Written for Elle Magazine
One secret to getting luscious locks? Your diet, says nutritionist Dana James. Nibbling on nutrient-rich goodies stimulates the hair’s proteins, nourishes and protects its fibers, and increases circulation to its follicles. Here are the best things you can eat for healthier, stronger, and shinier strands. Bonus: These foods help lashes and nails, too.
Brown rice is highly concentrated in biotin, a B vitamin that helps improve the elasticity of hair and reduces brittleness. Eating brown rice also nourishes the hair follicle and stimulates hair cell renewal, which leads to thicker strands.
Easy meal ideas: Add brown rice to wok-tossed vegetables, make chicken and vegetable soup with brown rice, or toss brown rice through a kale salad.
The magnesium, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and sulfur in Swiss chard pack a powerful punch, activating the production of keratin, elastin, and collagen. This makes hair resilient, glossy, and less likely to tangle. (And nurtures eyelashes and nails, as well!)
Easy meal ideas: Sauté Swiss chard with olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes or shiitake mushrooms, followed with a sprinkling of lemon zest; toss cooked Swiss chard with dried apricots and sunflower seeds.
Chia seeds contain omega-3 fats, which improve the integrity of elastin and keratin, creating thick, voluminous tresses. The fats also nourish the scalp boosting shine.
Easy meal ideas: Make a chia seed pudding with poached pears, cardamom, and cinnamon or whip up a batch of cacao maca trufflesand add chia seeds.
These are high in zinc, sulfur, and choline — all nutrients that help bring out the best in your hair. Zinc regulates the oil production in the follicles, sulfur strengthens the fibers, and choline improves flexibility, which decreases the likelihood of spilt ends.
Easy meal ideas: Hard-boil eggs, slice and serve over arugula; fry in coconut oil and toss in turmeric or make a frittata of vegetables.
Figs are rich in iron, which improves circulation and stimulates hair regrowth. Iron deficiency is one of the most common reasons for hair loss and eating foods rich in iron, like figs, have been shown to also improve strength and fullness.
Easy meal ideas: Serve figs with Greek yogurt, or toss them in greens.
This fruit is highly concentrated in vitamin C — essential for synthesizing collagen (key to protecting and nourishing hair). What happens if you have a lack of vitamin C in your diet? Dull, lank hair. The other result? Short eyelashes.
Easy meal ideas: Dip pink grapefruit in coconut sugar and have it as a snack, toss it into a watercress and avocado salad or add it to a citrus fruit salad with cinnamon and golden raisins.
Kale is rich in magnesium and carotenoids, phytochemicals that prevent degradation to the cells that make up hair fibers. The result? Shiny, happy hair.
Easy meal ideas: Add kale to an almond milk, banana, and cinnamon smoothie; make a raw kale salad with avocado and red cabbage or add kale to a green vegetable juice.
Olives are rich in vitamin E, which increases blood flow to the hair follicles and stimulates growth and vitality. The oil in olives keeps hair soft and flexible. Eating olives can also decrease split ends and reconstruct the hair fiber to prevent dryness and breakages. Unfortunately, those few olives at the bottom of a martini do not count.
Easy meal ideas: Snack on olives, add olives to a kale salad, or make an olive tapenade and serve it with vegetables crudités.
What do blueberries and red cabbage have in common? Anthocyanins. This pigment keeps hair strong by helping to reduce damage caused by exposure to the sun and environmental chemicals, including abrasive shampoos.
Easy meal ideas: Put together a red cabbage and carrot salad with sunflower seeds, toss red cabbage into a kale and avocado salad or add it to wok-tossed vegetables.Photo Credit: Getty Images