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9 superfood must-eats for gloriously lush hair

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As we enter into our extended Circuit Breaker mode, there’s never been a better time to turn our focus towards practising self-care. In the past, we’d be too busy with our never-ending appointments and commitments outside; now, it’s time to take it slow y’all.

Indulging in self-care doesn’t have to be a full-blown, time-consuming affair. Baby steps like eating better, closing your eyes with a face mask during a short break or using scrub exfoliator for your skin when you shower can go a long way. Like our skin, our hair also needs some TLC.

An unhealthy scalp – especially made worse due to ageing – can result in our hair looking lacklustre, frizzy or broken (and our battle with split ends continues). Ageing can also stimulate conditions such as graying and alopecia (hair loss). [1]

Also read: Singaporean male! Here’s the 10 things you should know about hair loss

Apart from our natural ageing process as we hit the big 3 0, constant exposure to the unforgiving Singapore sun and harsh pollutants in the environment outdoors can cause damage to our scalp and hair. While it’s always a good idea to up the ante on our shampoo-and-conditioner routine with moisturising hair masks, it’s even better to nourish your body from inside out. The easiest way to maintain a healthy scalp and luscious hair is to feed our scalp the nutrition it needs, and here are the superfoods that would work from the inside out to give your tresses an envy-worthy shine.

1. Leafy spinach

It’s no secret that the leafy spinach has achieved superfood status: it is loaded with a liberal amount of good-for-you vitamins and nutrients – folate, iron, vitamins A, B, C, E and K. These vitamins help to increase collagen and keratin levels which can help strengthen your hair at its roots. Vitamin A also helps your skin glands produce sebum to keep your scalp hydrated and healthy.

Rich in iron, spinach also increases oxygen supply to your hair follicles, keeping your locks strong and healthy. This leafy green also contains plenty of protein, magnesium and various minerals that help strengthen and fortify your hair and body. No wonder it’s Popeye’s favourite go-to food for strength. Next time you make yourself a salad, trade lettuce for spinach to reap the benefits.

2. Spirulina

Spirulina is one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods on the planet. It packs nine essential amino acids our body needs on a daily basis and a whole lot of nutrients such as vitamins B and E, beta-carotene, biotin, iron and antioxidants.

But because of its extremely dark green color pigment, it can look daunting to incorporate into your diet. Spirulina is essentially a type of blue-green algae which comes from the seaweed family.

Because it’s so rich in protein – spirulina boasts a 60% protein content [2] – it is often used as a protein substitute for vegans. Try adding this powerhouse antioxidant to your smoothies, sprinkling it on your salads or try making spirulina vegan ice-cream, just for kicks. P.S. spirulina powder is packed with four times the antioxidant concentration of blueberries.

In fact, it seems that not just your hair will thank you, your body would too. Some research has shown that eating spirulina can help to boost energy and immunity, while at the same time, safeguard your body against cancer, viruses and high cholesterol.

3. Seaweed

No you can’t tangle yourself in seaweed at the beach and expect to emerge with voluminous, shiny mermaid hair.

Sure, you probably can buy hair products marketed as rich in seaweed ingredients that promises to revitalise hair. But the best way to get the full benefits of seaweed is to consume it.

A Japanese staple, seaweed – or wakame – is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which helps your hair follicles stimulate hair growth. This marine plant also contains zinc and iron which helps to maintain healthy hair production and growth. Your hair needs a healthy amount of zinc to prevent problems like hair shedding. A high level of minerals such as calcium, vitamins A and C in seaweed also helps produce sebum in the scalp that is necessary for shiny, luscious hair.

It’s also a very easy-to-eat savoury snack or addition to your meal. Use it in salads, Asian side dishes or soup, like this nutritious homemade miso soup.

4. Raw almonds

Hands down one of the best nutritious snacks you could get used to. Make sure these almonds are raw, unprocessed and unsweetened to gain the full benefits and nutrients.

Raw almonds have a significant amount of Vitamin E and antioxidants which helps to boost collagen levels. Not only do almonds help to flush out harmful toxins from your body with its anti-inflammatory properties, it also helps to improve the texture of your hair and promote hair follicle growth – and that means thicker, more voluminous hair, ladies.

Besides being nutrient-rich for your hair, almonds have also been associated with other health benefits like lowering risk of heart disease.

5. Chia seeds

These tiny little seeds that you see sprinkled all over Instagram-worthy acai bowls? They definitely go beyond the aesthetics and pack a larger punch than you think.

Chia seeds were all the rage as the most popular superfood at one time, and for good reason. These seeds are packed with a whole bunch omega-3 fatty acids – a single serving contains more of these good-for-you fatty acids than a piece of salmon. It’s also got more calcium than milk so it’s an excellent dairy alternative, especially for those who are dairy-intolerant.

Hair and chia seeds also have one major thing in common: protein. Chia seeds are made of 23% protein, making it capable of strengthening your hair, skin and nails and stimulating hair follicles and hair growth. Try adding a handful of them into your smoothies, nut butters, salads and so much more – they’re pretty versatile and easy to incorporate into any meal.

Some research has shown that chia seeds can also delay hair from graying. So yep, it’s a superfood definitely worth adding into your foods regularly to see the results of these seeds’ natural wonder powers.

6. Green tea

Green tea has been enjoyed by many for centuries – it’s easy to see why; a cup of antioxidant goodness, green tea is probably the healthiest drink on the planet.

Most of its antioxidants come from flavonols, specifically a type called catechins. The most abundant form of catechin in green tea is known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). It’s quite a mouthful, but in short, EGCG is what’s responsible for the antioxidant goodness in green tea.

EGCG is also associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer and can also help protect and strengthen your hair roots. It also helps to reduce your dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels (a hormone which causes hair loss).

Packed with essential nutrients such as zinc, ascorbic acid and selenium, this superfood reinforces its hair strengthening properties. There’s also something very zen about the process of brewing a cup of green tea for yourself: from brewing the tea leaves from scratch, pouring the liquid goodness into tea cups to sipping it slowly. It can totally qualify as a self-care routine.

We recommend enjoying it with a delicious, gluten-free afternoon snack.

7. Oats

Most superfoods can be pricey – you’ll have to go to the organic section at NTUC (NTUC Finest would be a better bet) or Cold Storage. Oats though, are one of the most highly underrated superfoods that is both nutritious for your body and super affordable at the same time.

Oats provide an ample amount of Vitamin B, magnesium and potassium and also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help flush toxins from your body. Furthermore, oats contain saponin, a natural cleanser which can help remove dandruff flakes from your scalp. A good source of zinc, eating oats can help ensure you’ve enough zinc nutrients to control excess sebum production in both your scalp and your skin.

8. Eggs

Yes, superfoods don’t have to be fancy all the time – your regular, ordinary eggs are a superfood, too. Eggs are packed with so much protein that does wonders for your hair health.

That’s why it’s not uncommon to see people using a hair mask made of purely raw eggs because eggs are also known to be rich in biotin, an essential B vitamin for healthy hair and scalp. It’s also rich in zinc and selenium, making it great for hair health.

Short of slathering egg all over your head and wind up a dripping mess (literally), you can simply eat eggs to load up on all the nutrients they contain for your hair and skin. It’s also a yummy breakfast must-have that you can make easily in a multitude of ways – you can have them fried, poached, scrambled, buttered, baked – it’s your prerogative. After all, who doesn’t like eggs?!

9. Oysters

This last one may come as a surprise – oysters. Oysters actually do make your hair grow because they contain lots of zinc, which helps support your hair repair cycle and also hair growth. In turn, zinc is a powerful antioxidant which helps in cell repair and regeneration.

These freshly shucked oysters are also rich in iron, which helps feed oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles is required to grow healthy hair. Iron-deficiency is one common cause of hair loss in women.

A note of caution though: oysters are super rich in zinc – a 100 gram serving of oysters would give you nearly 600% of your daily recommended intake of zinc, so be careful not to overeat this food.

There you have it – the 9 best superfoods that are good for your body which are also seriously winning in the hair department. Start weaving these foods into your daily diet right now – your body and hair will thank you later.

 

References:

[1] Sinclair, R. D. (2007) Healthy Hair: What is it? Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, Volume 12, Issue 2, 2 – 5. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jidsymp.5650046

[2] Harvard Women’s Health Watch. (2019). By the way, doctor: Is spirulina good for you? Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/by_the_way_doctor_is_spirulina_good_for_you

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