Nutrition plays a role in hair health.
Most people probably know there are diets for weight loss, foods that can boost your immune system and eating regimens for your muscles. What may not be as widely known is that there are also hair-growth foods. In other words, you can eat certain foods to bolster hair growth, luster and durability.
“Genetics, age and environment are all going to play a role in how luscious your locks look,” says Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian based in New York City. “However, just like nutrition plays a major role in preventing disease and improving the quality of life, it also contributes to just how shiny and thick your ponytail may be.”
People typically have more than 100,000 hairs on their scalp, according to a review available in the National Library of Medicine. That sounds like a lot of hair follicles, but on average, you lose 50 to 100 hairs a day as part of the normal hair growth and loss cycle, says Glassman, who’s also the founder and chief executive officer of Nutritious Life, a nutrition and lifestyle media company based in New York City. The company is also a nutrition coaching platform.
Foods that help hair growth
A healthy diet can contribute to shiny, fuller locks, adds Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition.
These nutrients are particularly helpful for hair growth:
— Vitamins A, B6 (biotin), B7, B12, C and D.
While your heredity and other factors beyond your control can affect the health and abundance of your hair, there are certain foods you can eat that can protect and boost the robustness of your hair.
Here are 10 of the best foods for hair growth:
This fruit has mineral silica, which may promote thicker and more durable hair, says Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, South Carolina, who also consults for Zhou Nutrition.
“There are many ways to enjoy bananas,” she says. “Throw them into smoothies, add them to a peanut butter sandwich, slice them and drop them on top of cereal, add to plain yogurt or eat them frozen for a cold treat.”
This small food has a wealth of nutrients good for your hair, as do other legumes like lentils and peas. For starters, they’re a good source of plant-based protein. Research suggests that adequate protein intake can help reduce the risk of hair loss, Manaker says.
Beans also contain zinc, which supports hair growth, and iron. A small study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology in 2018 concluded that zinc levels were lower among women with female androgenetic alopecia, a form of pattern hair loss. Research published in the journal Dermatology Practical & Conceptual says that iron deficiency — which is a common cause of anemia — is a “well-known cause of hair loss.”
Dark green vegetables
Broccoli, spinach and Swiss chard contain iron and other hair-healthy nutrients, including vitamins A and C and folate. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your hair from oxidative damage. It plays a role in collagen production, which can help support healthy hair.
Getting enough protein is fundamental to hair growth, and eggs are a great source of high-quality protein. Eggs also contain biotin, a nutrient that plays a role in the production of keratin, a protein that is essential for maintaining healthy hair. “There are lots of ways to eat eggs,” Manaker says. “You can add scrambled or hard-boiled eggs to salads, add eggs to soup and fry eggs for a sandwich.”
Other foods high in biotin include:
— Low-fat cheese.
— Wheat bran.
Vegetables and fruits
In addition to dark green vegetables, veggies in general contain micronutrients and vitamins that are good for hair growth, Manaker says. The same holds true for a wide array of fruits.
Citrus fruits in particular contain plenty of vitamin C, which can support collagen formation which is essential to maintaining healthy hair.
There are plenty of citrus fruits to choose from, including:
Lean red meat
Consuming lean red meat is a good way to make sure you get the nutrients you need to promote hair growth, Manaker says.
Lean red meat is a good source of zinc and iron. Zinc is an antioxidant; it protects your body from free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress that can harm your hair. Getting enough iron can help prevent anemia, which is associated with hair loss.
When it comes to foods that contain nutrients that support hair growth, it’s hard to beat oysters, which, like lean red meat, are a good source of zinc and protein. Zinc helps regulate your body’s production of androgens, hormones that, at low levels, are associated with hair loss, Manaker says. People with low levels of androgens can also suffer from dandruff.
Other good sources of zinc include:
— Wheat germ.
Everyone knows that pumpkin is a key ingredient in holiday pies. Pumpkin also contains healthy amounts of beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, a nourishing agent for your hair and skin, Manaker says. Vitamin A protects against dull hair and dry skin, which is a leading cause of dandruff.
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for hair growth, Glassman says. “Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent inflammation around hair follicles, which is helpful in keeping those hair follicles healthy and preventing hair loss.”
Other good sources of omega-3s include:
— Chia seeds.
In addition to being tasty, sweet potatoes are, like pumpkin, packed with beta carotene, Manaker says.
Other foods high in beta carotene include:
— Butternut squash.
— Romaine lettuce.
To summarize, here are 10 foods good for hair growth:
— Dark green vegetables.
— Vegetables and fruits.
— Lean red meat.
— Sweet potatoes.
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Update 11/15/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.