Although the causes of hair loss are many — including genetics, age, hormones, nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, medications and autoimmunity — changing the diet can, in many cases, be helpful. “Proper diet and supplements can slow or reverse hair loss, and make the hair thicker and healthier,” says nutritionist Dr. Joseph Debé.
Below are 17 nutrient-rich foods that have been shown to keep hair healthy and full. And while we're on the subject of aging, you won't want to miss our exclusive report: 30 Foods You Should Never Eat After Age 30.
In some cases (particularly in women), a mineral deficiency is the cause of hair loss. “It’s important to make sure you don’t have a lack of something in your diet that could be leading to hair loss,” says dermatologist Dr. Carolyn Jacob. “We check protein levels, iron, iron storage, vitamin D and a number of other labs to make sure you don’t have deficiencies.” Spinach is iron rich and it contains sebum, which acts as a natural conditioner for hair. The leafy green also provides omega-3 acids, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. All help keep hair lustrous, shiny and, most importantly, out of the drain. Spinach is only one of the 8 Superfoods You Should Eat Every Day!
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 since 500 B.C. Greek yogurt is rich in vitamin B5 (known as pantothenic acid), which helps with blood flow to your scalp and hair growth. Check out our picks for the Best Greek Yogurts for Weight Loss!
The human body can do a lot of crazy stuff, like turning sunlight into bone-strengthening vitamin D. Something it can’t do, however, is make omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory. They can help if you have inflammation that’s causing hair shedding,” says Jacob. It’s best to get omega-3s from natural sources, such as salmon and cold-water fish like sardines and mackerel. 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 Debé, 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.
It smells like the holiday season and improves circulation, which brings oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles. Sprinkle this evocative spice on your toast and in your coffee, and stir it into your . . .
Oats are rich in iron, fiber, zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which stimulate hair growth, making it thick and healthy.
Vitamin C prevents hair from becoming brittle and breaking. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, researchers tested an oral supplement containing vitamin C in women with thinning hair. They found the supplement promoted “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. We’ve rounded up 6 more foods that are the Best Sources of Vitamin C.
Eggs are packed with a B vitamin called biotin, which helps hair grow and strengthens brittle fingernails. Not having enough of this vitamin can lead to hair loss. Other good sources of biotin: almonds, avocados and salmon.
Not only great for your hair, eggs can also aid with weight loss. Find out the best ways to cook eggs in this short video.
Full of protein, iron, zinc and biotin, lentils also have plenty of folic acid. The body needs folic acid to restore the health of red blood cells that supply skin and scalp with hair-healthening oxygen. Foods rich in folic acid are also good for healthy sperm.
Zinc is an important mineral for overall health. When you don't have enough, you can experience hair loss — even in your eyelashes! Debé notes that zinc supplementation has been shown to improve hair loss in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). How? Zinc helps the cells responsible for building hair do their thing. You can also find rich stores of zinc in beef, crab and lobster.
As 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 pastas. Liver may sound much less appetizing, but if you like pâté, your hair will benefit. Organ meats like liver have iron in abundance. Pâté could help cover your pate.
Notice how your muscles don’t grow (and even shrink) when you’re not getting enough protein? The same thing might happen to your hair. Without sufficent dietary protein, hair essentially goes on strike. Less new hair will replace what’s falling out (about 50-100 hairs a day), and you’ll experience a net hair loss. To get protein from meat, pick lean options like chicken, fish, grass-fed beef or lean pork loin. They have less saturated fat than the stuff you’ll find sealed in styrofoam dishes at the supermarket.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can actually absorb damaging UV light and protect skin cells. It also repairs sun damage on the scalp, which can cause hair to thin. In one study, “Tocotrienols, or different types of vitamin E supplements, were studied for eight months in patients with hair loss,” says Debé. Thirty-eight people received the supplement, and some received a placebo. The supplemented group had a 34% improvement in hair growth.” Debé notes that although the amount of tocotrienols used in this study is difficult to get from diet alone, barley is a very good source.
Nuts and Seeds
“There are a few research-proven options to consider for male pattern baldness,” says Debé. “These include tocotrienols, saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol. A good food source for beta sitosterol is pistachios”. Walnuts and other nuts contain oils that add to the amount of elastin in your hair. Elastin keeps hair supple and stops it from breaking. Walnuts are just one of the 6 Best Nuts for Weight loss!
Dermatologists treating hair loss look at the level of ferritin in your blood, because they can deduce what your body is doing with all the iron they told you to add to your diet during your initial consultation. If you’d been eating plenty of bok choy— which is super iron rich—they would likely see a spike in your ferritin levels.
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: Carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, mangoes and — oh yeah — sweet potatoes.
Besides iron, another important mineral for keeping the shine off your dome is magnesium. Halibut has plenty of magnesium, as do several other types of fish.
Copper may help hair maintain its natural color — even if you don’t happen to be ginger, apparently. A 2012 study showed that low copper intake could be linked to premature graying. Shiitake mushrooms are rich in the mineral. Other copper-rich foods include seaweed and sesame seeds.