By Angela Haupt for U.S. News Health

Move that shampoo and conditioner aside. The pursuit of luscious, shiny locks starts with fish, beans, bananas and lentils. Indeed, a healthy diet is as good for the 150,000 hair follicles on your head as it is for your body. "Having a balanced diet, while putting a little extra emphasis on things like protein and iron, gives your hair a boost," says Neil Sadick, a clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

Protein, for example, is the building block of hair. If you don't get enough, your mane will grow more slowly, and strands will be weaker. "Pump up the protein," says registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet. "Include a small dose at each meal and with each snack, and you'll keep your hair follicles strong." Safe bets include poultry, lean beef, fish, beans and nuts.

If you start a hair-healthy diet today, you'll likely see improvements within six months to a year, depending on how fast your hair grows.

Try these 10 foods for your tresses.

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  • Lean Red Meat

    Too little iron can cause baldness, according to research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic. Treating iron deficiency may help regrow hair. "People who have problems with hair loss or hair growth tend to be iron deficient -- especially women," says dermatologist Paradi Mirmirani, who practices in Vallejo, Calif. Other iron-rich options include turkey, egg yolks, whole grains, dried fruit and dried beans (soaked and cooked, of course). <br><br> <strong>More from U.S. News Health:</strong><br> <a href="" target="_hplink">The Hunt for an Anti-Aging Pill Is On</a><br> <a href="" target="_hplink">U.S. News Best Diets</a><br> <a href="" target="_hplink">How to Conquer Food Cravings</a> <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">ilovebutter</a></em>

  • Eggs

    They're full of biotin, a B vitamin that promotes hair growth and overall scalp health. A deficiency can cause brittle hair. Other high-biotin foods include peanuts, almonds, wheat bran, salmon, low-fat cheese and avocados. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">telepathicparanoia</a></em>

  • Bananas, Beer, Oats, Raisins

    These contain the mineral silica, which is thought to improve hair thickness, Jackson Blatner says. Emphasizing foods rich this mineral helps make hair stronger and more durable. (Though beer contains a good dose of silica, it's wise to stick to a moderate amount -- one drink a day for women and two for men.) <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">jmarconi</a></em>

  • Dark Green Veggies

    Load up on spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard. They're packed with vitamins A and C, which help produce sebum -- a scalp oil that works as a natural hair conditioner. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">krossbow</a></em>

  • Oysters

    Opt for these to get plenty of zinc, a mineral that helps regulate the production of androgens. These are hormones that, in low levels, are associated with hair loss. People with low levels of androgens can also suffer from slow hair growth and dandruff. Adjusting your diet -- and emphasizing zinc-rich choices like oysters, along with crab, clams, liver, lean beef, and wheat germ -- will help stave off hair loss and keep your mane shiny and healthy. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">pointnshoot</a></em>

  • Sweet Potatoes

    These are packed with beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, a nourishing agent for your hair and skin. Vitamin A protects against dull hair and dry skin, a leading cause of dandruff. Other smart choices to get glowing hair and skin include carrots, kale, butternut squash, asparagus and pumpkin. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">SaucyGlo</a></em>

  • Beans

    Legumes like kidney beans and lentils are great sources of iron-rich protein. Lentils, in particular, play a role in hair maintenance and support. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">izik</a></em>

  • Fruits And Veggies

    They're full of vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron. Getting too little C makes hair dry and weak. The best sources? Broccoli, leafy greens, green peppers, citrus fruit and strawberries. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">JustyCinMD</a></em>

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    They support scalp health; a deficiency can lead to dry scalp and dull hair. Good sources include salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, flaxseeds and walnuts. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">Lori_NY</a></em>

  • Vegetable Oil

    No one wants dry, lackluster hair. But if your diet is too low in fat, that's what could happen. Healthy oils like olive, peanut, safflower and sunflower can restore the shine. About a teaspoon a day will do the trick. <br><br> <strong>More from U.S. News Health:</strong><br> <a href="" target="_hplink">The Hunt for an Anti-Aging Pill Is On</a><br> <a href="" target="_hplink">U.S. News Best Diets</a><br> <a href="" target="_hplink">How to Conquer Food Cravings</a>

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