When the shampoo models are tossing their heads in slow motion, their sun-struck hairdos swirling gracefully about their faces like sea grasses in a gentle current, it’s good to be reminded that what we are looking at is someone waving a wad of keratin filaments. You heard me. Keratin is one of the fibrous proteins produced by our bodies, and it comes out of our fool heads in abundance. You see, our bodies produce three families of proteins, the other two being globular and membrane proteins. I think we can all be thankful that nature did not see fit to form our hair from either globular or membrane proteins. For one thing, Farrah Fawcett would’ve looked like an amoeba with a neck.
Hair, Horns, Hooves and Claws
Reader, you will be delighted to know that your lustrous hair is made of the same stuff as horns, hooves and claws; Keratin, that is. You may not have guessed that a deer’s antlers are but highly organized hair, but it’s a fact (look closely). Keratin is also the unlikely protein that protects epithelial cells from damage or stress. You may remember those are the cells that comprise the interior lining of your vascular tubing.
But the true bottom line here is that your hair is made of protein. Should it surprise anyone, then, that getting protein into our bodies is only going to benefit the hair situation? In fact, protein ingestion is so essential to the character of your hair that if you were to deliberately cut your protein intake over a couple or three months, you would see that deficit in the form of thinning hair.
Since iron also contributes meaningfully to the kind of shining hair that flashes in the sun (which—full disclosure—can cause distracted pedestrians to wander into traffic, though that should never be the goal), let’s look at foodstuffs that will go straight to your hair and give it the sort of pricey salon bounce we all desire.
Some foods that contain robust quantities of both protein and iron are intuitive. Beef and salmon come to mind - beef for its iron and (plant-derived) protein, and salmon and other sea creatures for their hair-shaft polishing Omega-3 fatty acids. But for plant-eating peeps looking for internal hair repair that won’t require something with a face to have been penned, the list is interestingly varied. Here are some starters..
Chia seeds - are a great source of protein (a 28-gram serving of chia seeds containing 5.6 grams worth) and Omega-3 fatty acids. Making these tiny seeds basically edible hair conditioner. Note what they can do with terra cotta. Etc.
Almonds - are jammed with protein for those keratin shafts, vitamin E for your hair’s helpful elasticity, and a measure of zinc, which puts the brakes on your hair falling out of your head. Kale - (excuse me). Yes, it’s true. Eating Kale will not only lift you gently onto to a pedestal surrounded by fawning Californians, the iron in kale will go straight to your head. Your head of hair, that is. Kale is also an alkaline food that mediates the hair-damaging acids in your body. Iron, vitamin B - your hair will thank you for eating kale. Remember that as you are pushing kale into your mouth with a sour expression tossing kale delightedly into your salad.
Flax seeds - provide a blast of nourishment to the hair roots and follicles, with their vitamin E and Omega-3 (there’s a jingle in here somewhere).
Legumes - (or beans and lentils, to use the less off-putting terms) have the sort of lean protein, iron and zinc your breeze-tossed locks require.
Vegan Protein supplements - when you can’t be sure you’re getting all the hair tonic you need from the foods you eat, certified organic vegan protein will feed your hair without the need for steak sauces and lobster bibs.
Your hair, like much else in this only seemingly ordinary world, is fairly strange. Your ill-advised haircut (someone had to tell you) is comprised of Keratin proteins bundled into filaments, and these are poking out of your ~100,000 hair follicles at right angles to your scalp. If you can imagine. The only other biological stuff that comes close to the resilience and toughness of human hair is chitin. And I’m sorry to say chitin is the bug-shaped shell left behind when an insect molts. Now, that’s not to say you can’t still be a fashion plate. Planet Earth is a funny place, that’s all. Just take care to get the protein and iron you need to keep your mane healthy and happy. And for goodness sake touch up that awful haircut.
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