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Feed Your Face: How to Eat for Healthy Hair

By Dr Jessica Wu

Here’s the best excuse for chowing down: It can help you grow long, luxurious locks. Although the hair that grows from your head is dead (which is why it doesn’t hurt when you get a haircut), the living part of the hair -- the hair follicle -- is very much alive, and it reflects your overall health. If you’re not eating a healthy, balanced diet, your body will hoard every possible nutrient and direct it toward making the important stuff, like muscles, bones, and other tissues. Hair, which is nonessential, is deprived of the scarce nutrients, so it becomes thin, sparse, and lifeless. Iron-deficiency anemia, for example, is one of the most common causes of hair thinning in otherwise healthy women. It's most common in those who have heavy periods, although it can affect vegetarians and others who don’t eat red meat. If you go on a crash diet or otherwise severely limit your calories, not only will your hair get thinner, but it may actually fall out in clumps -- a condition called telogen effluvium. Over time, you can even develop bald patches. Here’s how to eat for healthy hair:

  • Hair is made of keratin, a type of protein, so be sure to eat plenty of protein, such as lean meat, chicken, and tofu.
  • Eat iron-rich foods, such as red meat, shrimp, turkey, beans, and lentils, especially if you have heavy periods.
  • Avoid crash-dieting.
  • If you’re losing a lot of hair (more than 50 to 100 hairs a day), see your doctor, who may test you for thyroid disease or other hormonal imbalances that can lead to hair loss.

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