Like any other part of the body, your hair needs vitamins and minerals to grow. A person’s age and genetics play major roles in hair growth, but hormones, environmental exposures, stress, and diet do, too. The good news is, increasing specific foods in your diet will not only improve your overall health they’ll also boost hair growth, which leads to a healthier head of hair.
When your diet lacks certain vitamins and minerals, it often shows in the texture, health, and growth rate of your hair. Because hair is made of protein, your diet needs adequate amounts of protein-rich foods. Just as important is biotin, a nutrient that defends against hair loss and loss of color and supports hair growth. Other essential vitamins for hair growth include:
Eating eggs augments protein and biotin levels. A single egg has six grams of high-quality protein, and in each yolk, there are around 10 micrograms of biotin. Eggs also provide about 10% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin D, which is especially important because the body doesn’t produce it naturally. Eating two large eggs each day will also supply your body with about 46% of the DV for vitamin B12 and 39% of vitamin B2, which your hair will love.
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids increase hair density and reduce hair loss. And a 2015 study found that women who took a fish oil supplement experienced significantly increased hair growth. Fatty fish like herring, lake trout, wild salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, and mackerel have high levels of these “good fat” fatty acids. Unlike saturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for the heart, brain, circulatory system, and lungs. Eating fatty fish at least twice each week will give your hair the boost it needs.
Protein-rich Greek yogurt is a healthy way to fuel hair growth. A single serving size of 5.3 ounces of low-fat, plain Greek yogurt contains 11 to 14 grams of protein, plus 15% of the calcium DV. Throw in some berries for an added boost of vitamin C. Greek yogurt is different from traditional yogurt. It’s strained three times following fermentation, leaving behind less water in the final product and a higher amount of protein.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that produces collagen, an important protein supporting hair structure. It also plays a crucial role in the intestinal absorption of iron. Bell peppers, which some people call a sweet pepper, have a high concentration of vitamin C, about five times more than an orange. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database, a three-ounce yellow bell pepper contains 184 milligrams of vitamin C. One green bell pepper contains about 80 milligrams. A one-half cup serving will also provide vitamin A, selenium, zinc, iron, and folate.
One of the essential minerals that aids hair growth is zinc. The problem is, the body cannot produce zinc on its own. So, it’s important to add these foods to your daily diet. A small, three-ounce serving of cooked, breaded, or fried oysters contains 74 milligrams of zinc or 673% of the DV. Oysters also provide a healthy dose of iron — about seven milligrams per three-ounce serving. Nutritionists warn against consuming too much zinc, however. Eating oysters or taking zinc supplements daily can lead to hair loss.
Vitamin A is essential for hair and cell growth. It helps the skin glands produce sebum, a complex mixture of lipids. This oily, waxy substance reduces water loss from the skin’s surface, and helps moisturize the scalp and keep the hair healthy. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin A, providing about six times the recommended DV. They also provide B6, which studies show improves hair condition and reduces hair loss.
Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids promote hair growth, and almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are chock-full of them. They also provide healthy doses of vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, fatty acids and serve as natural emollients for the skin and hair follicles. Another great source of omega-3 fatty acids is flaxseeds. Just one ounce provides nearly 6400 mg, more than you get from a half-fillet of salmon. Add an ounce of sunflower seeds to your daily diet to add an array of B vitamins and about 50% of your vitamin E DV.
How does grass-fed beef get you a thicker, healthier head of hair? Not only does it contain a higher amount of omega-3s, but grass-fed beef is also rich in iron. Just four ounces gets you 23 grams of protein and three milligrams of iron. Plus, it’s better for you. Grass-fed beef has less total fat than beef from corn-raised cattle.
Vegans can get hair-essential nutrients like iron, biotin, and protein from beans, plus zinc, selenium, and folate. White beans, black beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas are all hair-pleasers. Soybeans, according to studies, may also promote hair growth. They contain a compound called spermidine, which researchers found had a significant impact on hair shaft growth and increased anagen, the active phase of the hair growth cycle.
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