A Nutritionist Swears By These Foods for Healthy Hair and Scalp

We knew our haircare routine was just one piece of the puzzle to perfect locks, but what we didn't know is that incorporating the right combination of vitamins and herbs into our diet can be the difference between healthy-shiny tresses and a mediocre mane. There to enlighten us on all things hair happiness was Kristin Dahl, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist and women’s wellness educator, who offers a fresh take on Holistic living in a modern world. Dahl's teachings come from an extensive background in holistic health, plant-based cooking, herbal medicine, and functional nutrition. If there's one thing she's taught us so far, it's that the next time you feel like pushing around the veggies on your plate, don't. Here, the founder of The Women’s Wellness Collective and the holistic lifestyle hub, Dahl House Nutrition, breaks down the foods, vitamins, and herbs necessary for strong, luscious strands and a healthy scalp.

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What are some foods or pantry items that do wonders for hair health? 

What we eat literally creates the building blocks of who we are, from the inside out. Our diet has an enormous impact on the health of every part of our body, from our internal organs to our skin, nails, and hair. A balanced diet is absolutely essential to healthy hair.

Focus on the following foods to give your hair a healthy boost: 

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What is ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb praised for its ability help the body cope and adapt with stress. Ashwagandha strengthens the endocrine system by encouraging hormonal balance. Adaptogenic herbs act in this way by increasing the body’s resistance to physical, chemical, and biological stressors. Adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwagandha, work with the body to reduce cortisol levels, balance hormones, and manage stress in the body and the mind. 

Can ashwagandha benefit my hair? 

Both chronic stress and hormonal imbalances are main causes of hair loss in women, so adding an adaptogenic herb such as ashwagandha into the diet will promote strong, healthy hair, while reducing hair loss and damage. Specifically, ashwagandha helps to manage cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is raised during times of stress. Consistently raised cortisol levels can affect the function and regulation of hair follicles, leading to damage and hair loss. Reducing/stabilizing cortisol levels with an adaptogenic herb and other lifestyle practices will reduce the risk of hair loss and damage.

What’s the best way to ingest ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is best taken in powder or tincture form. In powder form, you can add it to tonics, smoothies or your coffee. As a tincture, it can be taken in a splash of water.  

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What are adaptogens and in what ways can they benefit hair?

Adaptogenic herbs are a group of plants that help to fight fatigue, boost immunity, and rejuvenate + rebalance the body & mind. They work by helping the body adapt to stress and have the ability to help support, sustain, and heal our nervous systems, which can become overworked due to chronic stress.  Stress can be very damaging to hair growth and health, leading to brittle and slow growing hair. Adaptogens are also beneficial in restoring a sense of femininity due to their role in helping to rebalance the hormones. They are ideal ingredients to include in tonics and elixirs specifically formulated for women.

What’s the best way to take adaptogens?

Adaptogens can be taken in tea, powder, or tincture form and the best way to use them truly depends on the herb. Many are supportive in a variety of ways.

I love loose leaf holy basil tea from Mountain Rose Herbs. They also carry a variety of other herbs & adaptogens. Companies like Moon Juice, Terra Soul & Sun Potion are also great options. Herb Pharm is a great source for herbal tinctures. I love their ashwagandha tincture.  

Women’s Adaptogenic Tonic Recipe

A tasty drink with additional benefits for women’s health including hormonal balance and immune boosting. 

Ingredients

Directions

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What is collagen and how does it nourish the hair?

Collagen is the protein that strengthens our bones, teeth, nails, hair, and skin. It is abundant in our body, but as we age, beginning in our 20’s, collagen production begins to decline (think wrinkles and sagging skin). Collagen formation is dependent on macro and micronutrients such as protein, vitamin C, copper, lysine, and silicon, all of which can be obtained through a healthy diet. However, collagen can also be supplemented in the form of powder, liquid, or capsule, which come from either bovine/cow or marine/fish sources. Vegan options contain plant-based nutrient building blocks of collagen.

Collagen peptide powder: one scoop of powder added to water or smoothies daily can assist with healthy skin, nails, and hair growth. Collagen contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which are also excellent for digestion and joint health. 

Vegan Options: 

My favorite brands include: Great Lakes, Vital Proteins, and Anima Mundi has a fantastic vegan blend.

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Are there any other natural hair tips we should follow for strong, healthy hair?

1. Try going longer between washes as often as possible. The best thing to support healthy hair is to let its natural oils absorb, which will add natural softness to the hair over time. Shampooing too frequently strips the hair of these beneficial oils.

2. Use a coconut oil & scalp massage as it helps to stimulate hair follicles and can promote growth. Try massaging your hair with oil 1-2 times per week and letting it sit (for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours) before washing it out. 

Use the following oils to heal damage to the hair: 

3. Try an apple cider vinegar rinse. When diluted with water, ACV is able to balance the pH of the hair and leave it shiny, smooth, and healthy. Using an apple cider vinegar hair rinse a couple times a month or week is a great way to restore balance after days of damage from styling and using products.

Ingredients

Directions

This can be repeated 1-2 times a week for thicker hair, or 1-2 times a month for thinner hair. Experiment and see what works best with your hair!  

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Check back next week for Dahl's guide to hormones and healthy hair 

Hair getting dry as you age? Do these things to stop it.