Proper nutrition is essential to the overall health of the body. The body is amazing in its ability to heal and restore itself, however, it needs the right foods in order for us to see and feel those improvements.
Hair is the second-fastest-growing tissue in the human body, growing at an average monthly rate of half an inch. Vitamin deficiencies have been directly linked to slow hair growth and hair loss.
If you want to increase the rate at which it’s growing, you should be eating more of the foods that can provide you with the nutrients your hair thrives on. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals is not only beneficial for your personal well-being, but also for the growth of long and healthy locs.
Which vitamins and minerals improve hair quality?
- Promotes the production of sebum, which keeps your scalp hydrated and healthy.
- Prevents dry scalp and dandruff.
- Repairs damage done to the hair cells.
- Carotenoids, found in many fruits and vegetables, is converted into Vitamin A in the body.
- According to the Mayo Clinic, adult women should take 700 micrograms of vitamin A per day, whereas men should take 900 micrograms. Too much vitamin A is toxic. This most often occurs if you’re taking supplements so fresh food is always a preferred choice.
- B1: Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 is necessary for the cells to grow and function properly. The Mayo Clinic recommends the daily dose of thiamine to be 1.1 milligrams for women and 1.2 milligrams for men.
- B5: Also known as pantothenate, vitamin B5 helps to break down carbs, proteins, and fats and converts them into energy. It helps to heal and rebuild the body’s tissues, including hair. Pantothenic acid is found in most foods so deficiencies are unlikely.
- B7: Most commonly known as biotin, vitamin B7 is a coenzyme that promotes hair growth and overall hair health. Biotin does not get stored in the body so it has to be taken daily. Too little biotin intake can cause hair loss. There is no recommended amount of biotin although according to WebMD, the adequate intakes for adults is 30 micrograms a day.
- B9: Also known as folate, vitamin B9 is needed for the production of red blood cells. The red blood cells are responsible for carrying nutrients and oxygen to the cells throughout the body. If your cells are lacking oxygen they can start to die off. Your hair will show the effects of that in the form of breakage and slow growth. The Mayo Clinic recommends adults to take 400 micrograms of folate every day.
- B12: Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is essential in preventing anemia which is an iron deficiency. Vegans and vegetarians should take a supplement because it’s only found in meat and dairy products. The Mayo Clinic recommends adults to take 2.5 micrograms of B12 daily.
- Vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen, which is vital for your hair to grow strong and healthy.
- Helps your body absorb iron. Make sure to eat high-iron foods at the same time you eat foods with vitamin C.
- If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (or drink citrus juices), you can get enough of your daily vitamin C requirement.
- The Mayo Clinic recommends that women take 75 milligrams of vitamin C daily, while men should take 90 milligrams.
- It’s vital in preventing stress-related hair loss, a condition known as telogen effluvium.
- The best way to obtain vitamin D is by sitting in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes a day, although it’s also found in salmon and in some fortified foods. If you don’t get enough sun exposure, there are supplements you can take.
- Contains antioxidants which help your body reproduce healthy cells to repair tissue such as hair.
- One of the most important vitamins for rapid hair growth.
- The Mayo Clinic recommends a daily intake of 15 milligrams (for adults).
- Hair strands are made up of keratin, a hardened protein.
- Harvard recommends a minimum daily allowance of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
- Omega 3s help your scalp stay hydrated and prevents hair loss. They are more effective when combined with vitamin C, iron, and zinc.
- For strong hair, Dr. Axe recommends 250-500 milligrams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) every day.
- Iron is a mineral found in your red blood cells. Iron provides your cells with oxygen, and it keeps your hair cells healthy and growing. Ferritin is where your iron is stored and your body draws from that ‘storage’ as it needs it. If your ferritin levels are low, you may experience little to no hair growth.
- Your recommended daily iron intake depends on several variables. According to WebMD, women should be taking 18 milligrams of iron per day, and men should be taking 8 mg. Women need more iron because they lose a lot of it during their period every month.
- Zinc binds the proteins in the hair strands, making them stronger and preventing hair loss. It also protects your hair from dryness and your scalp from dandruff.
- The recommended daily allowance for zinc varies by age, gender, and overall health but this guide by WebMD takes many variables into consideration and gives the recommended dosage for each. Too much zinc is not a good thing, so it’s recommended that supplements not be taken. Instead, get your daily dose from foods like oysters.
- Although not necessarily a mineral, water is essential for hydrating and maintaining the moisture in your hair. If you drink plenty of water every day, you can expect your hair to be more elastic. You will also be taking preventative measures against breakage, dryness, and dandruff.
Which foods promote hair growth?
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are packed with the essential minerals and vitamins that your body needs to regenerate healthy cells. Healthy cells, in turn, will improve your hair growth, strength, shine, and quality.
Next time you go to the grocery store, load up on a few of these items!
- CITRUS FRUITS – Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons are a great source of vitamin C, but also provide us with B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- BERRIES – Berries are rich in vitamin C and B vitamins such as B9 (folate) and B7 (biotin). Load up on strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries!
- BANANAS – Bananas are so nutritious and hair-healthy! They contain iron, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins such as vitamin B3 (niacin), B7 (biotin), and B9 (folate).
- GRAPEFRUIT – Grapefruit contains vitamin C and is made up of 90% water.
- KIWI – Kiwi has vitamin C, vitamin E, and B vitamins like B9 (folate).
- WATERMELON – Watermelon is amazing. It has a water content of 91% and also contains zinc, selenium, as well as many B vitamins like B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- AVOCADO – Avocados contain omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene (turns into vitamin A), vitamin C, vitamin E, and B vitamins such as B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), B7 (biotin), and B9 (folate).
- CARROTS – Carrots contain beta carotene (turns into vitamin A) and B vitamins, including B6 (pyridoxine), and B7 (biotin).
- PUMPKIN – Pumpkin is rich in beta carotene (turns into vitamin A), iron, vitamin E, and B vitamins, such as B1 (folate), B3, B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- SWEET POTATOES – Sweet potatoes contain an average of 114 grams of beta carotene, which would turn into more vitamin A than is necessary for your daily intake. They’re also rich in vitamin C and B vitamins such as B3, B6 (pyridoxine), and B5 (pantothenate).
- ONIONS – Onions contain iron, protein, beta carotene (turns into vitamin A), and vitamin B9 (folate).
- POTATOES – Potatoes contain iron, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).
- CAULIFLOWER – Cauliflower is a good source of B vitamins like B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), and B9 (folate), as well as vitamin C.
- SPINACH – Spinach is rich in zinc, protein, iron, vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B2, B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate), as well as beta carotene (which produces vitamin A).
- KALE – Kale is rich in protein, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- BRUSSEL SPROUTS – Brussel sprouts contain vitamin C, iron, and B vitamins like B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine).
- CABBAGE – Cabbage has vitamin C, iron, and B vitamins such as B1 (thiamin), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- BROCCOLI – Broccoli is a good source of vitamin C, E, and B vitamins such as B9 (folate).
- COLLARD GREENS – Collard greens are full of nutrients. They contain protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin E, and B vitamins like B1 (thiamine), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- CUCUMBER – Cucumber is 96% water! On top of that, it contains some vitamin A and vitamin C.
- CELERY – Celery is 95% water and contains vitamin C, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folate). Drink 16 ounces of celery juice in the morning for amazing benefits.
- SWEET BELL PEPPERS – Bell peppers are a great source of vitamins C, A, E, and B vitamins such as B2, B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), and B9 (folate).
- SQUASH – Squash is a good source of beta carotene (turns into vitamin A), vitamin E, and B vitamins including B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin). B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- OATMEAL – Oatmeal contains iron, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins like B1 (thiamine).
- BROWN RICE – Brown rice is a great source of selenium and B vitamins like B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), and B6 (pyridoxine). White rice is processed differently so it does not have the same nutritional content as brown.
- QUINOA – Quinoa is high in protein, iron, and B vitamins like B1 (thiamin) and B6 (pyridoxine).
- LENTILS – Lentils contain zinc, protein, iron, and B vitamins including B1 (thiamin), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), and B9 (folate).
- BEANS. Beans are one of the best sources of protein, especially for vegans who don’t eat meat or dairy. Beans also contain zinc, iron, folate (vitamin B9), and biotin (vitamin B7). Navy and black beans contain iron.
- PEAS – Peas is a good source of beta carotene (which turns into vitamin A), vitamin C, protein, and B vitamins like B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).
- PEANUTS: Peanuts contain zinc, iron, selenium, vitamin E, and B vitamins such as B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), and B9 (folate).
- EGGS – A large egg contains 6 grams of protein. It also contains selenium, zinc, omega 3s, iron, and biotin (vitamin B7).
- MEATS: Lean beef is a good source of protein, iron, and zinc. Lean chicken is a good source of protein and B vitamins. Lean turkey is high in protein. Pork contains zinc and B vitamins like biotin (vitamin B7).
- FISH – Tuna, halibut, tilapia are all high in protein. Tuna is also rich in iron.
- FATTY FISH: Mackerel, herring, and wild-caught salmon have omega 3s, vitamin D3, and biotin (B7). Fish is also a good source of protein.
- SHELLFISH – Shellfish, like oysters, have a high zinc content. Shrimp contains vitamin D, iron, B vitamins, zinc, and a little bit of omega-3s. It’s also a good source of protein.
- TOFU – Tofu, and other soy products, are high in protein and iron. This is a great alternative to meat for those who are vegetarian or vegan, however, it’s important to keep in mind that most of the soy we eat is genetically modified.
- NUTS: Almonds contain biotin and vitamin E. Walnuts contain biotin and omega-3s. Pine nuts contain zinc.
- SEEDS – Seeds contain vitamin E and selenium. Flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds contain omega-3s. Sunflower seeds contain zinc.
- HERBS: Herbs like thyme and parsley are rich in vitamin C.
Which supplements are recommended for healthy hair?
Supplements might be necessary for those who have malabsorption syndromes or other conditions. I’m not a doctor, therefore I will leave the recommendations to the professionals.
A few years back, I was having several digestive issues that prompted me to take supplements. I found that not all supplements are created equal. If you go to a pharmacy, you may be overwhelmed by the incredible selection of vitamins and minerals in pill form.
To be honest, I don’t know how much I trust manufactured supplements over fresh food itself. I would much rather eat the foods that are full of minerals and vitamins, instead of having to figure out which combination of pills to take.
It may be hard to get the correct amount of every nutrient your body requires, especially if you’re self-diagnosing your intake (which is a huge mistake by the way). Some supplements can cause side-effects if you’re taking other medications, have pre-existing health conditions, and/ or are pregnant.
If you’re considering supplements, talk to a doctor or nutritionist for their advice tailored to your body and needs.
Which foods can cause hair loss?
Unfortunately, the foods that are most appealing to us are typically not the healthiest. The average American consumes a lot of processed, greasy, and sugary foods. Those provide little to no nutrition, therefore our body stops receiving what it needs in order to function optimally.
There is no specific food linked to hair loss, however, not receiving enough vitamins and minerals in our diet puts us at risk for deficiencies. Deficiencies have proven to cause hair thinning and baldness. The following food categories don’t provide us with the nutrients we need for healthy hair.
- DAIRY PRODUCTS – Unpasteurized dairy is not bad and contains vitamin A, D, and B vitamins. The problem is that a lot of commercial dairy products are pasteurized, so they’re no longer healthy for you. If you’re able to get unpasteurized products, enjoy them. If not, avoid them altogether.
- PROCESSED FOODS – Not all processed food is bad, but a lot of it is. Start by reading the labels on any food item- if you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. This will include most breakfast cereals, fruit gummies, chips, sugary treats, TV dinners, and some canned and frozen foods.
- FAST FOOD: Most fast food options are full of additives that it’s not worth the little nutrition that it may have. Greasy and deep fried foods also fall into this category.
- SODA & SUGARY DRINKS – There is way too much sugar and absolutely NO nutritional value in soda and other processed fruit juices. If you’re craving something bubbly, stick to carbonated water.
Other things that can contribute to hair loss include hormonal imbalances and health conditions such as anemia, stress, skin conditions, pregnancy, medications, radiation, family history, etc. If you are experiencing hair loss or thinning dreadlocks and don’t think that it could be related to your diet, talk to your doctor about taking an exam to find out what deficiencies you may be having.
I hope this was helpful to you in determining how you can improve your diet with the means to improve your hair health.
If I missed one of your favorite hair-healthy foods, let me know in the comments!
* This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be regarded as medical advice. Always talk to a doctor before making major changes to your diet, especially if you’re considering supplements and/or have pre-existing health conditions.