There are some major factors that influence your hair—genetics, age, hormones, nutrient deficiencies, and more. But what you eat is one of the few things you can do to control your hair's appearance. After all, if you are predisposed to thin, so-so hair, you wouldn't want to make it worse by consuming the wrong foods, would you? And even if you belong in a hair commercial, you'd like to protect that look, right? That's where picking the right healthy foods for hair growth comes in.
Before you spend yet another year shelling out loads of cash on professional treatments or products to get the glossy locks you want, consider this. Although the thickness and strength of your hair is largely hereditary, the foods you eat (or don't get enough of) can affect the status of your hair just as much as that fancy conditioning treatment can.
Which nutrients are in foods for hair growth?
There are multiple nutrients that encourage hair growth:
- biotin: a B vitamin which may help hair grow and strengthen
- vitamin D: it can help stimulate hair follicles that have become dormant
- vitamin E: it's potent antioxidant activity helps to reduce oxidative stress in the scalp, which is known to be associated with alopecia
- iron: iron deficiency has been linked to hair loss
- vitamin C: it makes it easier for your body to absorb iron
- omega-3 fatty acids: their anti-inflammatory effects can counteract any inflammation that's causing hair shedding
The 26 best foods for hair growth.
By eating nutrient-rich foods that are scientifically proven to help your hair—and avoiding those that only do harm—you can influence your hair's thickness, its growth or shedding, how shiny it is, and even its likelihood of greying. Compare the list below with what you usually have in your pantry, and use it to inform your next grocery shopping trip.
Almond butter contains a wide variety of nutrients—including protein, healthy fats, and certain vitamins—that have all been linked to hair health. It's the vitamin E content in the nuts that researchers say is particularly good for keeping your locks thick and lustrous. One small eight-month trial published in the journal Tropical Life Sciences Researchfound participants who supplemented daily with 100 milligrams of vitamin E saw an increase in hair growth by as much as 34 percent.
Just a tablespoon of almond butter provides nearly 3.87 milligrams of Vitamin E. The recommended daily Vitamin E allowance is 15 milligrams, so almond butter will put you well on your way, especially if you eat more than one tablespoon.
Don't like almond butter? Regular almonds will help, too. According to the NIH, almonds are one of the best dietary sources of vitamin E. An ounce of dry roasted almonds provides one-third of your DV for fat-soluble vitamin E.
The benefits of tangerines affect your hair in a big way. Their vitamin C content makes it easier for your body to absorb iron, which is found in foods like red meat and spinach. Iron deficiency has been linked to hair loss, according to a study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science, so it's important to make sure you're getting enough of it. And vitamin C foods will only help your body absorb that iron even more.
Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have a number of health benefits.
"Omega-3's are anti-inflammatory. They can help if you have inflammation that's causing hair shedding," dermatologist Dr. Carolyn Jacob told EatThis.com when speaking about the best foods to prevent hair loss. Some other great sources of omega-3s include walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
In addition to helping you stay fit and disease-free, omega-3's enable you to grow hair and keep it shiny and full. According to nutritionist Dr. Joseph Debé, CD, CDN, both male-pattern balding and female hair loss is often associated with insulin resistance. Salmon is one food that helps the body process insulin more efficiently.
Plus, salmon and other fatty fish are teeming with follicle-stimulating vitamin D. Per a study printed in The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, vitamin D may also help stimulate hair follicles that have become dormant. In other words, there's evidence to suggest the nutrient may help prevent thinning hair and even bald spots.
Spinach contains a variety of nutrients and minerals that can benefit your hair, as well as your overall health.
"It's important to make sure you don't have a lack of something in your diet that could be leading to hair loss," Jacob told EatThis.com. "We check protein levels, iron, iron storage, vitamin D and a number of other labs to make sure you don't have deficiencies."
In addition to having a high iron and magnesium content, spinach can help your hair produce sebum, too.
Eggs are packed with 10 mcg of a B vitamin called biotin, which may help hair grow and strengthen nails. Other good sources of biotin include almonds, avocados, and salmon.
Plus, eggs are a great source of vitamin D (11 percent of your DV per egg) to help your hair grow strong and shiny. According to a study that was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, the sunshine vitamin can help create new hair follicles: little pores where new hair can grow. This, in turn, may improve the thickness of your hair or reduce the amount of hair you lose as you age.
Ever notice what sits atop nearly every ancient Greek statue? A mop of thick, full, wavy hair. An artistic choice? Perhaps. But maybe it's due to the thick, protein-rich yogurt that Greeks and other cultures have been eating for hundreds of years. Greek yogurt contains vitamin B5 (known as pantothenic acid), and B vitamins can help you maintain healthy skin and hair.
Oats are rich in iron, fiber, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which stimulate hair growth, making it thick and healthy.
RELATED:Easy, healthy, 350-calorie recipe ideas you can make at home.
Guavas, like tangerines, are high in vitamin C. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, a vitamin C supplement was found to promote "significant hair growth in women with temporary hair thinning." Although we often think of oranges as the best source of vitamin C, one guava packs four to five times as much.
Lentils are rich in folic acid, which can help your body make red blood cells. Those red blood cells bring oxygen to your organs, including your skin and scalp.
If you find your hair thinning or falling out completely, it could be because you're not getting enough zinc in your diet. Thankfully, research has shown that hair loss related to zinc deficiency can be reversed simply by eating more of the all-important nutrient. According to a review in the journal Dermatology Research and Practice, 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight was sufficient to induce hair growth in patients with alopecia. One way to boost your zinc intake is to load up on oysters. Just six of the shelled seafood will give you 30 milligrams of zinc, which is double the DV of the nutrient! Some other foods high in zinc include meat and beans.
As we mentioned, iron deficiency can lead to hair loss, most notably in women. Iron is plentiful in our ol' friend spinach (and other dark leafy greens), soybeans, lentils, fortified grains, and pasta. Liver may sound much less appetizing, but if you like pâté, your hair will benefit. Organ meats like liver have iron in abundance.
Oxidative stress has been linked to hair loss and unhealthy scalps per an International Journal of Cosmetic Science review, so to keep your scalp and hair happy it's important to load up on antioxidants, which counteract oxidative stress. And blueberries are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin B and proanthocyanidins.
Like almond butter, barley is rich in vitamin E. It can help with hair growth, so eating foods high in this nutrient is always a good idea if you're looking to add more foods for hair growth to your diet.
According to a review published in a journal called Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, deficiency of the polyunsaturated essential fatty acids linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) can cause hair changes including loss of scalp hair and eyebrows, as well as lightening of hair. To prevent any of that from happening to you or your hair, eat foods packed with linolenic and alpha-linolenic acids, such as walnuts.
When converted to vitamin A, beta-carotene protects against dry, dull hair and stimulates the glands in your scalp to make an oily fluid called sebum. So where do you find this elixir of the locks? Orange-colored fruits and vegetables are your best bet: Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and mangoes.
Halibut is high in magnesium, which helps the body maintain healthy insulin levels. And diabetes has been linked to hair loss, so keeping your insulin levels regulated is important for a number of reasons. Yes, halibut is one of the best foods for hair growth, but it has plenty of other health benefits, too.
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