttery avocados make creamy spreads for sandwiches, add eye candy to seafood cocktails or pretty shells to stuff with chicken or quinoa salads.
Wild-caught salmon (king of omega-3s, along with hair-healthy protein and Vitamin D), can be poached, grilled, tossed in cioppinos or seafood chowders, or smoked and sliced thin to top bagels, frittatas or flat breads.
Don’t Get Stranded: The collagen that coats hair strands weakens with age, making the hair susceptible to damage and breakage. Boost collagen production by increasing vitamin C-rich sources, including citrus fruits, red and yellow peppers, kiwis, dark leafy greens, broccoli, guavas, strawberries, and the purple powerhouse, blueberries.
Crank Up Keratin: Found in various foods, a sulfur-based compound called Methylsulfonylmethane, MSM for short, ramps up keratin production, a protein in hair, while bolstering hair follicles. So green up with luscious leaves of chard, alfalfa, cabbage and watercress, in addition to asparagus and ruby beets. Cook’s tip: Raw vegetables contain greater amounts of MSM than cooked ones.
Vitamin E prevents hair breakage and replenishes damaged locks by helping the body produce keratin to strengthen each strand. Good Vitamin E sources are olives, almonds, sunflower seeds and apricots.
Pumping Iron: This mighty mineral boosts red blood cell production carrying a rich oxygen supply to the bulbs of your hair follicles for healthy hair growth. For a boost of iron, serve up a warm wilted spinach salad, a silky bowl of chilled leek or a hearty one of piping hot lentil soup. Other iron sources include lamb ragu or a crunchy, munchy trail mix of raw cashews, raisins, dried figs and apricots. For better iron absorption, pair with Vitamin C rich sources. Beef and broccoli anyone? (Grass-fed and organic, of course).
The mineral zinc prods sleepy hair follicles to grow by boosting the oil glands surrounding them. Shuck some fresh oysters, sprinkle wheat germ or roasted pumpkin seeds on your salads, or indulge in a blissful bite of bittersweet dark chocolate with 60 percent or higher cocoa content.
Boost your Bs and Ds: Biotin (aka Vitamin H of the B-complex family) is a multi-tasking vitamin for putting the skids on thinning hair by amping up scalp circulation and invigorating hair follicles. Highest sources of biotin include peanuts (organic, please), almonds, walnuts, onions, oats and salmon.
Studies have also given kudos to Vitamin D for its role in stimulating hair growth. So dial up your fatty fish intake from trout and herring to sardines and eel, as well as eggs, Portobello mushrooms and fortified milk.
Yam Bam, Thank you, Ma’am: Beta-carotene blockbusters, such as, yams or sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes and cantaloupes are converted to Vitamin A by your body to nourish cells and produce vital oils for a healthy scalp.
1 cup frozen peas*
1 medium avocado
2 tbs lemon juice
1 medium tomato
1/2 diced red onion
3 tbs chopped cilantro
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Method: In blender, process peas until smooth. Pit and mash avocado in a bowl. Add peas and all other ingredients to the avocado.
*Instead of peas, you can use 1 cup of well-cooked broccoli, edamame or cooked asparagus. —Recipe courtesy of Denise Roa, Rancho La Puerta executive chef