Finding hair in food is easily one of the most unappetizing sights to behold during a meal. However, while finding a strange strand of hair in the spaghetti seems icky, it is incredibly unlikely to cause any health problems whatsoever.
Maria Colavincenzo, a dermatologist at Northwestern who specializes in the study of hair explains that hair is made of a protein called keratin, which doesn’t cause problems to the body if ingested. Hair can possibly contain a trace amount of staph bacteria, which can cause stomach problems, but a hair or two with a miniscule amount of staph bacteria still wouldn’t be enough to induce gastrointestinal trouble.
In fact, a protein found in human hair called L-cysteine is sometimes used as an additive to certain foods. L-cysteine is an amino acid found in keratin, which some food manufacturers use to stabilize dough and create a savory flavor. Duck feathers can provide L-cysteine, but so can human hair! Not to worry though, the human hair is boiled in hydrochloric acid to derive the desired amino acid.
As it turns out the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even have a limit of strands of hair per dish and has never received a report of people getting sick from consuming hair found in food.
Colavincenzo does warn that if one swallowed a head’s worth of hair it could cause the digestive system to react similarly to a shower drain clogged with hair. Hopefully most people would know not to purposefully swallow a full head of hair!
What foods can keep your locks strong and healthy?
Want to find out what some of the best foods are for the healthiest hair?
Good for you ingredients: protein, omega-3s (for shiny hair)
Last year, I went to my dermatologist in the middle of a Cleveland winter with hands that were raw, dry and brittle. I thought that a great prescription strength skin crème would do the trick. After a quick look at my hands, my dermatologist did write me a prescription, but it was for fish oil capsules. Within weeks, the moisture had returned and the dryness was replaced with glowing skin. Now, imagine your scalp. It’s the same concept. Bottom line: Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, so getting in more omega-3s. What’s a great way to get it? Through canned salmon. It’s cheap, chock full of omega-3’s and will protect your heart, too. Throw some in a salad, make salmon burgers or mix with pasta.
Good for you ingredients: protein, vitamins B12, A and C
Your cells love protein and that means, your hair loves it, too. Protein is needed for both cell formation as well as cell repair. So in order to keep your hair looking its best, focus on high quality protein sources. Eggs are one of my favorites as they are one of the best sources of protein in a convenient, low-calorie package. Throw some bell peppers and spinach in an omelet to boost the antioxidant value of your eggs in the morning—your hair loves those, too!
100% Whole Wheat Pasta
Good for you ingredients: zinc, B vitamins
The nutrients found in complex carbohydrates are sure to do wonders for your hair. One of the many benefits of eating 100 percent whole grains is that it provides a wealth of important vitamins and minerals including B vitamins and zinc. Zinc plays an important role in promoting cell and hair growth, as studies show that a deficiency in zinc can lead to hair loss.
Spinach with Tomato Sauce
Good for you ingredients: iron, vitamin C
This green leafy vegetable is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including iron—an essential mineral for life and for hair health. Iron carries oxygen through the red blood cells so getting enough of it is essential. A sure way to avoid iron deficiency is to pair iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C, which stimulates iron absorption. When rich sources of vitamin C, such as tomatoes (and tomato sauce), broccoli, peppers and pumpkins, are added to the mix, our bodies are able to absorb more iron. More iron = more oxygen = luscious locks.
Want to start your journey to beautiful hair right away? Check out some recipes using these essential healthy hair ingredients!
Part of HuffPost Food Group