By Isadora Baum
Silky, flowing hair and perfectly pretty nails are definitely on our short list of #beautygoals. And although using the best natural beauty products is a super-important step, the process begins even earlier, with what you eat. Here are the top nutrients to put on your plate to make you even more beautiful from the inside out.
If your nails are weak and flimsy or your hair is dry and thin (even beginning to fall out), iron deficiency may be to blame, says registered dietician-nutritionist Rene Ficek.
Where to get it: Ficek recommends black beans (1/2 cup has 13% of your daily iron), beef (make sure it’s grass-fed; 4 oz. has 12%), poultry (4 oz. of dark meat has 8%), and salmon (4 oz. has 5%). These are also good sources of protein, “which functions as a building block for keratin, a protein needed for healthy hair and nail growth,” notes “Dr. Mike” Varshavski.
You already know omega-3s are important for reducing inflammation, fighting off chronic diseases and boosting brain health. If all that isn’t enough, these essential fats also can help your hair and nails grow, says Dr. Robert Glatter, MD, from NYC’s Lenox Hill Hospital.
Salmon, mackerel, sardines and other cold-water fish are terrific sources of omega-3 fatty acids, says Glatter. Here’s why: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, so they may prevent hair loss, as well as promote healthy, full locks, he says. These foods are also high in iron and protein, which are key for hair and nail growth.
Be sure to choose fish that are low in mercury, which can lead to hair loss, he advises.
If you’re already using spinach, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, and tomatoes in your salads, you’re on your way to healthier hair and nails, since these foods are rich in beta-carotene (a pigment that converts to vitamin A in the body), Glatter says.
“Orange vegetables and fruits are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which stimulates the oil glands to make a chemical known as sebum, which keeps hair shiny and reduces breakage and dryness,” he says. It also can add moisture to nails, preventing cracks and roughness.
Where to get it: Leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, parsley and basil
“Biotin helps to strengthen the hair follicle, and a deficiency may lead to hair loss,” says Glatter. Also known as vitamin B7, this nutrient also helps fight insulin resistance and some skin conditions.
Where to get it: Eggs, salmon, avocado, and almonds
Essential for hair growth, this nutrient may also prevent sun damage on the scalp, which can lead to hair thinning and loss, Glatter says.
Where to get it: Almonds, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, and sunflower seeds
WHAT TO AVOID
Sugar: “Sugar is harmful for hair growth by reducing absorption of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, into cells,” Glatter says. He also advises avoiding artificial sweeteners, which may contribute to hair loss.
Booze: “Alcohol also reduces absorption of zinc, an important mineral for healthy hair, while reducing absorption of water into the hair follicle, leading to brittle and dry hair that is prone to breakage,” he adds.