Many of us want shiny, healthy hair that grows fast. While you might already take vitamins for your hair, use topical treatments, and try to avoid anything that can damage your hair at all costs, the secret to hair growth also lies in your diet. Luckily it turns out the vitamins and nutrients that are good for your hair are also good for your skin and nails—win-win.
"Most nutrients that are good for skin are also good for hair (and nails, for that matter), because hair, skin, and nails are made up of similar proteins. Plus, good habits show when it comes to glowing skin and healthy-looking hair. For example, getting enough sleep and proper hydration really reflect in the look of your skin, and so does proper detoxification," says integrative dietitian nutritionist Robin Foroutan, MD, RDN, HHC, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"And antioxidants all day long!" she adds. "Free radicals damage our cells, and that includes our skin cells, so the best way to protect yourselves from the ravages of free radical damage (and the ravages of time) is to eat plenty of plant foods that are high in antioxidants and don't skimp on plant fats."
Take a look at some of the foods that can help you hair grow stronger and faster below—and make the simple and small change of adding them to your diet.
But it's important to keep in mind that there are a number of reasons for hair loss. Your diet could be the cause, but stress and hormones can also contribute. The American Academy of Dermatology also says hereditary hair disorders or autoimmune diseases may be the culprit, or an underlying condition. If you're experiencing hair loss and have no idea why, it's best to check with your doctor.
"Suboptimal thyroid levels can really affect hair thickness and hair structure—that means even if your thyroid levels are within 'normal' range, they may not be optimal—so working with an integrative or functional medicine professional can help sort that out," says Foroutan.
Spinach is packed with iron, which is important for healthy hair. "Iron oxygenates your blood and is necessary for hair growth. Take note of this one if you have heavy periods and get your levels checked," Foroutan says. Beets are also a good source of iron.
Foroutan says beef and lamb are a source of iron, too. Choose lean cuts and stick to the recommended portion sizes.
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc. After all, too-high or too-low levels can contribute to hair loss. Beef and spinach also contain zinc.
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If you can eat a dozen oysters by yourself no problem, you're going to love this news. According to Foroutan, they have high levels of zinc and iron.
"Vitamin E protects cells from free-radical damage and may boost hair growth," Foroutan says. So yes, order that avocado add-on; it's a good source of vitamin E.
Another food that contains plenty of vitamin E? Nuts and seeds. Sunflower seeds in particular have high levels of vitamin E.
Bone broth contains collagen, a protein which we know can benefit skin health. Collagen is found in your hair and can strengthen it. Additionally, research has found that it can support and promote hair-building proteins.
Egg yolks contains nutrients choline and biotin, which Foroutan says can promote hair growth and healthy skin. Although a biotin deficiency is rare, it can cause hair thinning and loss of body hair. If you're looking for a biotin supplement, Foroutan has advice: "The problem with some supplements is that they don't have enough of key nutrients to really make a difference. Biotin supplements really only work if you're low in biotin, but even then, look for doses of between 5 to 10 mcg—any less than that isn't worth your time or money."
Another way to get biotin through your food is through sweet potatoes, Foroutan suggests. Sweet potatoes are also high in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A can promote a healthy scalp, but too much of the nutrient can lead to hair loss—the American Academy of Dermatology says you can consume too much of it if you take vitamin supplements or certain medicines.
"Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, but we also need it to protect our cells from free-radical damage from the sun and air pollution," Foroutan says. Strawberries are a good option if you want to add more vitamin C to your diet.
When you think of vitamin C, what comes to mind first are probably oranges. It's another fruit to add to your list for healthy hair.
"When the body does not get enough protein, it rations the protein it does get," the American Academy of Dermatology says. One way the body can ration protein is to shut down hair growth. About two to three months after a person doesn't eat enough protein, you can see the hair loss. Eating more protein will stop the hair loss." We know that meat, eggs, and fish can provide protein, but beans are another option.
Those grain bowls will do you good in the protein department, too. Try incorporating something like quinoa into your diet.