postmodyrn Eats! : Feeling Strand-ed
It’s finally started: the dreaded postpartum stage where all my healthy, shiny pregnancy hair is falling out. Let me be clear, I’m not talking a few strands when you run your fingers through, I’m talking about the clumps in the shower that continue to clog our drains.
I don’t mean to sound vain here. The magnitude of what my body has just done and gone through is not lost on me. A woman’s body is designed to create life, and there is no greater expression of strength and health than giving birth. Not to mention, before Emilie was born, I had nine whole months to come to terms with the fact that my body would undoubtedly undergo some major changes. I’ve read enough baby books to have a rational understanding about how hair loss due to hormone fluctuations is normal and affects every new mom. I knew this was coming.
However, it doesn’t make the experience of losing what feels like all my hair any easier in the moment.
In order to counteract the hair loss — and to improve the quality of my remaining stands (you know, the ones that aren’t being ripped out with remarkable force by tiny, five-month-old fingers) — I’ve done a bit of research on nutrition and hair health which I’ve thought to post, along with a quick recipe utilizing some of the “beauty super-foods” I came across. After five months of sleepless nights, I feel my body is more than ready for some natural remedies to get my hair, skin, and nails back to their pre-pregnancy glow. As I’ve stated in some of my previous entries, by changing the foods you eat, you can radically change the way you look and feel – and the connection between food and beauty is no exception.
First and foremost, it should be said (and this should be somewhat obvious), that healthy hair depends more on what you put in your body than on what you do at the salon. In fact, hair is one of the first signs of nutrient deficiency. When it comes to your hair, amino acids are of utmost importance, as hair is almost 97% protein. Also, a lack of B vitamins, trace minerals such as silicon and sulfur, and a deficiency of healthy fatty acids will lead to dry, brittle, and prematurely graying strands that will be more likely to fall out.
Foods such as pumpkin seeds, carrots, radishes, quinoa, and avocados are all great for hair, skin, and nail health. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, sulfur, and vitamin A – three compounds which are (especially when taken together) helpful in building strong hair. Carrots, which have a high amount of beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, also promote hair strength and a healthy scalp. Radishes are an abundant source of vitamin C, and the minerals silicon and sulfur. They are also one of the top mucus-dissolving foods, meaning they help nutrients flow more freely throughout the body to build beautiful hair. Quinoa is a great source of complete plant protein (remember, hair is 97% protein!) and contains all the essential amino acids the body requires to build and repair itself. Lastly, avocados are abundant in monounsaturated fats which help to moisturize hair from the inside out. They also have the highest amino acid content of all fruit, and are a rich source of vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Another important aspect of maintaining healthy hair is to stay hydrated! Drinking adequate amounts of water not only nourishes the strands from the inside out, but also promotes new hair follicle growth. Since your body will always take care of your vital organs and tissues first, your hair will get dehydrated far sooner than the rest of your body. As your hair sheds from the roots, and can break anywhere along the strand, being dehydrated can aggravate a new mom’s existing shedding situation, and make regrowth more difficult. I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces per day, and breastfeeding mothers will need even more! If you can, try to squeeze in some fresh lemon juice for added healthy benefits.
Meal planning tip: Try to schedule some time once a week to head to the store with a recipe plan for a few days. I like to go on Sunday mornings while my husband stays with the kids. Once you get home, commit to spending approximately one hour in the kitchen getting yourself organized for the week. I’ll usually wash and chop fruits and vegetables, make a large batch of soup, whip a salad dressing, and perhaps prepare some kind of protein such as hard-boiled eggs or roasted salmon or chicken. If you multitask, you’ll be surprised what you can get done in a reasonably short amount of time. Having my ingredients prepped and on hand makes getting a healthy and homemade dinner together fast and easy during the week.
The following grain salad is a perfect make-ahead dish. Not only does it combine all the healthy foods listed above, but the flavors actually come together and taste better after sitting in your fridge for a day or two. This week I’ve been eating this salad as a quick lunch when I’m home with the baby.
RECIPE: Lemon Quinoa Salad
1 cup uncooked quinoa
½ red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons hummus
Juice of 1-2 lemons plus approximately 1 teaspoon of the grated zest
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1-2 chopped or grated carrots
1 small bunch of radishes, chopped
Any other chopped or grated vegetable you have on hand such as bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, kale, etc.
½ chopped avocado
1-2 handfuls of fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, dill, or whatever you have on hand (I used fresh mint for the salad in the picture, and it was delicious)
- Prepare the quinoa according to package instructions.
- While it is cooking, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and hummus in a large bowl until it comes together. Add the chopped onions.
- Drain the quinoa, and put it back in the pot. Stir it over low heat for a minute to steam off any excess water.
- Add the quinoa to the bowl with the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Let everything come to room temperature, and then stir in all the vegetables except the avocados.
- If you are making this in advance, place your salad in the refrigerator. Before serving, let everything come to room temperature and at the last minute mix in your seeds, avocado, and any chopped fresh herbs you are using. Taste and adjust the seasoning.