Having thick, luscious, healthy hair goes beyond what you do to it or put on it — it’s connected to many factors including stress, genetics, environmental factors, nutrition and more. Oftentimes, vibrant and healthy hair is a reflection of overall health and most likely means that your body is nourished properly with the right vitamins and minerals.
While unhealthy hair often appears thin and dry and sheds excessively, it might mean that you need to re-evaluate the quality of your diet, switch up hair care products or schedule a visit to your doctor. Changes in your hair’s texture and thickness can be major signs of underlying health conditions. If you’ve recently given birth, you might also experience postpartum hair loss which happens as a result of fluctuating hormones.
Although it may not be preventable, you can put yourself in a better position by nourishing your body ahead of time with foods that will ultimately help hair grow faster. That’s right, beautiful healthy hair requires more than just a great shampoo and conditioner — it starts with what you put in your body. For example, a predominantly plant-based diet can help you get the key nutrients necessary for keeping your hair, skin and nails in optimal shape.
The best vitamins and nutrients for hair growth include:
- Lean proteins
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Fat-soluble vitamins
- B-complex vitamins
A Mediterranean-style diet packed with fiber-filled produce, 100% whole grains and healthy fats is one of the easiest ways to get these essential nutrients. Not only that, it will include foods to support your gut microbiome. Having a healthy gut flora is essential for helping with nutrient absorption to bolster the hair, skin and nails. If you are looking for ways to add hair-healthy foods to your diet, start by eating more of these key foods.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Salmon is one of the most nutritious types of fish, offering amazing health benefits, from keeping your heart healthy to improving mood and fighting inflammation. Salmon is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a key nutrient for healthy hair. In one study, a majority of women who took omega-3 and other supplements reported a reduction in hair loss as well as an improvement in hair diameter and hair density. Your body doesn’t naturally produce omega-3s, so you will have to get them from food or supplements.
This oily fish also does wonders for hair health because it’s rich in protein, selenium and vitamin D and B vitamins. These nutrients work together to keep hair strong and healthy. Many health organizations recommend eating two servings of fish per week, and salmon is a delicious and versatile option you’ll want to add to your grocery list. If you don’t eat seafood, talk with your healthcare provider to see if taking a supplement is the right plan for you. Omega-3s are also found in some nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds, but it’s in a different form.
Eggs are chock full of protein and essential nutrients that contribute to hair health, such as choline, iron and vitamins A, D and B12. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two substances found in eggs, also play a key role in maintaining cellular health, especially of the eyes, skin, and hair.
Eggs are also rich in a B vitamin called biotin that helps hair grow. On the flip side, a deficiency of biotin can lead to hair loss, and you may be at risk for a biotin deficiency if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, malnourished or have certain gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s Disease. One study suggests that for people with a biotin deficiency, taking a biotin supplement may prevent hair loss.
The next time you make breakfast, add eggs (to get the most hair-healthy vitamin D, don’t remove the yolk)! Try these easy egg recipes at home.
Nuts like peanuts, cashews, almonds and walnuts are great sources of protein, healthy fats, biotin and zinc which support healthy tissue development on the scalp and can help stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss. Nut butters are also a tasty nutrient-dense option as they can give you those hair-growth-supporting nutrients.
Peanuts are a significant source of biotin, healthy fats and minerals like zinc 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 mix of antioxidants.
Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, which studies suggest can help with hair growth. One Brazil nut alone has up to 90 micrograms of selenium, so you’ll want to limit your intake to no more than four Brazil nuts per day. Selenium is also important for the production of thyroid hormones which help to regulate hair growth.
RELATED: 6 Healthiest Nuts to Eat
While not the most popular fish due to its distinctive taste, sardines have a nutrition profile that may make you want to reconsider. Sardines are filled with hair-boosting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids which may reduce hair loss and increase hair density, and vitamin D which supports hair follicle development.
Vitamin D is vital in supporting hair growth, and when your body lacks it, new hair growth can be hindered or stunted, especially in those with chronic hair loss. In one scientific review, vitamin D deficiency was linked to alopecia, the autoimmune condition that causes bald patches on the scalp and other areas of the body.
If you opt for canned sardines with bones, you’ll get a big boost (about 325 mg) of calcium, which plays a significant role in keeping hair healthy. In particular, perimenopausal women are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
A single serving of sardines also has 25% of the recommended daily value of iron, a mineral important for preventing hair loss. Try adding sardines to salads, stews and spreads as a lower-mercury alternative to other fatty fish.
RELATED: The 10 Healthiest Fish You Can Eat
Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. They are a vegan source of omega-3s and are filled with gut-loving fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants. Chia seeds are also considered a complete protein, containing 20% more protein than soybeans, and can keep your scalp healthy and promote beautiful, luscious hair.
Chia seeds also contain zinc and copper, two key minerals for overall hair health. Zinc is considered an enzyme activator which stimulates protein transformation, vital for hair growth. Copper plays a significant role in regenerating new hair growth and can leave your hair feeling thick and voluminous by increasing the follicle size.
You’ll want to be sure that you’re getting the recommended amounts of zinc and copper from a variety of foods. A deficiency of these minerals in your diet may suppress hair growth. These tiny, shelf-stable seeds can be added to cereal, smoothies, puddings and even as a heart-healthy boost in baked goods.
As if you need another reason to love pumpkins, they contain multiple nutrients that keeps your hair flourishing. A half cup of your favorite squash contains 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.
Another under-rated mineral that plays a significant role in more than 600 functions in the human body and may also contribute to healthy hair growth is magnesium. Magnesium is very involved in protein synthesis and the hair growth cycle. Without magnesium, protein synthesis can be disrupted which may increase the risk for problems with hair growth and structure. Load up on the canned puree and use it in sauces, protein dishes, and even in snacks to help keep hair at its healthiest.
RELATED: 40+ Sweet and Savory Pumpkin Recipes
Avocado is packed with healthy fats and biotin and is a popular ingredient in many DIY hair masks (hello, self-care Sunday). Avocados also contain Vitamin E, an antioxidant that nourishes the hair. In just one medium-sized avocado, you’ll get around 28% of your daily vitamin E needs. It even protects the scalp from oxidative stress and damage which, if not well nourished, can result in poor hair quality.
One preliminary study suggests that in people experiencing hair loss, vitamin E might help increase hair growth thanks to the powerful antioxidant activity of tocotrienols, which can counter the effects of alopecia, an autoimmune condition which results in sudden hair loss.
Take your next salad or sandwich to the next level with these tasty, nutrient-dense avocado recipes.
Swapping out white refined carbohydrates for 100% whole grains can help you amp up the zinc, iron, and B vitamins in your diet to support healthy hair among many other benefits. Buckwheat, a whole grain, is a nutritious gluten-free seed that 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 a stir-fry, and try buckwheat-based Udon when making ramen or other noodle dishes.
And if you’ve never heard of “silica” before, it’s known to be the “beauty mineral.” Silica is an abundant trace element found in the human body and is also present in whole grain foods. It may help prevent hair thinning and strengthen hair. According to one scientific review, silica delivers key nutrients to the hair follicles and scalp.
Check out these healthy whole grain options that have a similar nutrition profile to buckwheat.
Chickpeas, Lentils, Beans and Peas
Hair follicles are made up of protein, so it makes sense that eating protein is a great way to support hair growth. If you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative to animal proteins, try pulses (the dry, edible seeds of veggies) like chickpeas, lentils, beans and peas.
Pulses are full of protein (for example, a cup of lentils has 18g protein) and contain folate, a B-complex vitamin vital for hair growth. In fact, a severe deficiency in folate can result in a condition called folate-deficiency anemia which has symptoms like hair thinning and pigmentation changes in the hair.
Adults should aim for about 400 micrograms of folate (one cup of chickpeas contains 72 micrograms of folate). If you’re stuck on what to make for a simple weeknight dinner, try these tasty lentil recipes.
Unsweetened plain Greek yogurt contains tons of protein which is the building block for gorgeous hair. 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 to maintain healthy growth and to sustain a normal, regular hair cycle. In one recent study, probiotics were found to promote hair growth.
Quick tip! Choose brands that have five strains or more of bacterial cultures per 6-ounce serving.
Whole Foods vs. Supplements for Healthy Hair: Does it Matter?
The health of your hair is complex and may depend on dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors. When it comes to meeting your nutritional needs in the most hair-healthy way, experts recommend food over supplements. Nutrients in foods are more easily absorbed by the body than those in supplements.
However, supplements can provide a higher concentration of specific nutrients that may be hard or impossible to get from your diet, like vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Before starting any supplement regimen, or if you’ve recently noticed significant hair loss, speak with your doctor.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below