I am often asked if the foods we eat has an effect on our hair. The answer… YES! Your hair growth is just like any other major process of the body and needs to be nourished. However, hair loss does have many causes. Sometimes genetics like male or female pattern baldness or alopecia can play a role. Stress, medical treatments like chemotherapy, thyroid disease, anemia, autoimmune diseases, and hormone issues may also cause the loss of hair.
In some of these cases, hair loss is unavoidable. In other cases, hair loss is triggered by lifestyle choices that you can control which means you may be able to make changes that help you protect your hair. One lifestyle choice you make is in your everyday diet. If you are not getting certain nutrients from food, you might see the effects on your hair. A healthy diet can help your hair stay strong and shiny.
When it comes to eating healthfully, variety is the key! Providing your body with a variety of foods will make sure you are giving your body an array of nutrients necessary for many body processes, including hair growth and strength. Here is a list of some great foods that play a key role in the health of your hair, and bonus, as well as your skin and nails.
- Essential fatty acids (especially those rich in omega-3s)
Fat in the diet plays an important role in keeping your hair, nails, and skin healthy. Some foods to choose from include salmon, tuna, mackerel, flaxseeds, chia seeds, olive oil, and walnuts.
Fatty acids are part of the hair’s cuticle and cortical cell membrane and play a crucial role in keeping hair healthy, shiny, manageable, and strong. A few studies have suggested that fats, particularly omega-3s, may aid in hair growth and thickness. One study found that taking omega-3 and omega-6 supplements resulted in 90% of the participants reporting thicker hair with noticeably less hair loss. However, getting it from your food will offer even more benefits without the side effects of supplements.
Protein is the building block for all cells in the body, including hair. If you are not eating enough protein, your hair can become weak and brittle. Sometimes a lack of protein can lead to hair loss. Excellent sources of protein are lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and soy products.
Hair follicles are among the most metabolically active parts of the body. Decreased protein and calorie intake may explain someone’s unexplained hair loss. If you are noticing lackluster hair or are shedding more hair than normal, it would be important to ensure you are getting enough protein.
One study looking at premature graying found it was associated with a deficiency in folate as well as biotin and vitamin B12. There is more research looking at whether folate can help with hair growth. Folate is primarily responsible for healthy cell and tissue growth. Sources of folate in the diet include citrus fruits, tomatoes, whole-grain and fortified-grain products, beans, and lentils.
- Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 aids in cell metabolism. Most people get an adequate amount of vitamin B6 through their diet, making supplementation unnecessary. There has been research looking at the connection between vitamin B complex and hair loss, but there has been no confirmed link. It is best to focus on getting these nutrients from the diet. The best sources include beef, fish, bananas, avocado, peas, chickpeas, potatoes (both white and sweet), spinach, whole-grain and fortified-grain products, nuts, eggs, and dairy.
- Vitamin B12
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can result in hair loss. Following a vegan or vegetarian diet that is not balanced with adequate nutrients often results in vitamin B12 deficiency. Other signs of a deficiency include anemia and fatigue. However, if you have adequate amounts of vitamin B12, studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin B12 will not improve hair growth or appearance. Regularly including red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy can help boost your vitamin B12.
Iron plays a critical role in hair growth and health. Iron deficiency is a prime cause of hair loss, especially among women. Iron helps the body produce hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all of the cells. This helps to repair cells, which includes the hair. Women of childbearing age and those who do not eat meat are at the greatest risk. If you are a vegetarian or vegan focusing on beans, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, spinach, and other dark, green leafy vegetables can help boost your iron. However, the body does not absorb plant-based iron well. Including a source of vitamin C with your iron-rich foods can help to improve absorption. Animal-based sources are the best sources of iron and include shellfish and red meat.
Similar to iron, a zinc deficiency can cause hair loss. Inadequate intake can also damage the hair causing breakage. Fortunately, many foods contain zinc so it’s best to focus on a varied, balanced diet. Red meat, lamb, pork, shellfish, dark chocolate, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, chickpeas, lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, whole-grain and fortified-grain products, eggs, and dairy are all great sources of zinc.
Biotin is often promoted as a solution for healthy hair through supplementation. Did you know that it is even better for your hair to choose foods rich in biotin? Biotin stimulates keratin production in hair and can increase the rate of follicle growth. Although supplements are often recommended for those looking for solutions for their hair, biotin is not stored in the body for long. To be most effective it’s best to get it from the foods you eat. Choosing more eggs, bananas, avocados, broccoli, mushrooms, peanuts, soybeans, nuts, seeds, and sweet potatoes can help you reap the benefits. Biotin is often added to hair products and cosmetics but there is little evidence that this form of biotin actually reduces hair loss. Adding more biotin-rich foods to the diet will not only provide benefits to your hair but also your whole body.
Now it is easy to see why eating a variety of foods is necessary for providing key nutrients for healthy hair. Here at Seattle Sutton, we believe that by providing our customers with a 5-week cycle menu, no repeats in 35 days, you are guaranteed to get the most variety with a balance of all these key nutrients in our meals. Enjoy the deliciousness while growing healthy hair!