You won't grow Rapunzel locks overnight, but eating a nutrient-rich diet is a key habit for healthy hair.
Who doesn’t want strong, healthy, vibrant hair? But luscious, thriving locks can be more difficult for some people to achieve based on a variety of factors including age, genetics, and certain medical conditions. There is certainly a plethora of topical hair products and supplements available to encourage hair growth, or to reduce hair loss or thinning, but many work with only varying success (or are straight-up untrustworthy).
But the more holistic solution is to adopt some healthy lifestyle habits that help hair grow strong and healthy—including eating foods rich in key, hair-loving nutrients.
While we can’t control many of the elements at play when it comes to our hair growth, we can control which foods we order, snack on, and cook with. By making intentional nutritional choices, we can promote healthier hair, which may look like increased strength, growth, fullness, or simply less breakage. Let’s break down which nutrients have been proven to promote healthy hair and the best food sources for hair growth.
Best Nutrients for Healthy Hair
There is a surprisingly large number of nutrients that support hair health. “Some nutrients that are particularly beneficial in promoting hair growth, hair strength, and thickness include protein, B vitamins, vitamins C and D, omega-3 fats, collagen, zinc, biotin, iron, riboflavin,” says Bianca Tamburello, RDN at FRESH Communications.
A well-known immune-boosting mineral, zinc also plays a major role in skin and hair health. One review found that zinc deficiency was linked with alopecia, or hair loss, as did a 2019 article in Dermatology and Therapy and another 2017 review.
As Tamburello noted, oxidative stress can contribute to hair loss. This means that eating foods high in antioxidants (substances that fight oxidation) is key when considering hair health and growth. Bioactive plant compounds, mostly found in plant foods are some of the best sources of antioxidants available to us.
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to glowing skin, but did you know they are also associated with thriving hair? A 2015 supplement study of 120 women found that six months of a supplement containing both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids had lower hair loss and improved hair density.
Protein and Collagen
Protein is the building block of every structure in the body, including hair, and therefore a vital nutrient for promoting hair growth. One protein component that’s especially important for beautiful hair is collagen, a structural protein in the body. While more evidence is needed to substantiate fully the hair health claims associated with collagen in humans, one 2022 animal study found collagen to promote healthy hair growth while also preventing hair loss, an encouraging result for the broader use of collagen for hair health.
B vitamins as a whole (there are several of them) and folate have been linked to hair loss prevention, biotin often receives the biggest spotlight when it comes to hair. (However, more evidence is needed to actually prove this benefit, as determined in this review and others.) Though not technically a B vitamin, biotin is often grouped into this family of vitamins as a B complex vitamin.
The more elusive vitamin D can also be important for healthy hair. This 2016 study found that decreased levels of vitamin D were associated with increased incidence of female pattern hair loss in a study group of 45 women. Another study, though also small, found a similar result in men as well.
Iron levels are associated with hair health as well, and this meta-analysis found that individuals with low iron levels were more likely to have hair loss.
Though not a nutrient many people think of, silicon (different from silicone!) is the third most readily found element on earth. A trace element, also known as silica, it’s actually been linked to reduced hair loss, plus increased hair brightness and scalp health. “Silica plays a role in getting important nutrients to the hair and scalp,” Tamburello adds.
Healthy Foods That Help Hair Growth
While eating the following foods won’t miraculously cause your hair to grow inches overnight, incorporating them regularly into a balanced diet encourages overall hair health, aiding in slower hair loss over time and promoting growth.
“Luckily, foods that support healthy hair also promote overall health and can help to prevent disease,” Tamburello shares.”If you notice sudden changes in your hair health, however, talk with your doctor, as stress and other factors can impact your hair.”
Yogurt is a fantastic food for hair health, providing lots of protein, B vitamins, and sometimes vitamin D. It’s just an added bonus that it is also calcium-rich, supporting healthy bones. A breakfast time favorite, yogurt can be easily added to smoothies, parfaits, savory dips and marinades, or even pancake recipes.
This popular pink fish champions hair health thanks to not only its high-quality protein content, but its omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and B vitamins too. “As a registered dietitian, I recommend salmon from Chile because it’s particularly high in hair-healthy omega-3 fats and low in mercury,” Tamburello says.
When it comes to hair-boosting, collagen-rich foods, there are few options better than bone broth. “Bone broth is a great source of collagen, and it’s packed with filling protein, which we know is also important for hair health,” Tamburello explains. Bone broth is easy to make at home, but there are some great options for purchase including Azaluna Foods and Dr. Kellyann.
Whether it’s oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruit, you’re bound to find super high levels of hair-loving vitamin C in any citrus fruit option you choose. These fruits offer vitamin A and plant compounds, as well, more key nutrients for hair growth. They make for delicious vinaigrettes or juices, but they also bring perfect, sweet acidity to marinades, pastas, salads, and sauces.
“Whole grains uniquely contain silica, an element also known as the ‘beauty mineral,’” Tamburello says. Oats are certainly included in the healthy whole grain category, and as one of the best sources of silicon available. This versatile is perfect in hearty breakfast options like oatmeal and granola, but can also be included in baked goods, smoothies, plant-based burger patties, and breading for proteins, like tofu or chicken.
This popular source of healthy fats combines many of the nutrients highlighted above. “Vitamin E and tocotrienol, an antioxidant found in avocados, could help boost hair health,” Tamburello explains. Besides guacamole, add this green fruit to salads, grain bowls, egg dishes, tacos, salsas, sandwiches, and so much more.
Nuts and Seeds
“Eating more nuts and seeds could help your hair grow faster,” Tamburello says. This is due to their high zinc, B vitamin, plant compound, and omega-3 fatty acid content. “Chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts are high in plant-based sources of omega-3 healthy fats which could help hair growth thicker.”
Though controversial when it comes to actual hair health benefits, biotin can be found in impressive amounts in eggs. And you’ll definitely also find zinc, protein, and even vitamin D.
Excellent sources of plant-based protein, beans are also chock-full of hair-healthy plant compounds, iron, zinc, and biotin. From soups and stews to salsas and salads, the options for enjoying beans at home are truly endless.
“Berries are well-known to be high in powerful antioxidants that help protect our body cells from harmful substances while also positively impacting hair cells and hair follicles,” Tamburello says. Plus, they’re super rich in hair-boosting vitamin C. While all berries will offer these hair health benefits, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are among the most antioxidant-rich, making them especially excellent choices.
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