The speed at which your hair grows depends on a variety of factors including your age, genetics, medical history, and diet.
Essential nutrients that help maintain healthy, natural hair include vitamins A, B-complex (especially biotin), C, D and E, plus zinc, iron, protein, and essential fatty acids.
Best food for hair growth includes eggs, berries, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and red meat.
Certain foods may interfere with hair and scalp health, including greasy foods, alcohol, and high-mercury fish.
Who doesn’t want thick, healthy hair and a healthy scalp? Regardless of hairstyles and beauty trends, it seems that growing strong, shiny, bouncy locks is a universal wellness goal.
You might not realize it, but the hair on your head grows continuously in cycles. In fact, a whopping 80 percent of hair is actively growing at any given time, with the remaining 20 percent either “resting” or getting ready to die and fall out.1
Keep in mind that the speed at which your hair grows depends on a variety of factors including your age, genetics, medical history, and diet. You can actually do a lot to promote healthy hair. But the best place to start is to look at what you’re eating.
But what’s the best food for hair growth? What essential nutrients should you include in your diet? Read on to learn how you can support your hair growth naturally, with food.
How Do Certain Nutrients Support Healthy Hair?
Before diving into specific foods to eat for strong, thick strands, it helps to understand the role that certain nutrients play in supporting hair health. Here’s a quick rundown:
Vitamin A: Helps skin glands make sebum, an oily substance that moisturizes the scalp and helps maintain healthy hair. Research shows that too little vitamin A can cause hair concerns.2 Although there is no upper intake level for Provitamin A carotenoids (beta carotene for example), ingesting very high levels of preformed Vitamin A can be toxic. Ingesting too much preformed Vitamin A can have adverse effects on hair.2
B Vitamins: As part of the B family of vitamins, some of the benefits of biotin is that it helps process the amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, and protein in the foods you eat and convert them into valuable energy. Also known as Vitamin B7, biotin not only helps fuel your body, it helps support healthy hair, skin and nails. That’s why biotin is a common ingredient in hair, skin, and nail supplements.3
Biotin deficiency is linked to shedding, brittle hair, and skin rashes.4 Other B vitamins also help with hair growth by making red blood cells, which transport nutrients and oxygen to the scalp hair follicles.2
Vitamin C: The antioxidant properties of Vitamin C help protect cells from the damaging oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which can impede growth and lead to hair aging.11 Vitamin C is a nutrient that is required to make Collagen, a protein important to hair structure.13
Vitamin D: Normal levels of Vitamin D are associated with skin cells that produce keratin which is needed for healthy hair.6
Vitamin E: Just like Vitamin C, the antioxidant properties of Vitamin E help protect cells from the damaging effects caused by free radicals.7
Iron: This nutrient aids red blood cells in transporting oxygen to cells and plays an important role in many body functions, including hair growth. And iron deficiency (the world’s most common nutritional deficiency) is a well-known cause of hair concerns.8
Zinc: This key nutrient helps maintain the proper functioning of oil glands around hair follicles and plays a vital role in hair tissue growth and repair.12Zinc deficiency is also associated with hair concerns.9
Protein: Because hair follicles are made of mostly protein, it’s important to eat protein-rich food.
What Should I Eat To Support Healthy Hair?
When it comes to maintaining healthy hair, start by eating a balanced, healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables (especially leafy greens), whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. As you can see from the variety of nutrients involved in hair health, a balanced diet plays an important role in your head-to-toe health—including your hair.
If you notice your hair thinning or you’re losing a lot of hair, talk with your doctor to see if any underlying health issues might be at the root of the problem (excuse the pun), ranging from illnesses to nutrient deficiencies.
What are the best foods for hair growth and thickness? Add the following foods to your healthy eating plan to boost your intake of key nutrients that support healthy hair.
Berries (blueberries, strawberries)
Fatty fish (herring, salmon, anchovies) & Seafood (clams, oysters and especially fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and herring)
Spinach (as well as kale and other dark leafy greens)
Sweet potatoes (as well as carrots and pumpkins and other foods rich in beta-carotene—the precursor to Vitamin A)
Fortified foods (such as fortified cereal)
Whole grains (including wheat germ)
The above foods that support hair growth contain at least one or more of the following key nutrients: Vitamin A, B Vitamins (especially Biotin), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E, as well as Iron, Zinc, Protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids. (Nutrition data from USDA’s FoodData Central)
What Foods Are Bad For Hair?
Certain foods may interfere with bodily functions involved in the health of your scalp and hair:8
Sweets (think processed foods high in sugar)
Too much animal protein
Foods low in iron and zinc
Greasy food (foods made with trans fats)
High-mercury fish (swordfish)
What you eat plays a huge role in the health of your hair. If your diet lacks essential vitamins and minerals—including vitamins A, B-complex (especially biotin), C, D and E, plus zinc, iron, protein, and essential fatty acids—this may contribute to hair concerns or cause slower hair growth. The best food for hair growth includes eggs, avocados, berries, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and other foods high in the key nutrients mentioned above. However, if you're having trouble getting enough of these nutrient-rich foods in your diet, consider taking a supplement like Biotin gummies.
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
10 Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. “Effects of different dietary protein levels and DL-methionine supplementation on hair growth and pelt quality in mink.” December 2013. Accessed on: November 1, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23020079/
Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.
Melissa is a registered dietitian (RD) and works in our Medical and Scientific Communications department as a Science and Health Educator. She has worked for Pharmavite for over 20 years educating consumers, healthcare practitioners, retailers and employees about nutrition, dietary supplements and overall wellness. Prior to joining the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Melissa launched and managed Pharmavite’s Consumer Relations department. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and completed her dietetic internship at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in East Orange New Jersey.
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