Hair grows from the roots, so the key to healthy hair growth lies in improving the health of the scalp and hair follicles.
Hair is continuously growing and being replaced, and the follicles are constantly creating new hairs from nutrients in the body.
The foods people eat affect how their hair grows and its quality. Certain proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals are especially important for strong, healthy hair.
Eating a varied, nutritious diet can also boost nail and skin health. The changes will be most noticeable in people who previously had vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. Even so, it may take a while to see the positive results, in terms of hair growth.
Vitamins and Nutrients In the Best Foods for Hair Growth
BiotinBiotin is one of the most well-known hair nutrients for a reason, according to Cassetty. “A deficiency can promote hair thinning and loss. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are at higher risk for deficiency [due to impaired absorption during pregnancy],”she says.
“Protein is vital for healthy hair, and while a protein deficiency isn’t common in the United States, people who are vegan or trying to reduce their meat consumption need to pay more attention to their protein intake,” explains Cassetty.
Vitamin A“Low vitamin A status is associated with hair loss in animals, but too much vitamin A is also tied to hair loss in humans. Appropriate vitamin A intake can help maintain the health of cells that surround the hair follicle, which is needed for healthy hair growth,” explains Cassetty.
Vitamin CHere’s a fun fact: Vitamin C stimulates collagen, which is a main component of keratin, the type of protein that makes up your hair.
IronAn estimated 10 million people in America live with iron deficiencies — a key nutrient for healthy hair growth. “An iron deficiency can produce hair loss, and iron deficiency isn’t that uncommon. It’s associated with certain GI conditions, a vegan diet, an unhealthy diet, and a heavy period,” says Cassetty.
Omega-3 fatty acids“The phenomenons of [psychological] stress, inflammation, and oxidative stress may contribute to hair thinning, so antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, like omega-3 fatty acids, may help to promote healthy hair,” and hair growth, says Cassetty.
Foods for Hair Growth
AvocadoAvocado toast will never go out of style, and for good reason! Packed with healthy fats, avocados contain Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant that promotes hair growth. Avocados also contain biotin and are a popular ingredient in many DIY hair masks.
Pumpkin A half cup of your favorite squash contains just a mere 83 calories and less than a gram of fat. Plus, it’s loaded with iron and beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A — an important vitamin for hair growth and strength. Pumpkin also is full of vitamins C and E that help repair your body’s cells from damage. Load up on the canned puree and use it in sauces, protein dishes, and even in snacks to help keep hair at its healthiest.
Chia SeedsLooking for a vegetarian or vegan source of omega-3s? Chia seeds are full of them, not to mention fiber and antioxidants. This nutritional powerhouse is considered a complete protein, containing 20% more protein than soy beans, and can help promote beautiful and luscious locks. These tiny, shelf-stable seeds can be added to cereal, smoothies, puddings, and even as a heart-healthy boost in baked goods.
SardinesOmega-3 and vitamin D-packed sardines come readily and cheaply available in canned form (just buy them in water, not oil!). Try adding sardines to salads and spreads as a lower-mercury alternative to other fatty fish.
SpinachSpinach is packed with magnesium, iron, and folate, one of those all-important B vitamins. Other leafy greens like kale also offer nutrient-dense benefits for skin and hair. Plus, the vitamin C in these dark green leafy veggies helps to protect and maintain the cell membranes of hair follicles.
Peanuts and Peanut ButterPeanuts are a significant source of biotin, known to both stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss. A ¼ cup serving packs up to 9 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and a unique profile of antioxidants. Peanuts are also super filling, which is why they’re an ideal swap for meat if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
EggsEggs are chock full of protein and essential nutrients that contribute to hair health, such as choline and vitamins A, D, and B12. You’ll want to make sure you keep the yolk in your scramble to get the most Vitamin D. Two specific carotenoids found in eggs, lutein and zeaxanthin, also play a role in maintaining cellular health, especially of eyes, skin, and hair.
SalmonAs a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, salmon can help keep those strands strong. But salmon has many health benefits beyond supporting hair, including reducing inflammation and benefiting your central nervous system (a.k.a. your brain)..
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GrapesLike other plant-based foods, grapes contain polyphenolic compounds with antioxidant properties, which may help reduce cellular damage. Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC) found in grapes help to prvent dihydrotestosterone production which is a main factor in hair loss. OPC also stimulates the growth of hair follicles. Eating about a cup of grapes per day can help to protect your tissues from inflammation.
BuckwheatSwapping out white refined carbohydates for 100% whole grains can help you amp up the fiber, zinc, iron, and B vitamins in your diet to support healthy hair. Buckwheat, considered a whole grain, is a nutritious gluten-free seed and its benefits are endless. Buckwheat is filled with key antioxidants and fiber, which can help you fill up faster. Use it as a swap for oatmeal at breakfast or rice in stir-frys, and try buckwheat-based Udon when making ramen or other noodle dishes.
Flax SeedsFlax seeds are full of polyunsaturated fatty acids that can help nourish your scalp and prevent dryness. Sprinkle ground flax seeds on your yogurt, add some to your smoothie, or create your own flax egg to substitute a real egg in any baked goods recipes. Add one tablespoon ground flax seeds to three tablespoons water and let sit for about five minutes to thicken; this is a vegan one-to-one swap for a regular egg.
Sweet PotatoLoaded with beta-carotene which gives sweet potatoes their orange hue, this antioxidant turns into vitamin A which can protect against dry and dull hair. Sweet potatoes are significantly higher in vitamin A and slightly higher in fiber than white potatoes. Sweet potatoes also play a role in supporting immunity and healthy vision.
Chickpeas, Lentils, Beans, and PeasThese four are all considered pulses, a.k.a. the dry, edible seeds of veggies. They’re packed with plant-based protein and fiber, making them super filling and often more cost effective than buying meat. These items are also full of folic acid, which is one of the B-complex vitamins that helps to keep hair healthy and renew cells vital for hair growth. Try pulse-based products like Banza pasta and RightRice instead of the traditional refined-grain versions for a nutrition boost.
AsparagusThe B vitamin folate is found in abundance in asparagus, as well as avocados, oranges, and broccoli. This nutrient is responsible for gene synthesis and red blood cell formation. It also plays a big part in breaking down protein, therefore providing the building blocks of hair follicles.
Plain Greek YogurtUnsweetened plain Greek yogurt contains tons of protein which is the building block for those gorgeous locks. Plus, plain Greek yogurt is very versatile and can be incorporated into a filling breakfast (think smoothies and parfaits) or savory fare (like dips and condiments). The greatest attribute of yogurt is its probiotics, which are the good bacteria that help your body absorb nutrients. Choose brands that have five strains or more of bacterial cultures per 6-ounce serving.
What factors affect hair growth?
As people age, they may notice that their hair does not grow as quickly as before and that it is less thick. Some follicles may stop producing new hairs, leading to hair thinning or loss.
This results from a combination of genetics and natural aging processes. Hair shafts also become finer and start to lose their color.
Childbirth, stress, thyroid conditions, and a health issue called alopecia can cause more sudden loss of hair. Eating a healthful diet, even one designed to support hair growth, may not address genetic or systemic problems.
Aside from aging, illness, and genetics, malnutrition is one of the most common causes of hair loss. Following a healthy, well-balanced diet can help people maintain typical levels of hair growth and replacement.
Nutritious eating can also help prevent these signs of unhealthy or damaged hair:
- a brittle texture
- visible dandruff
- a dull appearance
- a tendency to break easily
Heredity and natural aging processes play major roles in hair loss. However, the quality, quantity, and growth of hair are also closely linked to the diet.
Maintaining a nutritious diet is the best way to improve the health and growth of hair.
Doctors recommend that diets are varied. For omnivores, they should include adequate amounts of protein from fish, beans, eggs, and lean meats, as well as lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.