Did you know that everyone loses 50 to 100 strands of hair each day? This is perfectly normal, but when you’re shedding by the handful, it’s easy to freak out. About 80 million Americans experience hair loss with age, while others shed because of thyroid disorders, hormonal fluctuations, stress, nutrient deficiencies, or medicine. Whatever the reason, it can be a headache to deal with.
If you’re thinking about buying minoxidil, hold that thought. This hair growth chemical certainly works, but the side effects aren’t pleasant. Scaling, dermatitis, swelling, and itching have all been linked to using minoxidil. That’s where nutrition comes in. According to peer-reviewed research, it’s possible to promote hair growth through food. Here’s a list of foods you can eat to prevent hair loss.1 2 3
Health nuts are all about nuts. With such high levels of good fats like omega-3 and 6, it’s easy to see why. And according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, those fats might lend a hand in preventing hair loss. In the experiment, 120 participants with female-pattern hair loss were given a supplement containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids plus antioxidants. After 6 months of supplementation, 90% of the women saw a drop in hair loss! Additionally, 87% reported thicker hair, while 86% reported increased hair growth. The supplement specifically reduced the percentage of hairs in the telogen “shedding” phase. Normally, 5 to 10% are in this phase, but any more can bring on shedding.4
Seaweed isn’t for everyone, but if you love the taste, eat up. A 2015 study in Clinical Nutrition Research found that supplements with seaweed extracts enhanced hair growth in participants with mild or moderate hair loss. After 16 weeks, even hair thickness and volume improved. Researchers also saw benefits for dandruff and scalp inflammation. This is great news for hair loss, as these conditions can increase itching, a habit that can break and damage hair.5
In a 2013 study in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, researchers found that low iron levels are linked to various types of hair loss. Unfortunately, iron deficiency actually takes first place as the most common nutritional disorder. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the world’s population is deficient in iron. To increase your iron intake, eat spinach. It contains both iron and vitamin C, a nutrient that aids absorption. Other leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard also offer both.6 7 8
Zinc is known for its ability to fight off colds, but the benefits don’t stop there. It’s actually needed to maintain the health and function of a hair follicle. In fact, low zinc levels have been found in people with alopecia areata, a condition that affects 5% of the people. It’s a stellar reason to eat more oysters, the richest source of zinc. As an added bonus, they’ll also up your iron intake. Not a fan? Other sources include fish, poultry, legumes, whole grains, miso, cooked greens, and tahini.9 10 11
Aside from treating the body to lean, healthy protein, salmon offers multiple nutrients discussed so far. A single serving has a chockfull of omega-3 fats, zinc, and iron! It’s the definition of a triple treat.
For absolute benefits, eat salmon with a seaweed salad or cook with spinach. You can even coat a fillet with crushed nuts for a generous dose of omega-3s.
|↑1||Oh, Ji Young, Min Ah Park, and Young Chul Kim. “Peppermint oil promotes hair growth without toxic signs.” Toxicological research 30, no. 4 (2014): 297.|
|↑2||Hair Loss. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑3||Hair Loss: Who Gets And Causes. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑4||Telogen Effluvium. British Hair & Nail Society.|
|↑5||Seok, Joon, Tae Su Kim, Hyun Jung Kwon, Sung Pyo Lee, Myung Hwa Kang, Beom Joon Kim, and Myeung Nam Kim. “Efficacy of Cistanche tubulosa and Laminaria japonica extracts (MK-R7) supplement in preventing patterned hair loss and promoting scalp health.” Clinical nutrition research 4, no. 2 (2015): 124-131.|
|↑6||Rasheed, H., D. Mahgoub, R. Hegazy, M. El-Komy, R. Abdel Hay, M. A. Hamid, and E. Hamdy. “Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role?.” Skin pharmacology and physiology 26, no. 2 (2013): 101-107.|
|↑7||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC. “Iron deficiency–United States, 1999-2000.” MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 51, no. 40 (2002): 897.|
|↑8||Iron. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑9||Fattah, Abdel, S. A. Nermeen, Mona M. Atef, and Suzan MQ Al‐Qaradaghi. “Evaluation of serum zinc level in patients with newly diagnosed and resistant alopecia areata.” International journal of dermatology 55, no. 1 (2016): 24-29.|
|↑10||Alopecia Areata. American Dermatology Association.|
|↑11||Zinc. University of Maryland Medical Center.|