It’s not just men who suffer from thinning hair and baldness. According to research, 1 in 5 women in the UK know that terrible feeling when noticing the number of loose hairs on their pillows and hairbrushes. Fortunately, there are things we can do to strengthen our hair. Here are some nutritionists’ top tips
Not all fats are bad
Did you know that a dry scalp and dull looking hair could be due to a deficiency in healthy fats? “Omega 3 fats nourish and condition hair follicles giving you strong, shiny hair. Aim for 2-3 portions a week of oily fish – wild salmon, fresh mackerel, tuna, anchovies, herring and sardines as well as ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds and walnuts” says Lily Soutter, nutritonist and weight loss expert at www.lilysoutternutrition.com
Aloe vera is the next big thing
Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at Superfooduk.com explains: “Aloe vera is well-known for supporting the skin, with its healing and soothing action. Many people also swear by drinking aloe vera juice for improving the growth and condition of their hair. However, how it works for the hair is not clear. It may simply be due to the vitamins and minerals contained in the juice, which are said to include vitamins C, E and beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 and the minerals zinc, copper and iron.”
Protein – how much is enough?
Hair is composed of protein, therefore a diet lacking in protein can result in weak, brittle hair and hair loss. Many of us lack protein in our diets – ensure you consume a portion of protein at each meal and snack. “Think: lean meat, fish, eggs, yoghurt, beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds,” suggests Wilkinson.
Orange is the new black
Stock up on carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Why? “All orange vegetables are rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A stimulates sebum production, a healthy oil to keep the scalp nourished and moisturised. This oil also acts as a natural conditioner for our hair follicles giving it a glossy shine,” says Soutter.
The answer is in your kitchen cupboard
If you have a jar of coconut oil in your kitchen cupboard, it’s time to move it to your bathroom. “Natives of tropical coastal regions of the world have used coconut oil for thousands of years – and they can boast shiny thick hair. Coconut oil naturally nourishes and adds condition and shine to your hair. No harsh chemicals are involved. Apply a quarter of a cup of warmed coconut oil to wet or dry hair, leave in for an hour, then rinse,” suggests Soutter.
There is one mineral
Iron is a very important mineral when it comes to hair loss. Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar (www.marilynglenville.com), explains why: “Our bodies need iron to make red blood cells and to transport oxygen around the body. Without iron, new cells cannot be produced and our organs would be starved of oxygen. Iron deficiency is characterised by fatigue because the body is, literally, being starved of oxygen.”
Get your iron levels checked if you are suffering with hair loss as it can be a symptom of anaemia. “If you are found to be deficient in iron, you should include in your diet the following foods: pumpkin and squash seeds, liver, millet, almonds, prunes, Brazil nuts, beet greens, Swiss chard, dates, lentils, brown rice and broccoli. You should also take a supplement, such as One A Day Iron Plus by Quest Vitamins (www.qnutrapharma.com),” recommends nutritionist, Cassandra Barns.