Split nails. Split ends. Flaky skin. These are things that many women deal with but don’t always understand where they come from. We just try to cover them up with nail polish, hats, and makeup. Maybe you try all sorts of beauty industry remedies like treatments meant to fortify your nails, prevent hair breakage, and strengthen your epidermis. There are so many lotions, masks, and creams, all claiming to address these issues. The problem is that many just address the symptom, rather than the cause. We wouldn’t do that with any other issues popping up on our body. When you have a chronic stomach ache, you don’t just take Pepto Bismol every day. You speak to a doctor and try to find out what’s causing this, and what lifestyle changes you must make to turn things around. The stomach ache is actually an appropriate analogy here because, often, diet is the cause of a stomach ache, and it’s also the cause of brittle nails, breaking hair, and a less-than-satisfactory complexion.
Research has found that a nutritional deficiency can be the cause of hair loss. Hair is made of keratin – the same protein that your nails are made of – so it should be no surprise that both hair and nails are impacted by your diet. You may have already known about the link between the food you eat and the way your skin looks. The funny thing is that it’s pretty common knowledge that there is a link between our diet and how our organs function. We know there are foods that are good or bad for our heart, our liver, our kidneys, and beyond. And yet, we can forget that food also impacts the parts of our bodies that we see more as cosmetic. But they’re still parts of our bodies, and what we feed ourselves is ultimately reflected in our skin, hair, and nails. On that note, here is a grocery list to help and improve all three things.
Meat that’s high in iron
Iron plays a major role in hair growth and loss, if you’re low on it. Researchers aren’t entirely clear on iron’s role in hair loss, but suspect a lack of it contributes to an enzyme that slows the rate at which important cells in hair follicles divide. Some of the genes we carry in our hair follicles might also be regulated by iron. So if you’re low on iron, hair loss could be an unpleasant side effect. Meanwhile, an iron deficiency is also linked to brittle nails. Women between the ages of 19 to 50 need 14.8 mg of iron per day. One of the best sources of iron is red meat. One six-ounce steak offers a little over four mg of iron. While chicken liver may not be a very popular food, just 2.5 ounces of it gives you nearly 10 ounces of iron – more than half the daily amount.
Seafood that’s high in iron
Pescetarians don’t need to worry that just because they don’t eat meat, they’ll watch their hair break and fall out at an alarming rate. There is some seafood that is an excellent source of hair-fortifying iron. Six medium oysters contain a little over 6 mg of iron – so you can enjoy an aphrodisiac over date night while knowing you’re strengthening your locks. If you’re a fan of clams, you’ll like knowing that a 3.5-ounce serving of these can offer about 3 mg of iron, which is 17 percent of your daily iron needs. Mussels will give you nearly 6 mg of iron in a 3-ounce serving. Overall, seafood is a good source of iron, so don’t skip fish night in your home.
Fruits and veggies that are high in iron
We didn’t forget about vegetarians in compiling high-iron foods. In fact, vegetarians need to be particularly aware of their iron levels, as studies have found that iron deficiency is prevalent in this group. Meanwhile, getting iron on a vegetarian diet shouldn’t prove too difficult. One cup of tofu offers nearly your entire daily needs for iron. Spinach lovers might appreciate that 3.5 ounces of the raw stuff offers 15 percent of your daily iron needs. You can even meet your iron needs while satisfying a sweet tooth, as one cup of dried apricots offers 3.5mg of iron. If you need a quick, protein-heavy snack, a few ounces of cashews will give you nearly 6 mg of iron.
Vitamin E rich foods
Vitamin E is important for healthy hair and skin. Being low on vitamin E can lead to dry, flaky skin, as well as fragile hair. This antioxidant battles the damage of free radicals, which can harm the body during the process of metabolizing food and antioxidants. Adults should aim for 15 milligrams of vitamin E per day. Luckily, it’s easy to get in many popular foods. Nuts are an excellent source of Vitamin E. Just one ounce of almonds offers half of your daily vitamin E needs. Half a cup of peanuts offers 6 mg of vitamin E. Half of a medium-sized avocado offers around 2 mg of vitamin E. Cooked pumpkin is also a great choice, with one cooked cup offering 10 percent of your daily vitamin E needs and eight percent of your iron needs.
Omega-3 rich seafood
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to healthy skin and hair. Research has found that getting enough of the stuff can improve the skin’s resistance to sun damage. Meanwhile, some research suggests that fish-derived omegas can promote hair growth. Keeping different diets in mind, we’ll break food sources of this down for pescetarians and vegetarians again. Experts haven’t narrowed down an exact daily recommended intake of the stuff, but they tend to land somewhere in the 250 to 500 mg per day area. If you’ve noticed some families have a tradition of fish night once a week, they’re onto something: having salmon for one meal a week may provide all the Omega-3 you need for all seven days. If you want something quick and easy to put on a sandwich, sardines are also excellent sources of Omega-3s.
Omega-3 rich fruits and veggies
For vegetarians, there are plenty of options for Omega-3 rich foods. Seeds are your friends – namely flaxseeds and chia seeds. One tablespoon of flaxseeds offer 1.8 grams of plant-based Omega-3s, so it’s great to sprinkle this stuff onto smoothies, bowls of cereal, and yogurt parfaits. One ounce of chia seeds offers five grams of Omega-3s and typically goes well on many of the same foods as flaxseeds do. Navy beans and soybeans are also excellent sources of the stuff, and they’re high in protein, making them staples of a vegetarian diet. Nuts show up again as a food good for the hair here, as they’re also high in Omega-3s.
Meat containing biotin
Biotin isn’t something you often see come up in the supplement section of the grocery store, but it is in foods, and it’s an integral part of healthy hair and skin. When you’re low on it, you can develop issues like rashes and conjunctivitis. It’s an important part of healthy hair growth, too. Adults should aim for 30 micrograms of biotin per day. Meat eaters might have the most luck getting biotin through food, as organ meats like beef liver are super high in the stuff – three ounces meets your daily required amount. Eggs are also very high in the stuff, with one whole egg offering about a third of your daily requirement. Salmon, pork chops, and hamburger patties are also rich in this nutrient.
Fruits, veggies, and grains containing biotin
If you do not eat meat, you can still get biotin from your foods, but you’ll likely need to eat larger portions of the stuff. Sweet potatoes and sunflower seeds offer a good amount of biotin, with a half-cup of sweet potato offering about 2.4 micrograms of the stuff, and one-fourth cup of sunflower seeds offering 2.6 micrograms. Sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of the vitamin E we already covered as an important nutrient for your skin and hair. If you have a few cups of cooked spinach or broccoli, you’ll get just shy of 3 micrograms of biotin.
Meat containing zinc
Zinc is involved in the growth and division of cells, and because nails and hair go through a rapid cell division on a regular basis, they require adequate zinc to be healthy. In fact, alopecia and a zinc deficiency often go hand in hand. It is recommended that women get 8 milligrams of Zinc per day, and red meat is the best source of it. A 3.5-ounce serving of ground meat offers about 44 percent of the daily recommended amount. Meanwhile, a 3-ounce serving of veal offers 29 percent of the daily requirement for zinc. A 4-ounce serving of pork offers about 25 percent of the daily requirement.
Vegetarian sources of zinc
For the non-meat eaters out there, the good news is that zinc is abundant in many plant foods. Legumes such as lentils and chickpeas are loaded with the stuff. In fact, just 100 grams of cooked lentils offer 12 percent of the daily recommended value of zinc. A cup of chickpeas offers over 25 percent of the daily recommended value. A half-cup of baked beans contains 26 percent of the daily value. Between lentil soup, hummus, and chili, there are many ways to incorporate these into your meals to get more zinc. Legumes are also good sources of iron, which is important for hair and nails.