No matter how much you nurture and care of your hair, it will never be as glorious as it could be if your diet isn’t on point. If you want your locks to glisten like diamonds, and have the strength and growth potential of a horse’s mane, fill your pantry with foods that contain these key nutrients:

Protein: Not only is protein essential for healthy skin and organs, it is crucial for healthy hair. When the body is short on protein, it will protect itself by carrying out its most important functions first. This means the internal processes that keep your organs and cells functioning will get first dibs at the available protein in your body. Once the protein is used up, your hair will be out of luck.

It is recommended that you get roughly 46 grams of protein each day so there is enough of this nutrient left over to keep your hair from being dry, weak and brittle. You can get protein by eating such foods as dry beans, fish, poultry and lean meats. You can also get it by adding, rice, whey or hemp protein powders to your diet. Hemp and rice proteins are popular options for vegetarians and vegans.

Omega-3: This nutrient is an important component in the scalp’s cells. It is also essential for producing oils that provide moisture to the hair and scalp. Unlike other types of nutrients, the body cannot make omega-3. You can only get it through your diet. An abundance of omega-3 can be found in avocados, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and such fatty fish as salmon, trout, mackerel and anchovies.

Iron: Lack of iron can thwart the body’s ability to provide your scalp with the nutrient-rich blood it needs for healthy follicles. When your blood supply does not contain enough iron, it can result in anemia, stunted hair growth and hair loss. The best sources of iron come from lean red meats, fish and poultry. Iron from these sources are easier for the body to absorb. You can also get iron from lentils and leafy greens such as kale, broccoli and spinach. Adding more vitamin C to your diet can make the iron from plant-based foods easier for the body to absorb.

Vitamin A: While you don’t want a bunch of sebum clogging the pores on your face, this oily substance is extremely important for healthy hair. Getting enough vitamin A in your diet allows the scalp to produce enough sebum to keep the hair moisturized, which in turn will keep dry, itchy scalp at bay. Carrots, sweet potatoes, cooked kale, collard greens, butternut squash and cantaloupe top the list of foods that contain a wealth of vitamin A.

Biotin: This nutrient belongs to the family of water-soluble B vitamins, and has become synonymous with luscious hair. When there is not enough biotin in the body, it can cause your hair to fall out. You can get all the biotin you need for healthy hair by adding plenty of whole grains, eggs and soy flour to your diet.

Vitamin E: In order for the scalp to thrive, vitamin E is a must. This vitamin improves the circulation in every part of the body. It also aids in protecting your hair from the damage the sun can cause. Foods that contain vitamin E include spinach, mustard greens, tropical fruits, broccoli, almonds and Swiss chard.

The strength and vitality of your hair is heavily reliant on your diet. When you eat foods that are rich in omega-3, iron, biotin, protein, and vitamins A and E, you improve not only your overall health, but that your hair too.

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