Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Healthy Hair - We are what we eat!

Healthy Hair

Hair that’s healthy and lustrous has always been highly desirable. Read on to find out how eating right can improve your appearance.

The condition of our hair depends very much on our genetic make-up. However, our diet also has some impact on the health of our hair.

Hair is primarily made up of protein. Adequate protein intake is therefore necessary to supply amino acids needed in the metabolic process for constant hair growth.

Chicken, beef, lamb, seafood, eggs all support health, providing the system much- needed protein. Soybean or other vegtables combined with grains also provide a complete set of proteins for vegetarians.

In addition to proteins, these foods also supply vitamin B, biotin, and omega-3 fatty acids that play a role in preventing hair from becoming brittle or life less.

Hair colour and softness

In our bodies, copper works as a coenzyme in our immune systems and is involved in bodily functions that involve energy produc tion. It works hand in hand with various metabolic enzymes especially cytochrome C oxidase, dopamine hydroxylase. If one lacks the mineral, he or she may feel weak and fatigued, have frequent infections, or skin problems.

More importantly, copper is also a mineral needed in the formation of haemoglobin, which flows in blood to the hair shaft and other parts of our bodies. A deficiency of copper may weaken the hair shaft and cause hair shedding. Furthermore, the production of the pigment melanin, that determines hair colour, requires the supportive function of copper enzyme.

Our diets should have sufficient intake of copper to effectively maintain the colour and softness of our hair, and lessen hair thinning.

This does not mean that we need to use copper utensils for cooking or ingest copper.

We can get the mineral from our daily nutritional intake. The following foods are good sources of dietary copper to meet the recommended daily intake of 0.9 mg for adults.

Meat, fish and other seafoods all supply copper. In particular, shellfish – such as oysters, crabs and clams – is known to be a good source of copper. Offal and liver have a higher copper content than cuts of meat. However, due to accumulation of toxins, liver is not a recommended food. If you like offal, the liver of younger chicken has a lower amount of toxins in it.

In a vegetarian diet, nuts and seeds are the best source of copper. Copper content in a 100 gram portion: soybean 1.0 mg, chickpea (kacang kuda) 0.9 mg, yellow dhal 0.7 mg, orange dhal 0.7 mg, black gram 0.6 mg, mung bean 0.8 mg, red gram 0.7 mg.

The fresh ulam served in traditional Malay dishes are flavourful greens which supply copper needed for healthy hair. Copper in 100 grams portion: Indian pennywort (pegaga) 0.3 mg, laksa leaf (kesom) 0.3 mg, fern shoot 0.3 mg, ulam raja 0.2 mg, red chilli 0.2 mg, canned peas 0.2 mg, spinach (por choy) 0.2 mg, bamboo shoot 0.1 mg, betel leaf (sireh) 0.3 mg.

Zinc hinders copper absorption.

As long as we eat a balanced diet, research has shown that deficiency of copper in our bodies rarely comes from not getting enough dietary copper. Other than genetic factors, an overdose of zinc supplements would inhibit the absorption of copper in the body. This may result in copper deficiency and affect hair conditions.

In our diet, beef, lamb, chicken, pork, shrimp, oysters, eggs, milk, mushroom, oats, peas, sesame seeds and other grains, cereals, nuts and seeds all supply zinc. If you wish to include a zinc supplement in your diet, con sult a medical professional to ensure there isn’t an excessive intake. Zinc is an important regulator of many genetic activities. Zinc is essential for the body to read genetic instructions. When one does not have sufficient zinc, genetic activities may be impaired. Zinc is also responsible for cell production, tissue growth and repair.

Thus, to a certain extent, zinc is believed to have a role in hair maintenance.

Balancing oily and dry hair.

In a hot and humid climate, we tend to per spire more. The acidic residue in the sweat may affect hair conditions. We need to con sume fruits and vegetables, especially the alkaline-producing foods to neutralise the acidic residue in our bodies. It is also impor tant to go easy on fatty and sugary foods, which the body will convert into acidic wastes.

Include generous portions of fruits and veg etable that are dark green, orange and yellow in your diet. Red and yellow plant pigments, vitamin A and carotenoids are required to maintain hair and ensure that it won’t become too oily or too dry.

While these are the nutrients that are inte gral to healthy hair, hair loss may not just be nutritionally related. For example, protein absorption can be hampered by low stomach acid and hair loss can be a symptom that accompanies other health problems. Low thy roid excretion, stress or drugs may also affect hair condition. Seek professional advice if necessary from a Trichologist.

Hard as nails.

A diet that’s good for hair maintenance will also sustain healthy nails. Eggs, seafood, meats and vegetables supply protein, biotin, vitamin A and calcium for the growth of firm, hard nails; thus, they are good for preventing brittle nails. White spots on nails could indi cate the need for more zinc while spoon- shaped nails could signal an iron deficiency.

Increasing the intake of red meat, seeds and nuts will be helpful to combat this. Horizontal or vertical ridges common among the elderly could be due to a vitamin B deficiency or stress that interferes with proper digestion and absorption.
The overall quality, and not quantity, of our diet is important, as we are what we eat.