Like any other part of the body, your hair also requires a healthy diet for its growth. So, you should be careful with what you eat, not just for your body but for your hair, too. Having unhealthy eating habits affects your body in about a week’s time. However, your hair takes longer to show the negative impacts of unhealthy food.
Your hair also requires nutrients from food to promote hair growth and strength. As long as your hair follicles are healthy, your hair stays healthy, too. So, keep your hair healthy with a balanced diet because good nutrition assures the growth of strong, lustrous hair.
There isn’t a quick fix to transform your dull hair to healthy hair overnight. If you choose to change your diet to a healthy one, it may reflect in your hair growth only after six months or may even take a year, depending on your hair growth. However, starting one today can assure you healthy hair growth from the root to the tip. Make sure to include these nutrients in your new hair-improving diet.
1. B Vitamins
These vitamins play an important role in the production red blood cells that carry oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in the body, including the scalp, hair follicles, and growing hair. Some of the important B vitamins include vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and folate (vitamin B9). Animal studies showed that a deficiency in pantothenic acid may result in graying of hair.1 A lack of these B vitamins can lead to nutrient deficiency causing unusual hair fall and weak hair prone to breakage.
- Food sources of vitamin B6: Chickpeas, potatoes, oats, bananas, lentils, brown rice, apricots, broccoli, carrots, avocados
- Food sources of vitamin B12: Shellfish, soy milk, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt and milk, eggs, wild salmon
- Food sources of vitamin B5: Animal liver and kidney, fish, shellfish, pork, chicken, egg yolk, milk, yogurt, legumes, mushrooms, whole grains, sweet potatoes
- Food sources of vitamin B9: Lentils, black-eyed peas, spinach, mustard greens, green peas, papaya, oranges, blackberries, strawberries, corn, cauliflower
Biotin is another B vitamin that is essential for healthy hair and scalp health. In the body, bacteria present in the intestines are able to produce adequate levels of biotin. Therefore, biotin deficiency is a rare case. However, for people with serious health conditions that involve the intestines, some may not have enough biotin, resulting in hair loss. A balanced diet of high-biotin foods can help your body produce biotin required for healthy hair growth.
Food sources of biotin: Eggs, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, peanut butter, almond butter, wheat bran, whole wheat bread, cauliflower, avocados, raspberries
3. Iron-Rich Proteins
Protein deficiencies can lead to weak and brittle hair. Proteins prevent a dry scalp and dull hair color and promote healthy hair growth. Choosing iron-rich proteins is only going to double the effect on your hair growth. Iron helps the red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood stream. If you are a meat eater, you are at an advantage because iron in meat (heme iron) is more easily absorbed by the body than iron present in plant foods (nonheme iron).2 If you are a vegetarian, you can meet your iron requirement by consuming iron-rich plant foods.
Food sources of iron-rich proteins: clams, oysters, lean beef and lamb, egg yolks, skinless chicken and turkey, shrimp, tofu, tempeh, soybeans, lentils, black-eyed peas
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another vital nutrient that promotes healthy hair growth. As mentioned earlier, iron present in vegetables is not easily absorbed by the body when compared with iron found in meat. However, vitamin C plays a role in the absorption of iron into the body.3 Oxidative stress (imbalance of free radicals and the body’s inability to fight its negative effects) can lead to aging or graying of hair.4 Vitamin C can fight this oxidative stress that causes hair to gray early.
Food sources of vitamin C: Guava, bell peppers, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, pineapple, lemon, broccoli, kale, kiwi, cantaloupe, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, tangerines
5. Vitamins A, D, And E
Vitamin A regulates the cell production of retinoic acid (a nutrient required by the body for healthy functioning) in the hair follicle. This vitamin stimulates hair growth.
Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin is also important for the growth of healthy hair. When the body is exposed to the sun directly, it produces vitamin D. This is important as it helps metabolize calcium – a mineral that strengthens bones, teeth, and hair. Unfortunately, very few foods contain vitamin D.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that works with vitamin A to strengthen and improve the elasticity of your hair.
- Food sources of vitamin A: Dairy products, liver, fish, fortified cereals, milk, eggs5
- Food sources of vitamin D: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, fish liver oils, cheese, egg yolks, some mushrooms6
- Food sources of vitamin E: Avocados, spinach, nuts, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, almonds,
Zinc helps the body process B-complex vitamins, biotin, and vitamin E. This mineral also controls the oil production in the skin and scalp. A deficiency in this mineral may cause hair loss, slow growth, and dandruff. You can make sure you get enough zinc in your body by eating zinc-rich foods. If your doctor recommends supplements, make sure you stick to the dosage prescribed by the doctor.
Food sources of zinc: Poultry, red meat, lobster, crab, pumpkin seeds, nuts, wheat grain products, dairy products, oysters, lentils, cashews
Beta-carotene in foods is converted to vitamin A which is important for the cell growth, including hair cells. You may have to be careful when you have beta-carotene-rich foods because too much of vitamin A can also lead to hair loss.7 This is common if you take vitamin A supplements. Therefore, stick to natural sources of beta-carotene to avoid vitamin A toxicity.
Food sources of beta-carotene: Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, turnip greens, pumpkin, butternut squash, Chinese cabbage, spinach, lettuce, cherries, mangoes, tomatoes, asparagus, red cabbage
8. Omega-3 And Omega-6
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids support scalp health. They help in the development of oil in the skin and scalp. A deficiency of these nutrients can cause dry scalp and dull hair. Include them in your diet for healthy hair.
- Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids: Vegetable oils, walnuts, flax seeds, soy products, fish, seafood, and fish oils
- Food sources of omega-6 fatty acids: Sunflower, safflower, soy, sesame, and corn oils
So, the next time you notice unusual hair loss, it’s probably because of your eating habits. Including these nutrients adequately in your diet can improve your hair growth.
|↑1||Pantothenic Acid. Oregon State University.|
|↑2||Bauer, Joy. Joy Bauer’s Food Cures: Eat Right to Get Healthier, Look Younger, and Add Years to Your Life. Rodale, 2011.|
|↑3||Cook, James D., and Manju B. Reddy. “Effect of ascorbic acid intake on nonheme-iron absorption from a complete diet.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 73, no. 1 (2001): 93-98.|
|↑4||Trüeb, Ralph M. “Oxidative stress in ageing of hair.” International journal of trichology 1, no. 1 (2009): 6.|
|↑5||Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health|
|↑6||Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health|
|↑7||Vitamin A (Retinol). University of Maryland Medical Center.|