Nutrition for Healthy Hair

Many of my clients, especially women, ask me how they can support healthy hair growth and condition. Whilst there are many factors which can influence hair health that do not relate to diet (such as hair dyes, heat application, over-brushing, sports such as swimming, sea-water and sunlight), there is no denying that what we eat can have a real impact on the condition of our hair. The following guide outlines the most important nutrients needed for healthy hair..

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A number of nutrients are required for strong, healthy hair and hair growth. Overall the key to healthy hair is to have a balanced, nutrient rich whole foods diet, but some of the most important nutrients for hair health include:

PROTEIN:

As hair is made of protein, ensuring you have enough protein in your diet is crucial for keeping hair strong and healthy. If you are not consuming enough protein your hair may become dry, brittle and weak, and a very low protein diet may result in hair loss. Eat a source of protein rich food at every meal; choose from good quality plant proteins such as beans (including soya), peas, lentils, quinoa, seeds and nuts. If you eat animal products excellent protein sources include fish, eggs, meat and dairy products.

IRON:

Iron is an especially important mineral for hair and too little iron (even in the absence of anaemia) is a major cause of hair loss in women. The hair follicle and root are fed by a nutrient rich blood supply. When iron levels (serum ferritin) fall below a certain point this disrupts the nutrient supply to the follicle, affecting the hair growth cycle and may result in shedding. Animal products such as red meat, chicken and fish provide iron with a high bioavailability, meaning the iron is readily available to the body. Vegetarians and vegans can obtain iron from lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli, kale and salad greens), molasses, fortified cereals and breads and dried apricots. Vegetarian and vegan women may also need to supplement with iron to meet their needs, but this may be best confirmed with a blood test. Men should generally not take iron supplements unless iron deficiency has been confirmed by a medical professional.

L-LYSINE:

This amino acid is found in protein rich foods and works alongside iron to boost health growth. A lack of L-Lysine can therefore affect health hair and may contribute to hair thinning. L-Lysine can be found in all high-quality proteins such as meat, fish, eggs & dairy. However, it is in shorter supply in plant foods which emphasises the importance of vegetarians and vegans including a wide variety of plant-based proteins in their daily diet. Vegetarians and vegans, particularly women who are concerned about hair thinning, may need a supplement.

VITAMIN C:

Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron from food, so foods high in vitamin C are good to eat in conjunction with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant so is used readily by the body. The best sources are blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen that strengthens the capillaries that supply the hair shafts.

OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS:

Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats our body cannot make itself, and therefore must be obtained through our diet. Omega-3 fats are found in the cells that line the scalp and also provide the oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated. The best sources of omega 3 are oily fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, trout and mackerel and plant sources including flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, rapeseed oil and dark green leafy vegetables. Vegetarians and vegans can also increase their omega 3 levels with micro-algae (available in supplement form).

VITAMIN A:

Vitamin A is needed by the body to make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance created by the hairs sebaceous glands and provides a natural conditioner for a healthy scalp. Without sebum we may experience an itchy scalp and dry hair. Animal products (such as oily fish, dairy and eggs) are good sources of vitamin A, and orange and yellow coloured vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene (which is converted into vitamin A). Green leafy vegetables are also a good source of beta carotene.

ZINC & SELENIUM:

Scalp protection also involves other important minerals, notably zinc and selenium. A lack of zinc can lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp. Fortified cereals, whole grains, nuts, seeds and quinoa are all good plant-based source of zinc along with seafood, beef and eggs.

VITAMIN E:

The sun can damage our hair just like it can damage our skin, so ensure you eat foods rich in vitamin E to provide protection for your hair. Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, providing zinc and selenium as well as vitamin E so try to include them as part of a balanced diet. Seeds (such as sunflower seeds) are also a good source of vitamin E.

BIOTIN:

Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin. Too little biotin can cause brittle hair and may lead to hair loss. Biotin rich foods include whole-grains and egg yolks.

 

Persistent hair loss that does not respond to a healthy diet (or that doesn’t appear to be related to normal life changes such as menopause or the post-natal period) should be investigated by a medical practitioner, as it could indicate an underlying medical condition and / or nutrient deficiencies.

Overnights chia oats, Danish style!

Inspired by a recent trip to Copenhagen where we enjoyed one of the best breakfast’s we’ve ever eaten at ‘Grod’; a small food company found in the indoor market near Norreport metro station. ‘Grod’ translates as ‘porridge’ and the company has become renowned for their innovative and delicious take on breakfast.

This overnight oat and chia bowl is hearty, nutritious and rich in protein and can be prepared in 5 minutes before bedtime. In the morning you can choose any toppings you like to make it delicious e.g. fresh or dried fruits, nuts or seeds, nut butter, yoghurt, coconut flakes, spices etc.. It can be eaten hot or cold; to enjoy warm in the morning just place the oat & chia mixture in a pan with a little extra milk, stir and heat gently for 3 – 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and add your toppings.

Ingredients (serves 1)

60g jumbo oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

handful of almonds

200ml dairy free milk

1 tsp cinnamon (or mixed spice, as you like)

TOPPINGS:

2 handfuls of blueberries

1 small apple, grated 

1 tsp of nut butter

1 tbsp dairy free yoghurt

more cinnamon

Method:

1. Place oats, chia seeds, almonds, milk and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk or stir well, cover and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 2 hours.

2. When ready to eat, remove from the fridge, stir and add more milk if its’s too thick. Then add your toppings in any order you like. Enjoy! 😊

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Apricot, oat and almond balls

C85E4C94-81EB-487D-B915-9F7095635536.jpegDelicious, crunchy balls perfect for an on-the-go snack, or quick breakfast. High in protein, fibre and the minerals iron and calcium.

Keep these in a sealed jar, or pot in the fridge and eat within 7 days. Also suitable for freezing.

Ingredients:

  • 135g porridge oats
  • 160g dried apricots (or use 80g dried apricots & 80g sultanas or dates)
  •  20g maple syrup, or honey
  •  120g almond butter
  •  1 tsp cinnamon
  • 10g – 15g chia seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp water

Instructions:

Put all the ingredients, except the water, into a food processor and process until coming together.  Add up to 1 tbsp of water if the mixture is too dry. It should come together easily, but not be wet or sticky. If the mixture is too wet, add a few more oats.

Empty the mixture onto a baking mat, or parchment, and roll into small bite size balls. Then roll each ball in desiccated coconut, or ground almonds as you prefer. Keep in a sealed container in the fridge.

Vibrant super green soup!

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Batch cooking at the weekend, or whenever you have a spare couple of hours to spend in the kitchen, is a brilliant way of getting healthy meals lined up for the week ahead. I often batch cook soup, stews and curries on a Sunday afternoon so I have meals on hand for busy week-days.

This soup is really quick & easy to prepare and cook. It’s also a delicious way to eat your daily greens! Leafy green veg,  such as kale, are packed with minerals including iron, calcium and magnesium. They have numerous health benefits; not least evidence shows that people who eat leafy greens every day have younger brains than those who eat them less often!

You will need:

Ingredients: (makes 3 generous bowls)

  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 2 handfuls of broccoli florets
  • 50g of kale
  • 50g of spinach
  • 300g frozen peas or petit pois
  • 1.5 pints of vegetable stock
  • a pinch of salt & pepper, to taste
  • a drizzle of cold pressed rapeseed, or light olive oil

Instructions:

  • Drizzle a little oil into a large pan and heat gently, then add the leek. Stir and cook very gently on a low heat until softened.
  • Add the courgette and broccoli, cook for a couple of minutes with the leek and then pour in around 1 litre of the stock.
  • Bring to the boil, add the kale, spinach and peas and turn down to a simmer for around 8 minutes. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover all the vegetables in the pan, add more stock. However this soup tastes best when it is thick and creamy, so don’t overdo the stock!
  • Add a little seasoning to taste and remove from the heat.
  • blend until smooth, serve with a little cracked black pepper on top.

 

 

 

 

Spicy red lentil, butternut & spinach stew – perfect for a chilly day!

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This cosy stew packs in plenty of colourful veggies and is full of fibre. The red lentils provide protein and iron, and buttternut & spinach are a great source of beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A). You can adjust the spice to taste..

You will need:

Ingredients: (makes 2 generous servings)

  • A little cold pressed rapeseed oil, or light olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • One 3 inch slice of butternut squash, peeled and diced into bite size chunks
  • 1/2 a red pepper, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2 handfuls of fine green green beans, topped, tailed and cut in half
  • 50g of baby spinach
  • 1/2 a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 60g of uncooked red lentils
  • 1/2 – 3/4 pint of vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli garlic sauce, or other chilli sauce
  • 1- 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • pinch of salt & pepper

Instructions

  • Drizzle a little oil into a large pan, heat gently and add the onion, garlic and paprika. Cook on a low heat, stirring all the time until onion is becoming translucent. Add a little water if becoming dry.
  • Next add the butternut, pepper, green beans, red lentils and tinned tomatoes. Stir for a minute to combine and then pour over 1/2 a pint of the vegetable stock. Add the chilli sauce and the herbs and stir well.
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for around 20 minutes until the squash is softened.
  • Finally add the spinach, and cook for a further 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted down. If at any time the stew becomes too thick add a little more stock, or hot water.
  • Season as you like, taste and add more chilli sauce if you want it spicier!

Serve with bread on the side, or in a bowl with quinoa or brown rice. Enjoy!

New Recipe; Grain free, plant based blondies!

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These delicious little blondies are packed with fibre and protein, free of oil & butter and low in added sugar! They make a great after dinner treat, or a healthy snack to keep your energy levels topped up during the day. Using chickpeas instead of flour gives these blondies a denser texture and a lovely nutty flavour.

This recipe will make approximately 9 – 12 blondies.

The recipe has been lightly adapted from an original by Chocolate Covered Katie.

You will need:

Ingredients

  • 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of rock salt
  • 1 tbsp xylitol, or coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g of ground flaxseed or rolled oats
  • 60g of crunchy almond, peanut or other nut butter
  • 20-30g of dark chocolate chunks or chips

Method:

Simply put all the ingredients, except the chocolate chunks, into a food processor. Blend until thick and smooth. Add a little drizzle of water if the batter seems too thick to blend easily, but don’t overdo it as the batter should not be wet or runny. When smooth, add the chocolate chunks and stir to combine.

Place batter into a brownie tin, smooth out the top.

Bake at 180 degrees for 25 – 30 mins until lightly browned.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares, otherwise they may crumble.

Eat within 5 days, or freeze to enjoy for longer!

VARIATIONS:

Try adding some walnut, hazelnut or Brazil nut pieces to make these even nuttier, or try adding a little cocoa powder to make chocolate brownies!

Are you Confused about the best way to lose weight?

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We are virtually bombarded by ‘new year, new you’ messages in the media at this time of year, many of which are focussed on healthy eating and weight loss. Some people will find simply switching to a healthier lower sugar diet, eating less overall and / or doing more exercise is enough to shed a few unwanted pounds. However, others find it considerably harder and much more challenging to lose weight. This can be incredibly frustrating especially if either physical, or mental health and well-being are being affected by excess body weight.

So, why is weight loss so much harder for some people? Firstly it has to be said that the causes of weight gain are complex, and there is not one simple answer as to why we gain weight, or how we can lose weight. When a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle is not enough to shift excess weight, or prevent weight gain then it may be worth considering that there may be underlying factors hindering weight loss. There are a wide range of possible underlying imbalances which may prevent weight loss such as;

* imbalances in the gut bacteria

* poor blood sugar control

* sex hormone imbalance

* under active thyroid gland

* poorly functioning adrenal glands (these glands secrete various hormones including the stress hormone cortisol)

* inflammation

* imbalanced brain chemistry, or and imbalance in appetite controlling hormones

* A high level of toxins in the body

If you have consistently been struggling with losing excess weight, or you are gradually graining weight despite not having changed your diet or level of activity then it may be helpful to work with an experienced practitioner to help you identify whether any of the above factors are influencing your body weight, and/ or hindering your weight loss attempts.

When it comes to choosing a weight loss diet, it is as much about what you eat as how much. Equally important is finding a weight loss plan that suits you and fits into your lifestyle. Ideally, a weight loss diet should be sustainable and encourage long term better health and positive dietary change, rather than just being a ‘quick fix’ solution. The best evidence for long term weight loss, without risking nutrient deficiencies or other health problems, is a low GL diet, possibly combined with some form of intermittent fasting. But again, this ideally needs to be tailored to the individual.

Just as there are a myriad weight loss diets, there are also numerous supplements which claim to be able to help with weight loss. Again, the use of supplements should be tailored to the individual, but products which may help include; magnesium, B vitamins, chromium, ALA, L-Carnitine, omega 3 oils, live bacteria, and possibly green tea or coffee extracts. If stress is a big factor, then herbal supplements which help to normalise stress hormone production may help by reducing carbohydrate cravings and encouraging better blood sugar control.

Finally, don’t forget about sleep! Lack of sleep disrupts levels of the appetite hormone ghrelin, which can lead to carbohydrate cravings and overeating.

 

Are you taking part in Veganuary this year?

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Taking part in Veganuary is a great way to start on the path of eating a healthy plant based diet! However, not all plant based diets are created equal, and a poorly planned vegan diet can result in micronutrient deficiencies and health problems further down the line. If you are new to plant based eating, or have health concerns then seeking out professional advice to help ensure you are enjoying a healthy and nutritionally complete diet can be a really good idea. If this sounds like you, then a mini consultation may be just what you need to point you in the right direction! For more details, and consultation fees please see the ‘consultations’ page..

 

 

Vitamin D; have you had your level tested recently?

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Vitamin D plays a vital role in our health and new evidence is emerging all the time relating to the risks associated with vitamin D deficiency. Most of us know that vitamin D is important for bone & teeth health, but it also plays a crucial role in our immune system and in managing inflammation.

Many people with inflammatory health concerns such as endometriosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases are frequently found to have low vitamin D levels, with the severity of the vitamin deficiency often being linked to the severity of disease symptoms experienced.

Likewise having low vitamin D status may increase our risk of developing certain health conditions such as breast cancer (1), prostate cancer (2), type I diabetes (3) and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (4), hashimoto’s thyroiditis (5) and MS (6).

As we approach the winter months most of us living in the UK, or the northern hemisphere, run the risk of becoming vitamin D deficient and it is essential to start thinking about taking a daily supplement. Let’s explore some of the facts about vitamin D such as; where do we get it, who is most at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and how much, and in what form should we supplement?

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body. It is often known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as it is largely produced in the skin from exposure to sunlight, although small amounts can be obtained from some foods.

How can I get enough Vitamin D?

In the UK ultraviolet light is only strong enough for vitamin D to be produced in exposed skin from around 11am – 3pm during the summer months. Exposing your skin to the sun (without sunscreen), a few times a week for at least 15 minutes should allow your body to produce enough vitamin D. You do not need sunbathe; being outdoors in the sunlight with exposed hands, face, arms etc. is sufficient.

In the UK from October to March, vitamin D is obtained from bodily stores and food sources.

Food sources of vitamin D are largely animal based (e.g. eggs yolks and oily fish). People who do not eat animal foods can source vitamin D from fortified foods such as cereal, dairy free milk, fortified mushrooms and margarine.

Why is Vitamin D important?

Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from food. Without enough vitamin D the body cannot absorb calcium properly. Because calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth, Vitamin D also plays a very important role in healthy bones and teeth. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to rickets in children (which can cause bone deformities), and osteomalacia (softened bones) in adults. Deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis and poor oral health.

As mentioned above, ever emerging scientific research suggests that Vitamin D may also play many other vitally important roles in our health.

Who might not get enough Vitamin D?

People at risk of vitamin D deficiency include: babies and young children, children & adults who spend little time outside during the summer, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, people over 65 years of age, people with darker skin tones living in a northern climate, people living in areas of high air pollution and people who use high factor sunscreens or who cover most of their skin when outdoors. People who do not eat animal foods may also be at increased risk, as few plant foods provide vitamin D.

How can I find out if I am getting enough Vitamin D?

If you think you might be at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, ask your GP to check your vitamin D level with a simple blood test. During the winter months anyone can have low Vitamin D levels. For this reason it is a good idea to ask your GP to check your vitamin D levels at this time of year, even if you think you get enough Vitamin D during the rest of the year. I also offer at home vitamin D test kits; please contact me if this is something you are interested in.

Who should take a Vitamin D supplement?

Babies, young children (up to the age of 5), pregnant and breastfeeding women, the elderly and anyone else who has very little sun exposure (which is many of us!) should take a Vitamin D supplement all year round. Most vegetarians and vegans should also supplement with vitamin D year round.

How much Vitamin D should I take, and in what form?

The recommended daily intake for adults is 400iu per day, for children it is 200iu per day. However, if your vitamin D level is at the lower end of normal or you are deficient then you will need to supplement between 1000 – 10’000iu per day until your level increases. Ideally, for optimum health your vitamin D level should be within the moderate to high range of normal, and not below.

The best form of vitamin D to supplement is called vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol. The body more easily absorbs Vitamin D3 than Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol. In preference choose a supplement that provides vitamin D3 derived the lichen plant, as other sources of vitamin D3 are usually derived from sheep’s wool. All vitamin D supplements that I recommend are derived from lichen.

References:

  1. https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/low_vit_d
  2.  https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/prostate-cancer/
  3. http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/2/113
  4. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/in-rheumatoid-arthritis-vitamin-d-levels-are-related-to-disease-severity-inflammatory-cytokines-and-bone-loss/
  5. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/study-link-between-vitamin-d-deficiency-and-autoimmune-thyroid-disease/
  6. https://www.mstrust.org.uk/life-ms/diet/vitamin-d

New; Mini Consultations!

 

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To increase the consultation options available to my clients I am now offering a ‘mini’ consultation service.

This includes a 30 minute consultation and a brief written summary of my advice. A mini consultation is suited to clients who do not have complex health concerns but who who would like some professional nutrition advice for instance on; healthy weight management, minor health concerns, choosing the right supplements or general health and well-being.

The fee for a mini consultation is £35.

if you are unsure as to whether a mini consultation is right for you, please do contact me for advice.