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a Vegan Diet Damage Your Hair?
I have been a vegan for about six months
and haven't looked back since the scales fell from my
eyes. I just do NOT eat animals nor do I consume eggs,
milk etc. -- there's no temptation. I enjoy selecting
the foods I purchase, preparing the meals, eating my
meals, and I believe I am choosing foods that include
all the vitamins and minerals that I must have to remain
Effortlessly, I went from 137 pounds
and have normalized at 123 pounds, which is "just right"
for my 5"3" frame and 58 years of age. Friends do a
double take when they see me, and I have to agree, I
look darn good!
My only concern, so far, is my crowning
glory -- my head of hair. I have noticed the beginnings
of "strange hair" -- a shiny, synthetic look. It's not
falling out, but it's as if each hair is getting thinner
and, therefore, brittle. And, it isn't growing as fast
as it used to. I've always had a head of healthy hair;
I believe there's a problem here. You know my question:
What must I include in my diet to ensure that my hair
Congratulations on your successful transition
to a totally plant-based diet! You're right -- a well
planned vegan diet should provide us with all the nourishment
our bodies need. However, sometimes our diets are not
as varied or nutrient-rich as we might like to think
they are. And, regardless of how good a diet is, there
are times when our bodies simply do not absorb the nutrients
from our food adequately due to lifestyle changes, age,
illness, metabolic disorders, or general health problems.
Protein is important for the growth
of strong hair and nails, among many other things. When
people consume enough calories in their diet, protein
deficiency is essentially nonexistent. Nearly all foods
contain protein (except fats and alcohol) including
grains, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), nuts, seeds,
and vegetables. These are the staples of a vegan diet;
hence, if you are eating sufficient quantities of these
foods, protein should not be a concern. In cultures
where protein deficiency exists, it is nearly always
due to inadequate amounts of food (i.e. starvation)
rather than inadequate protein intake.
As we age, protein may be used less
efficiently. As a result, older vegans may need even
more protein than when they were younger. It becomes
even more important, therefore, to regularly consume
high-quality, protein-dense foods (such as soy products
and other legumes). Low calorie intake can minimize
the amount of protein in the diet as well. So if you
are not getting enough calories, your protein needs
may be even higher.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been attributed
with many amazing properties including improving the
texture of hair. These essential fatty acids are lacking
in most people's diets (omnivores as well as vegans
and vegetarians). Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids
include tofu, canola oil, and walnuts, among others.
The richest vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids can
be found in flaxseed oil which is available in the refrigerated
section of natural food stores. Flax oil is a pure vegetable
fat and, like all fats, should be used in moderation
(about 1 tablespoon per day). Flax oil should never
be heated or used to cook with. It is best drizzled
over foods (such as salads, vegetables, or baked potatoes)
or used in salad dressing. Flax oil must be stored in
the refrigerator (or freezer, to extend its life) and
should be used up by the expiration date on the bottle.
Many factors can contribute to hair
problems, and diet may not necessarily be the issue.
Most people's hair changes as they age. Gray hair tends
to be thinner and more brittle (even if it's gray hair
that has been colored). Inadequate sleep, fresh air
or exercise can also affect the vitality of hair. Stress
takes a major toll on our bodies, most notably affecting
our gastrointestinal system, skin, and hair. The consequences
of intensive stress may not even be apparent for a year
or more after a crisis has passed. So, even though things
may seem calm at the time hair problems occur, it's
valuable to take into consideration past events.
Hormonal imbalances and natural life
cycles (such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause)
can affect the quality of hair. Even shampoos, conditioners,
and colorants can change our hair's characteristics.
Certain detergents used in commercial hair care products
(yes, even those labeled as "natural") can damage the
follicle of hair and cause it to fall out.
Hair loss can be a complicated matter
to sort out. Before tackling the problem on your own,
get a complete physical examination to rule out any
specific organic causes for the change. Then, if all
is well, you may want to consult a registered dietician
familiar with vegan diets to evaluate your current eating
plan. Supplements may be advised in certain circumstances.
This doesn't mean that a vegan diet is inadequate. However,
your age, lifestyle, health, or a combination of factors
may necessitate special attention to particular nutrients.
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