Fad diets like Keto seem too good to be true. Everyone from Kim to Halle Berry have come forward to tout its praises—but before you give up on carbs and say goodbye to all sugars, consider what’s best for you and your hair health. Elimination diets might help shed some pounds but you definitely don’t want to lose your locks in the process. To find out if this diet is really doing more harm than good, we consulted Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color for all the reasons why the keto diet might actually be hurting your hair.
1. Your fruits are limited
“Never omit high quality proteins, fruit or vegetables from your diet,” advises Frances, echoing what feels like diet gospel. We’ve known forever that fruits and veggies are key to health, but they are somewhat lacking in the keto diet. Although there are veggies built in, the diet “limits fruit and is quite moderate on protein,” explains Frances. Fruits are also loaded with vitamins and antioxidants that help promote shine and hair health.
2. Carbs are limited
Probably the main reason the Keto diet is not great for hair is because it limits the amount of carbohydrates in your diet to 5% or less. “That means that if you’re eating 2000 calories per day, you can only eat 25g of carbohydrates, which is equivalent to a medium granola bar or 1 medium banana,” says Frances, breaking it down. “As you can see, that would really limit your intake of healthy foods, especially fruit. Vegetables are allowed, but they have to be low carb, which generally means just leafy greens. Greens are very good for you, but so are higher carbohydrate sweet potatoes and turnips.” Eliminating these starchy but healthy foods from your diet can inhibit hair growth and luster.
3. You’re not getting whole grains
“Fat intake on Keto is 60-80 percent of a dieter’s calorie intake and protein is 15-35 percent of calories,” she explains. “In addition to fruits and some veggies, you’ll also be missing out on whole grains and pulses (lentils, beans and peas), both of which contain many nutrients important for the health of skin and hair.”
4. Fad diets can be risky for long term
“Any diet that cuts out whole food groups may put you at risk for lacking key nutrients,” adds Frances. Although it might not immediately feel like there’s any impact, there could be unanticipated health outcomes. “It’s not a big deal in the short term, but over time you can suffer from nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to things like thinning hair or brittle nails,” she says.
5. Not enough “hair healthy” nutrients
If hair growth and health is your mane focus, you want to make sure you’re getting salmon and other fatty fish (note that these are allowed on keto). “They are great for maintaining glossy strands,” she says. “Greek yogurt, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds” are also optimal for hair health, she says of the need-to-know menu.
6. Diversity is best
If Frances had to recommend just one diet for optimal hair and body health, it would definitely be the Mediterranean diet “by far!” This diverse meal plan features the best of all worlds. “It has plenty of healthy fats from both plant and animal sources, as well as lots of fruits and vegetables, which provide vitamin c, beta-carotene, folate and iron to keep hair and scalp healthy and shiny.”
7. Harmful effects can be hard to reverse
Err on the side of caution when starting a new nutrition regimen. You should probably consult a doctor before making any serious changes or completely eliminating food, in order to avoid any unwanted side effects. “It’s tricky because people don’t see any bad effects from diet at first,” she notes. “It usually takes about 3 months to notice hair loss. Unfortunately, it also takes that long (or longer) to turn it around.”
Ultimately, you want a diet that isn’t just going to help you lose weight, but boost your health overall, which will definitely show in your hair. For the best locks of your life, stick to a nutritious, balanced diet.