Sure, you can eat your way to stronger strands but do the same rules apply to the scalp? Since great hair is impossible without a clean, properly functioning scalp, we figured we’d cover our bases and find out how to ensure health right from the root. We’re happy to report that there’s no need to make a big change—you can actually snack your way to scalp wellness. To find out which snacks are most effective for the scalp, we contacted the nutrition experts—who happen to have authored some our fave books on the subject. Get ready to add to your grocery list and let the eating begin!
1. Salmon or Fish Oil
Don’t sleep on this popular fish option. If you prefer salmon colored blouses to seeing them on the plate, then try a supplement—either way omega-3’s are crucial to maintaining scalp health. “The anti-inflammatory properties [of fish oil] can reduce itchy scalp (especially when associated with psoriasis),” says Naomi Whittel, New York Times bestselling author of Glow15 and founder of Simply GOODFATS. “If you have dry or brittle hair, or a dry or scaly scalp, you could be deficient in essential fatty acids. Plus, this healthy fat plays a vital role in maintenance of healthy skin, scalp and glossy hair.”
Brooke Alpert, registered dietitian and author of The Diet Detox, agrees. “Salmon may improve hair shininess and scalp moisture levels because is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that can improve the look and texture of hair.”
There are a ton of nuts that will contribute to scalp health, some even contain the same good stuff found in salmon. “Brazil nuts are a natural source of selenium,” says Naomi. “Walnuts contain zinc and alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help hair condition. Pecans, cashews and almonds also contain zinc.” This is crucial as zinc deficiency can lead to hair shedding.
No need to cut poultry out of your diet if you’re eating with your scalp in mind. According to Naomi, poultry is a source of “high-quality protein and iron with a high degree of bioavailability to strengthen hair and promote growth.” Conversely, “weak brittle hair, and the loss of color have been linked to protein deficiency.
Eat your legumes like kidney beans and lentils! These provide a bevy of the good stuff, including protein, iron, zinc, and biotin. All things that if lacking, “can result in brittle hair,” Naomi reminds us.
These undersea treats are rich in iodine and can help combat hormonal imbalances (often caused by thyroid disorders) that lead to thinning or slow growing hair. “Boosting your iodine levels, can help to add a bit more regulation to hormone production and hair growth,” explains Naomi.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes are packed with of beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into Vitamin A.
“Vitamin A deficiency often results in dry skin, which can affect your scalp. Dry skin on the scalp is otherwise known as dandruff. “For a healthy scalp try incorporating more beta carotene into your diet,” says Naomi.
Brooke also has this treat on her list. “Sweet potatoes can help improve scalp health because they are rich in beta carotene which encourages the production of sebum, an oil that keeps the scalp and hair from drying out,” she adds.
7. Greek Yogurt
The health benefits of Greek yogurt just keep on going. Not only is this probiotic good for you overall, it’s also optimal for scalp health. This is because it “contains vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid, which can improve blood flow to your scalp,” explains Brooke.
Bonus: Condition with Coconut Oil
You don’t have to tell us twice—we love coconut oil and so does science; Naomi breaks down the facts on why you should def be adding this to your shopping list. “According to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, this is the only oil that reduces protein loss (which leads to dryness and breakage). The lauric acid in coconut oil is able to actually penetrate the hair shaft, nourishing the hair with vitamins, minerals and the medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs).” When shopping for coconut oil, make sure you opt for organic. “Try a small amount so as not to weigh hair down (a ¼ – ½ teaspoon depending on length and texture) as a leave-in conditioner.”