Noticed a few greys sneaking in? While grey, white or silver hairs are completely normal, when they start showing a little earlier than expected, it could be a sign of an underlying deficiency or health issue at play. Take a look at 5 of the most important nutrients for preventing or slowing the progress of premature grey hairs – plus which foods you’ll find them in.
From the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with work and family commitments sending our hormones out of whack, to expensive groceries leaving us without the essentials for a balanced diet, there are a number of health issues cropping up – early greys are just one of the tell-tale signs that something is amiss in our bodies. If premature greys have got you scratching your head for answers, take a look at a few of the major nutrients that you could be low on.
A deficiency in vitamin B12 is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to premature greys, and it’s one of the first places to look for answers – and it’s not just early greys that can crop up when you’re low on this nutrient, take a look at the other tell-tale signs of a deficiency:
- Hair loss
- Memory loss
- Pale or yellow-tinged complexion
- Shortness of breath
- Pins and needles
The reason a B12 deficiency can cause those early greys to sprout up comes down to its effects on your DNA production and regulation. The genetic material found in our hair follicles relies upon proper DNA function, which, as we know, vitamin B12 plays an essential role in. These hair follicles produce melanin which is responsible for our hair colour. These follicles also depend on proper blood flow for nutrient absorption and oxygen – and, yes, B12 is vital for healthy blood cell function too. So, we’ve come full circle in the role this vitamin plays in preventing greys – now it’s time to take a look at your plate and make sure you’re getting a good dose of B12. Here’s where you’ll find it:
- Supplemented nutritional yeast
- Supplemented cereals and milks
- Supplemented spread like Vegemite
- Vitamin supplements
Vitamin E is one of the integral cogs of the hair health machine – this nutrient not only prevents premature greys, but it may also slow or reverse the progress. It comes down to the powerhouse antioxidants in vitamin E, these combat the damage, free radicals, dehydration and malnourishment that come with early grey hair. In fact, it's the free radicals that are known to cause a host of premature ageing signs, from thinning hair to wrinkled skin. One way to reap these hair strengthening benefits is to apply vitamin E oil, and this is because it's a fat soluble vitamin, meaning you'll want a bit of oil for the best results. This method works best as a preventative measure, but if you've noticed some greys springing up, you can still do a lot of good by simply oiling your hair regularly. You'll also find your hair is stronger, sleeker and less damaged as an added bonus! Here's how to apply your vitamin E oil:
- Massage it into your hair
- Comb the oil through your hair with a wide-tooth comb
- Leave the oil in for around 10-20 minutes
- Wash your hair as you usually would with your shampoo
It's also essential to get a good dose of vitamin E through your diet, and you'll find this wonder nutrient in almonds, pumpkin, leafy greens, olive oil and eggs. Just be sure to eat your vitamin E with a source of fat to ensure your body absorbs optimal amounts of this nutrient.
Iron is another essential for healthy hair – so if you’ve noticed these greys cropping up recently it’s worth looking into your iron levels. A simple blood test will give you an insight into your count of this essential nutrient. Iron plays a major role in supplying oxygen throughout our bodies – this is because it helps to produce haemoglobin in our blood cells, and this is the stuff that puts in the hard yards to get that oxygen where it needs to be – this includes in your hair follicles! Your follicles obtain essential nutrition from this blood, including hair-building nutrients that we need for healthy growth and colour. Here’s where you’ll find iron:
- Seeds and nuts
- Dark leafy greens
- Dark chocolate
Tip: Always eat your iron with a bit of vitamin C – this helps ensure your body absorbs more iron. For instance, apples, oranges and broccoli are all vitamin-C rich foods to eat alongside your iron source. Be sure to avoid drinking tea or coffee with your iron – the tannins in these beverages are known to bind to iron, thereby reducing our absorption of this stuff. So, if you’re an avid coffee drinker, don’t sip all day, try to pick one time in the day to get your fix.
Calcium isn’t just your key to healthy bones, this stuff plays an underestimated role in hair colour too, along with heart and muscle health. If you’re missing out on this nutrient, you could be depriving your hair follicles of much-needed nutrients, leaving them vulnerable to damage and greying. Unlike zinc, which a deficiency of is known to permanently leave greys, greys caused by calcium deficiency may be reversed upon treating the issue. You’ll find this mineral in the following foods:
- Yoghurt, milk and cheese
- Leafy greens
- Calcium-set tofu
Tip: Aim to get at least 3 serves of calcium-rich foods each day.
Zinc protects our DNA and cells from pathogens and free radicals – there’s a reason it’s a beloved cold remedy! But if you don’t get enough of this stuff, your health of your hair is one of the first parts of your body to visibly decline. This can be anything from hair loss to breakage and brittleness – it can even lead to thyroid dysfunction. Be sure to get your fix of zinc from any of the following foods:
- Red meat and oysters
- Whole grains
- Shiitake mushrooms
The sunshine vitamin is a known essential for balanced hormones, good mental health and strong bones – but did you know it also contributes to hair health? If you’re not getting enough of this stuff – and nearly 1 in 3 of us aren’t – then this could be the cause of your early greys. This is because vitamin D plays a role in melanin production – this is the stuff that gives our hair its colour – along with ensuring our body efficiently absorbs calcium, with research finding a common thread of deficiency amongst those undergoing a premature greying process. Be sure to get a bit of sunlight for your daily dose of D! You can also find this vitamin in the following foods:
- Fortified plant milks
- Mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight
These are just a few of the biggest culprits for premature greys when it comes to nutritional causes, but keep in mind, genetics also play a major role in the age you develop greys – if your parents started the process young, chances are, you will too – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Embrace those silver locks – after all, hair trends show that grey and silver are some of the most popular hair dye picks for 2022!
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