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How fast and strong your hair grows depends on multiple factors like age, genetics, stress, and diet. And while you may not be able to control things like your age and genes, you can eat a balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods that support hair growth.
Read on to learn more about how diet helps with hair growth and what the best foods are for healthy hair.
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How does diet help your hair grow?
The foods you eat provide your body with the nutrients it needs to grow healthy hair.
Your hair follicles are constantly moving through different phases of growth, shedding, and rest. For follicles to continue developing and growing your hair, they need resources like protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
It’s worth mentioning that nutrients benefit hair growth to a point. It’s important to meet your needs and correct any possible nutrient deficiencies, but taking extra supplements beyond your daily needs doesn’t continuously increase hair growth.
Best foods for hair growth
Whether you eat meat or follow a plant-based diet, there are foods you can eat that provide the nutrients that make your hair grow. Here are some of the best foods for hair growth:
Eggs are a good source of hair-healthy nutrients like biotin and protein.
Proteins, which play a key role in many bodily functions, are composed of smaller chemical building blocks called amino acids. The amino acids cysteine and methionine are especially important for hair growth because the body turns them into a protein called keratin, which hair, skin, and nails are made of (Goluch-Koniuszy, 2016).
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is found in egg yolks. It plays a role in your metabolism and how your body breaks down proteins and fats. When you don’t have enough biotin, your body may have a hard time breaking down proteins and making keratin (Goluch-Koniuszy, 2016).
Eggs are also a good source of other nutrients like selenium, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
2. Fatty fish
Fatty fish include salmon, herring, trout, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. They are full of beneficial nutrients like protein, niacin, iron, selenium, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids (Goluch-Koniuszy, 2016).
Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help protect your cells from damage. A 2015 study found that people who took supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and antioxidants for six months had increased hair density and fewer resting (not actively growing) hair follicles (Le Floc’h, 2015).
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Berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, are loaded with micronutrients and antioxidants. For example, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant found in berries and citrus fruits.
Antioxidants help protect cells and hair follicles from damage caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when your body has too many harmful molecules called free radicals and not enough antioxidants to protect the body against them.
The body also uses vitamin C to make a protein called collagen, which helps support the health of your scalp, hair follicles, and hair (Almohanna, 2019).
Spinach and other leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of micronutrients, like vitamin C and iron.
Iron helps your red blood cells grow and develop. Research shows there is also an association between low iron and hair loss, although the exact role iron plays in hair loss is still unclear (Park, 2013).
Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron. So, making sure you’re eating enough foods with vitamin C helps make sure you’re absorbing enough iron from the foods you eat. Eating leafy green vegetables like spinach provides iron and vitamin C together.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a good source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A.
Vitamin A plays an important role in cell growth and helps activate hair follicles. Having too little vitamin A can lead to hair loss (Guo, 2017).
Avocados provide a variety of nutrients like healthy fats and vitamin E.
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Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by oxidative stress (Almohanna, 2019).
Oxidative stress from free radicals can play a role in the development of immune system diseases like alopecia areata. One study found that people with hair loss who took antioxidants in the vitamin E family had a significant increase in hair number (Beoy, 2010).
7. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of a variety of nutrients good for hair growth, such as:
- Walnuts: Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E
- Sunflower seeds: Vitamin E and B complex vitamins
- Flax seeds and chia seeds: Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants
- Brazil nuts: Selenium, zinc, and B vitamins
- Cashews: Vitamin C, B vitamins, and iron
- Almonds: Iron, zinc, vitamin E, and B vitamins
The type of omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts is different from the types found in fatty fish. While the body isn’t able to use this omega-3 as efficiently as the ones in fatty fish, nuts and seeds are a good source of omega-3s for people who don’t regularly eat fish.
8. Bell peppers
Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, folate, and potassium.
But not all bell peppers are the same. The amount and type of nutrients in a bell pepper depend on its color. Orange and red bell peppers have more vitamin A than green varieties, and peppers can lose vitamin C when they’re dried or frozen (Rahman, 2015).
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Shellfish are great sources of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and zinc, a mineral that can influence hair growth and hair follicle development.
People who are deficient in zinc may experience hair loss. In fact, a zinc deficiency can lead to sudden patchy hair shedding (telogen effluvium), hair thinning, and brittle white hair (Goluch-Koniuszy, 2016). Fortunately, if a nutrient deficiency is the cause of your telogen effluvium, correcting the deficiency will usually reverse the hair loss.
Examples of shellfish include:
Beans and lentils are excellent sources of plant-based protein, B vitamins, zinc, iron, and folate. They belong to a group of plants called legumes, which are full of nutrients. They can be especially helpful for boosting the protein and zinc intake of people following vegetarian and vegan diets.
A few types of legumes include:
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
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Meat is an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, and other micronutrients. It contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs, making it a complete protein, whereas most plant-based proteins only contain a few.
The type of iron from meat, called heme iron, is the form of iron used by the human body. The type of iron found in plants is called non-heme iron. The iron found in red meats is more easily absorbed since it’s already in the form the human body uses (Hooda, 2014).
Foods for hair growth: the bottom line
Your body uses the nutrients in foods to support healthy hair growth and overall wellness.
You can’t control all of the factors that determine the texture, strength, and amount of hair you have. Still, eating a nutritious, balanced diet helps support your hair growth and prevent deficiencies that could lead to hair loss.
If you think you lack any of the nutrients that support hair growth, try adding some of these foods to your diet. And if you’re considering taking a supplement to address any nutritional deficiencies, talk with your healthcare provider first.
Finally, if you notice an above-average amount of hair loss, reach out to your healthcare provider, who can help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your hair to thin or fall out.
- Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P., et al. (2019). The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: a review. Dermatology And Therapy, 9(1), 51–70. doi:10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
- Beoy, L. A., Woei, W. J., & Hay, Y. K. (2010). Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers. Tropical Life Sciences Research, 21(2), 91–99. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3819075/
- Goluch-Koniuszy, Z. S. (2016). Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Menopause Review, 15(1), 56–61. doi:10.5114/pm.2016.58776. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828511/
- Guo, E. L. & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, 7(1), 1–10. doi:10.5826/dpc.0701a01. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
- Hooda, J., Shah, A., & Zhang, L. (2014). Heme, an essential nutrient from dietary proteins, critically impacts diverse physiological and pathological processes. Nutrients, 6(3), 1080–1102. doi:10.3390/nu6031080. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967179/
- Le Floc’h, C., Cheniti, A., Connétable, S., et al. (2015). Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 14(1), 76–82. doi:10.1111/jocd.12127. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25573272/
- Park, S. Y., Na, S. Y., Kim, J. H., et al. (2013). Iron plays a certain role in patterned hair loss. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 28(6), 934–938. doi:10.3346/jkms.2013.28.6.934. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678013/
- Rahman, M. S., Al-Rizeiqi, M. H., Guizani, N., et al. (2015). Stability of vitamin C in fresh and freeze-dried capsicum stored at different temperatures. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52(3), 1691–1697. doi:10.1007/s13197-013-1173-x. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4348295/