A healthy body, including hair, starts with a healthy diet! It is important to give your body the proper nutrients to keep your hair and the rest of your body healthy and strong. Of course, there are other factors besides nutrition that can influence your hair health, including genetics, medications, environmental factors, sickness and disease, and others, but it is pretty easy to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need from food if you are simply eating a balanced diet!
Fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, dairy, eggs, legumes, grains and more all contain nutrients that are important for hair health. This really means that the best thing you can do for your hair is to eat a variety of nutrient dense foods from each of the food groups. If you are deficient in a certain nutrient or if there are other reasons your hair is not as healthy as it should be, work with your healthcare provider to get to the root of the problem!
Read on for more information about what foods and nutrients are best for hair health, tips for preventing early hair loss, tips for healthy hair, and if you should take a supplement for hair health or not.
What are the Best Foods to Boost Hair Health?
There isn’t a magic food that will all of a sudden give you the hair of your dreams- believe me, I would love it if there was! There are actually a lot of different nutrients that are important for hair health and they aren’t found in all the same foods. The best way to get all of those nutrients is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods from all of the food groups.
Let’s talk about some of the nutrients that are important to hair health and some foods that they are found in!
Your hair is made up of protein, and is an essential component of maintaining good hair health! Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, greek yogurt, cheese, nuts, nut butters, milk, and soy.
You need Biotin to actually produce the specific protein that your hair is made up of, keratin. Good food sources of Biotin include egg yolk, yeast, fortified grains, and legumes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We don’t know too much about why Omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy hair, but some studies have shown correlations. The best sources of Omega-3’s are fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, herring), walnuts, macadamia nuts, and ground flaxseed.
Vitamin C can be important for hair growth for multiple reasons. It is an antioxidant, but it is also important for collagen production and iron absorption, both of which play a role in hair growth. Some good food sources of Vitamin C are citrus fruits, berries, spinach, peppers, etc.
Adequate Vitamin A levels can help keep your hair follicles themselves healthy. Vitamin A is found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, lettuce, tropical fruit, dried apricots, and winter squash.
Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant, similar to Vitamin C. Antioxidants help to protect your body from harmful molecules. Vitamin E is found in foods such as nuts, olive oil, seeds, and avocados.
This mineral is likely helpful with hair growth and repair. Good food sources of zinc include seafood, fish oil, flaxseeds, legumes, walnuts, meat, and eggs.
Selenium acts as an antioxidant, just like Vitamins E and C. You get selenium from fish (like oysters, sardines, halibut, and yellowfin tuna), and Brazil nuts and other kinds of nuts.
Iron is important for transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and hair loss has been associated with low levels of iron. There are both animal and plant sources of protein such as fatty fish, red meat, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, dark green leafy vegetables, and legumes. Consuming Vitamin C foods with these iron-rich foods can actually help with absorption!
B12 has been shown to be related to a healthy scalp, but really all B vitamins are important for your hair health! Vitamin B12 in particular is found in animal foods like eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and fortified products, like breakfast cereals.
See what I mean? There are a whole lot of nutrients that can help improve hair health, so try your best to add some variety of foods in your diet and you will likely get everything you need!
What are the Best Foods for Hair Loss?
If you are experiencing hair loss, one of the best things you can do is eat a balanced diet full of variety. However, it is best to figure out the root cause of your hair loss. Genetics and getting older often lead to hair loss in some people, but if you are losing hair because of specific nutrient deficiencies, disease, medication, or something else, you should make sure you know that!
If there is a specific nutrient deficiency that is resulting in hair loss, your doctor should do bloodwork to confirm that your levels are low. They may put you on a supplement and give you tips for eating more of that specific nutrient in your diet.
Tips for Healthy Hair from a Nutritionist
Healthy hair goes beyond good nutrition, although that is an important aspect. Here are some of my tips for healthy hair!
- Eat enough food overall. Not eating enough total calories throughout the day can lead to nutrient deficiencies and can impact your hair health.
- Eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day and eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups.
- If there are certain foods or food groups you have to avoid or limit due to allergies, intolerances, or taste preferences, work with a dietitian and your healthcare provider to make sure you are still meeting your nutritional needs.
- Manage your stress levels. It might surprise you that this can be a major contributor to hair loss! Find ways to manage stress such as exercise, meditation, listening to music, getting a massage, reading a book, etc.
- Get regular haircuts, use proper hair products, and avoid too much heat damage to your hair. I am not an expert in this area, but there are certainly people that are! Turn to those experts for more advice on taking care of your hair.
How To Prevent Early Hair Loss
Many people, young and old, worry about losing their hair. If you have seen family members lose their hair at an early age, that might make you want to do all you can to prevent early hair loss!
Nutritionally, the best thing you can do is eat a healthy, balanced diet. Look back at all of the important nutrients above and try to include some of the foods listed! Sometimes we get so set in our own way of eating that we forget to branch out and include other foods, but each food has a different nutrient profile and brings its own unique benefit to your body.
Should I Take A Supplement for Healthier Hair?
Alright, let’s talk about the flashy supplement labels that you might see in the story. They might claim to prevent hair loss and keep your hair healthy and strong- but do they really?
The interesting thing is, the supplement industry is extremely unregulated. That basically means that anyone can put any supplement on the market, even if it doesn’t actually work. Some supplements have extremely high levels of certain nutrients which can also be harmful to your body. In fact, many supplements have been found to be contaminated with dangerous and even illegal substances…yikes!
I don’t mean to scare you away from supplements, but if you do choose to add a supplement, I encourage you to choose one that has been tested by a third party for efficacy and safety. Talk to your doctor before you start a supplement to make sure it is really necessary and that the nutrient levels are appropriate for your needs.
But remember, most of the time, just eating a balanced diet full of variety will be your best option!
Unfortunately, there can be a lot of reasons for hair loss and some are more treatable than others. Work with your healthcare team to get to the root cause of your hair loss because there may be something specific you can do to help fix the problem.
However, eating a balanced diet is always going to be a good option, even if you feel like you already have pretty healthy hair. Aim to include variety in your diet and keep trying new foods! Healthy eating does not have to be boring- in fact there are tons of different foods that will help you meet your nutrient needs for hair health. Happy eating!
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Levings J. Hair growth supplements. Todaysdietitian.com. Published September 2017.
Raman R. The 14 best foods for hair growth. Healthline.com. Published April 9, 2018.
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