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I am lucky to be one of those who have long, thick, black hair (Who wouldn’t be proud?). I get complimented a lot, with people asking about my grooming regimen. I smile, thank them and tell them that the hair is courtesy of my mum. Thanks, Mum! When my hair started thinning out, I realized there was more to healthy hair than heredity.

Many people view healthy-looking hair as a sign of health or beauty and they are not wrong. Like any other part of your body, hair needs a variety of nutrients to be healthy and grow. In fact, many nutritional deficiencies are linked to hair loss. While factors such as age, genetics and hormones also affect hair growth, optimal nutrient intake is key.

Below are 5 essential vitamins and 3 other nutrients that are important for your hair growth.
1. Vitamin A
Contrary to the perception that vitamin A is particularly for eye health, all cells need vitamin A for growth. Vitamin A also helps skin glands make an oily substance called sebum which moisturizes the scalp and helps keep hair healthy. An overdose of vitamin A can also contribute to hair loss as too much of anything isn’t good.
Sources: Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach, kale, milk, eggs and yogurt. Cod liver oil is a particularly good source.

2. Vitamins B
One of the best known vitamins for hair growth is a B-vitamin called biotin. Other B-vitamins help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles. These are important processes for hair growth.
Sources: Whole grains, almonds, meat, fish, seafood, dark, leafy greens. Animal foods are the only good sources of vitamin B12.

3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radical damage can block growth and cause ageing of hair. Your body also needs vitamin C to create collagen — an important proteinous part of hair structure. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, a mineral necessary for hair growth. Sources: Strawberries, peppers, guavas and citrus fruits

4. Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D are linked to alopecia, a technical term for hair loss. Several studies have found that vitamin D may help activate hair growth by creating new follicles. However, D is a tricky vitamin. Few foods contain it naturally, and although sitting in the sun for a few minutes a day can help your body produce more of it, many experts advise against it due to the increased exposure to harmful UV rays.
Sources: Fatty fish, cod liver oil, some mushrooms and fortified foods.

5. Vitamin E
Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can prevent oxidative stress. In one study, people with hair loss experienced a 34.5% increase in hair growth after supplementing with vitamin E for 8 months. The placebo group had only a 0.1% increase. Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and avocados are all good sources of vitamin E.

6. Protein
Protein is one of the building blocks of life, promoting cell growth and repair—and it boosts your hair strength. Hair is made almost entirely of protein. Consuming enough is important for hair growth. Women should get at least 46 grams a day (3 ounces of chicken has about 23g).

7. Zinc
Zinc plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair. It also helps keep the oil glands around the follicles working properly.Hair loss is a common symptom of zinc deficiency.For this reason, it may be better to get your zinc from whole foods.
Sources: Oysters, beef, spinach, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and lentils.

8. Iron
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your cells. This makes it an important mineral for many bodily functions, including hair growth. Iron deficiency, which causes anemia, is a major cause of hair loss. It is especially common in women. Pair non-meat sources of iron with vit-C filled food like oranges to encourage iron absorption.
Sources: Clams, oysters, eggs, red meat, spinach and lentils.

Always remember that you are what you eat!

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