Iron-rich spinach, zinc-filled shellfish, even a Hair Nutrition Supplement ($157 for three months)—you eat all of the right foods for beautiful hair. But did you know the foods you don’t eat are just as important as the foods you do? Everything from your sweet tooth to your love for sushi could be undoing all of your best hair-growing efforts. Scroll through to find out what surprising items made the off-limits list!
Wait, what?! Aren’t fatty fish like salmon and tuna rich in omega-3s and at the top every must-eat list? Only to a point. Some fish contain high levels of mercury, and high levels of mercury can lead to hair loss. Mercury disrupts protein development and affects your absorption of zinc (which is essential to keratin formation)—all of this interferes with the growth process. Steer clear of swordfish and mackerel (both have high mercury levels), and choose the “light” varieties of canned tuna, salmon, and shrimp to keep your mercury consumption down. According to the Food and Drug Administration, as long as you eat no more than 12 ounces weekly and get your sushi fix fewer than four times a week, your health and your hair will stay out of the danger zone.
Sugar: It’s bad for your skin, and it’s bad for your hair. No surprise here. But the why is pretty interesting. “Sugary foods like your favorite candies or cupcakes cause your insulin level to rise, which also causes an increase in androgen (a male hormone) in your body,” says Carla Rivas, hairstylist and co-founder of the all-natural hair growth vitamin Hair la Vie ($39. According to Rivas, androgen is known to irritate and shrink hair follicles. And shrunken, irritated follicles do not produce long, strong hair.
The logic follows, then, that your juice cleanse isn’t helping the situation either. When you’re on a juice cleanse, you’re on an all-sugar, no-protein (more on this next) diet. So, you’re spiking your insulin and androgen levels (which can lead to hair thinning and loss), and all that sugar is creating a great deal of inflammation in your body—which isn’t good for anything, hair included.
Your hair is made of proteins, which it needs to grow healthy and long. “Starches like white bread, pasta, and a lot of cereals, which can be low in protein, will leave your hair limp and unhealthy,” Rivas says. These foods also tend to be high on the glycemic index—high sugar, low protein is not a good combo. “That bounce and shine you want is not possible without a healthy dose of protein.”
Chances are your diet isn’t abnormally high in vitamin A, but if you’re taking multivitamins or a vitamin A supplement, you may want to reevaluate your intake. While generally a good nutritional addition, vitamin A in high doses is toxic to hair follicles. A vitamin A overload will shrink your oil glands to the point that they’re no longer producing the amount of oil necessary to nourish your strands, leading to hair loss. You’d have to eat a whole lot of tomatoes and carrots to reach this point, but if you’re a vitamin popper, you may want to check with your doctor to make sure you’re not getting too much of a good thing.
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