Hair health ultimately starts with good overall health. This includes a well-balanced diet containing essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep your scalp and hair follicles functioning properly. If you’re interested in foods for healthy hair, then you’ve come to the right place.
Before reviewing these foods rich in nutrients, let’s cover some basics about hair growth and hair health.
Hair Health from the Inside Out
Cell turnover occurs very quickly in your hair follicles. This means that the cells are dying, and new ones are forming constantly. These cells need the right nutrients to complete this cycle properly. Some of the most important nutrients for cells include:
- Essential fatty acids
The metabolic rate of cells in your hair follicles is very high. Simply put, this means these cells form and die rapidly. If you’re not eating the right foods for healthy hair, then you may see a difference in your hair’s length and strength, and in how quickly you can grow hair.1
Eight Nutrients for Healthy-Looking Hair
The following nutrients (and some foods that contain them) are critical for hair health:
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for hair health (as well as skin and nail health). This compound is a non-protein that assists other compounds in functioning. It helps your body convert amino acids and create fatty acids.2 Biotin is also referred to as vitamin B7, coenzyme R, or vitamin H. Some foods that are high in biotin are:
- Beef & Beef Liver
- Whole grains
- Salmon & Tuna
- Pork Chops
- Sunflower Seeds
- Sweet Potatoes
Protein is another important nutrient for healthy hair. Deficiencies can affect hair structure and growth and can even lead to thinning and hair loss.4 Good sources of protein include:
- Dairy Products
3. Vitamin C
Research involving women who are suffering from hair loss suggests that supplements containing vitamin C may help promote hair growth.6 Foods for healthy hair that are high in vitamin C are:
- Red Pepper
- Oranges and Orange Juice
- Grapefruit and Grapefruit Juice
- Green pepper
- Brussels Sprouts7
Research suggests iron may play an important role in female pattern hair loss. Women suffering with this condition might be deficient in this mineral.8 Foods rich in iron include:
- Fortified Cereals
- White Beans
- Kidney Beans9
5. Vitamin D
Hair follicles require vitamin D for proper functioning. A deficiency, or an excess, of vitamin D may lead to hair loss. Studies have suggested that Vitamin D supplementation could even help to boost hair growth in those with alopecia.10 Vitamin D can be found in the following foods:
- Fortified Cereals
- Cod Liver Oil
- Orange Juice
6. Vitamin E
Tocotrienols are powerful antioxidants that can fight the oxidative stress which leads to hair loss.12 These foods are high in vitamin E:
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Sunflower seeds and Sunflower Oil
- Peanuts and Peanut butter
These essential fatty acids are important for many functions in your body. They are beneficial to hair, skin, and nail health, as well as cardiovascular, joint, eye, and conditions affecting the nervous system.14 Omega-3s can be found in:
- Flaxseed Oil
- Chia seeds
8. Zinc and Selenium
Studies show that zinc supplementation can help keep hair loss at bay.16 Deficiencies in selenium can contribute to hair loss and even loss of hair color/pigmentation.17 Zinc and selenium are found in the following foods:
- Fortified cereals
- Enriched Macaroni
- Baked Beans
You probably noticed that some of these foods for healthy hair are high in more than one of these beneficial nutrients. Avocado, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and healthy proteins, like fish, will provide you with an abundance of different vitamins and essential fatty acids. Make sure that you are getting a well-rounded diet that includes many of these foods.
If you don’t feel like you get enough of these nutrients for healthy hair in your diet, then maybe it’s time to talk with your doctor about possible supplements.
Other Ways to Keep Hair Healthy
Foods for healthy hair are essential, but the condition of your hair can be affected by more than just the nutrients you’re getting. Proper basic care can make a big difference. While there are many hair types, there are some key things that everyone should do to keep hair healthy.
Washing is one of the most important things you can do to keep your hair in good shape, all the way down to your scalp. A healthy scalp encourages healthy hair growth.
Conditioning is important, too. This moisturizes the strands (helping to prevent breakage), and it can help add moisture to your scalp, as well.20
Beyond basic care, there are a few other things you can do:
- Avoid heat styling
- Apply conditioning hair masks weekly (can be purchased or made right in your own kitchen)
- Use a leave-in conditioner after washing (especially if you have dry/curly hair)
- Get trims to eliminate split ends
- Avoid damaging accessories (items that pull, tug, or otherwise damage your hair, like hair ties with metal on them)
Eat Your Way to Beautiful, Healthy Hair
Along with proper basic care, eating these foods for healthy hair on a regular basis will help keep your scalp and hair follicles working at their best. If you find that you’re struggling to include these foods in your regular diet, you can always talk with your doctor about dietary supplements. Either way, you should make sure that you are getting all of these vitamins and nutrients, not only for hair health, but also for better overall health.
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