The Best Foods for Hair Growth, According to Dietitians
Who else remembers when washing your hair with Mane n' Tail (a shampoo and conditioner combo originally designed for horses) became all the rage for growing your own, well, mane? While it's tempting to believe that one product can be the turnkey for growing luscious, long locks, the truth is more complicated. A wide range of factors — from genetics to hormones to nutrition — help determine how fast your hair grows. So take your healthy hair goals one step at a time starting with what you eat. Below, experts discuss the best food for hair growth by breaking down the essential nutrients and vitamins that contribute to healthy, long hair. (More: How to Eat Healthy Without Giving Up Anything)
"Eating for optimal health and healthy hair go hand-in-hand," says Samantha Cassetty, M.S., R.D., nutrition and wellness expert and co-author of Sugar Shock. "In both cases, getting sufficient protein while also focusing on wholesome plant foods will help ensure that you get the nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds tied to healthier hair." In other words, a diet that's diverse and rich in vitamins and minerals from foods that help hair growth will give you your best shot at avoiding hair loss related to nutrient deficiencies. (Related: A Guide to the Essential Nutrients — and Why Your Body Needs Them)
That said, there are six major nutrients found in the best foods for healthy hair that are most responsible for promoting hair growth, according to Cassetty. "Healthy hair depends on certain nutrients, such as protein, biotin, vitamin A, and vitamin C," she says. Iron and omega-3 fatty acids are two other major players in the hair growth game, she adds. Here's why each nutrient is so important for staving off hair loss and promoting hair growth.
Vitamins and Nutrients In the Best Foods for Hair Growth
- Protein: "Protein is vital for healthy hair, and while a protein deficiency isn't common in the United States, people who are vegan or trying to reduce their meat consumption need to pay more attention to their protein intake," explains Cassetty.
- Biotin: Biotin is one of the most well-known hair nutrients for a reason, according to Cassetty. "A deficiency can promote hair thinning and loss. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are at higher risk for deficiency [due to impaired absorption during pregnancy]," she says.
- Vitamin A: "Low vitamin A status is associated with hair loss in animals, but too much vitamin A is also tied to hair loss in humans. Appropriate vitamin A intake can help maintain the health of cells that surround the hair follicle, which is needed for healthy hair growth," explains Cassetty.
- Vitamin C: Here's a fun fact: Vitamin C stimulates collagen, which is a main component of keratin, the type of protein that makes up your hair.
- Iron: An estimated 10 million people in America live with iron deficiencies — a key nutrient for healthy hair growth. "An iron deficiency can produce hair loss, and iron deficiency isn't that uncommon. It's associated with certain GI conditions, a vegan diet, an unhealthy diet, and a heavy period," says Cassetty.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: "The phenomenons of [psychological] stress, inflammation, and oxidative stress may contribute to hair thinning, so antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, like omega-3 fatty acids, may help to promote healthy hair," and hair growth, says Cassetty.
Now that you better understand how important nutrition is for your hair health, it's easy to see why the best way to make sure you're getting everything you need in your diet is to focus on the foods that help hair growth. Just keep in mind that nutrition is just one piece of the healthy hair pie. So if you feel like you're losing more strands than usual, or just aren't growing hair as fast as you'd like, it's best to consult an expert. Schedule an appointment with a trichologist, a type of specialist who can evaluate your hair and scalp for issues and recommend treatment, or your doctor who can look into any potential underlying health issues related to hair loss.
Foods That Help Hair Growth