The hair diet: A glass of bitter and a juicy steak – the surprising menu for achieving shiny Kate Middleton-style locks
23:36 GMT, 15 April 2012
Lush locks: A full, shiny mane like the Duchess of Cambridge's can be achieved through a good diet
Achieving shiny Kate Middleton-style hair, if you believe what the TV adverts tell you, is as simple as switching your brand of shampoo. But we all know it’s not quite as easy as that.
Just as your skin and eyes lose their lustre after a stressful week or a few sleepless nights, so your hair is hugely affected by your diet and lifestyle.
Although the hair that grows out of your head is dead, the living part of the hair — the follicle — is very much alive.
These tiny hair-making organs operate deep inside the skin. They are surrounded by blood vessels that bathe them in nutrients and help them produce a substance called keratin. Eventually, all that keratin gets pushed out of the follicle, through an opening in the scalp, forming a strand of hair.
If you’re not eating a balanced diet — and not supplying the follicles with the nutrients they need — your hair will pay the price. It will become finer and lighter in colour, and the cuticle (the outermost layer of each hair) will fray more easily, so the hair becomes rough in texture and more prone to split ends.
As a dermatologist, I know dietary deficiencies and imbalances can affect the health of your hair before you see it and I can tell you which foods to eat to help it grow strong, shiny and healthy.
Don’t worry about buying organic all the time, but try to choose organic fruit and vegetables (particularly those you don’t peel — apples, grapes, peaches, lettuce and tomatoes), as pesticides used on normal varieties may remain on the fruit’s skin and can limit the goodness you are putting into your hair.
It is also worth paying extra for organic meat and dairy to avoid the hormones and antibiotics used in large-scale farming which your body can absorb. Fluctuating hormone levels (even on a small scale) can leave hair dull and lifeless.
STRENGTHEN YOUR HAIR
Eat more foods that are high in an amino acid called cysteine. These include pork, poultry, eggs, red peppers, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, dairy products, oats and broccoli.
Cysteine is the main amino acid that forms keratin. It is also a good idea to boost your intake of a natural substance called silicon, which has been shown to be essential for stronger hair, nails and bones.
Strengthen your hair further by eating wholegrains, green beans, spinach, lentils, and the occasional glass of bitter (which contains more silicon than lager).
MAKE IT THICKER
Make sure you eat enough iron and zinc (both are found in red meat such as beef or lamb, as well as lentils, kidney beans, pork, turkey and spinach).
Zinc is essential for keratin production and people with low levels of zinc may have fine, weak or brittle hair or even lose their hair altogether.
Super food: Eating more vegetables like broccoli can strengthen your hair
Meanwhile, anaemia as a result of iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of thinning hair, particularly in women. Studies show that as many as 25 per cent of pre-menopausal women become iron deficient.
Aim to make lean red meat your main course twice a week and incorporate other zinc or iron-rich foods into your diet daily.
It’s a good idea to avoid over-eating large sea fish, because although fish is an important source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, some can contain high levels of mercury, which leads to hair loss.
BANISH THOSE GREY HAIRS
If you’re worried about greys, the answer could be as simple as eating a handful of almonds every day.
Recent research shows hair follicles don’t actually stop producing melanin (the pigment that colours hair) with age as we thought, but instead lose the ability to keep the pigment they do make.
BAD HAIR DAYS
Only seven per cent of women love their hair, according to a recent Dove survey
However almonds boost the body’s ability to produce the enzyme catalase, which maintains your natural hair colour for longer. In a recent study, people who ate three ounces of almonds a day for four weeks ended up with nearly 10 per cent more catalase in their blood than those on a normal diet.
A selection of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables can also help to slow the process, as the antioxidants fight free radicals, which damage pigment-producing cells. Berries, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, pumpkins and peppers are the richest in colour-boosting vitamins.
Because it takes months for each hair to grow to full length, even a hugely improved diet can’t promise an instant transformation, but rest assured the goodness will be working away at your roots.
Jessica Wu. To order a copy for 10.99 (p&p free), call 0843 382 0000.