In the growth phase, of the hair cycle, cells are rapidly dividing and growing, leading to hair growth of ¼ to ½ an inch each month. Like all growing cells, the availability of nutrients plays a vital role in growth and development.
From a survival standpoint, hair is fairly non-essential. If there is a shortage of micronutrients, they are more likely to be used for more critical functions at the cost of hair growth. To ensure that our hair stays healthy and looks great, we need to make sure it receives the right nutrients, such as:
1. Proteins: Hair is almost entirely made up of protein, the major protein being Keratin. The amino acids L-Cysteine, Methionine and Lysine are very important for the formation of Keratin, and are normally obtained from high quality protein sources such as legumes (daal), meat and eggs helps avoid such deficiencies.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids have anti inflammatory properties which are believed to help prevent hair loss due to non-nutritional factors. Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids include oily fish and flaxseed oil.
3. Biotin: Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7, is an essential nutrient that plays a role in a number of important processes associated with cellular growth. Ensuring an adequate supply of Biotin is believed to contribute significantly to the growth of healthy hair. Biotin is found in egg yolks, whole grains and milk.
4. Iron: A number of clinical studies have linked iron deficiencies to hair loss. An iron deficiency is possible even when a person is not anaemic, and scientists believe that such a deficiency may be responsible for hair loss, especially in women. Good sources of iron include dark green vegetables, egg yolks, red meat, dried fruits and whole grains.
5. Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient that plays a role in the metabolism of every cell. Vitamin B12 deficiencies are especially common in vegans, as there are no vegan sources of this essential nutrient. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy.
6. Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that fights free radicals formed due to internal and external stressors. Vitamin E is also known to promote capillary growth, and is believed to increase blood circulation to the scalp promoting hair growth. Dietary sources of Vitamin E include almonds, sunflower oil and safflower oil, and fruits such as avocados, mangoes and papayas.
7. Zinc: Zinc is essential to our health and is also involved in the production of Keratin. A symptom of Zinc deficiency is hair loss, and an adequate intake of zinc is essential for healthy hair. Dietary sources of zinc include nuts, legumes, shellfish and meat.