Just because the visible part of the hair (the shaft) is considered non-living doesn’t mean that you don’t need to feed it. The shaft is only one small part of your hair. Below the skin there is a whole system of cells that need a constant supply of key nutrients. Even the ‘dead’ shaft itself needs proteins to retain its strong and healthy state.
The same way your skin is an important indicator of your dietary lifestyle, your hair’s look and feel says a lot about what you eat and your overall health.
Many of us want hair that is lustrous, thick and grows at the speed of light. There is no magic food or ancient herb that will do this. But a combination of nutrients from certain foods can help boost hair growth and health. You can call them hair super foods.
Luckily, they are not found in some distant country nor are they rare and expensive. They are just everyday foods that you can easily and inexpensively add to your daily diet.
Below, we look at these foods as well as specific vitamins that can work wonders on your hair.
Best foods for hair growth and health
1. Salmon and other Omega-3 rich foods
The body does not make Omega-3 fatty acids. The only source is the food you eat. Omega-3 is one of the two essential groups of fatty acids (the other is Omega-6) that the body cannot live without.
One of the most important roles of Omega-3 fatty acids is to keep your hair and scalp hydrated. They prevent your scalp from becoming flaky, dry and itchy. As for the hair itself, Omega-3 gives it some extra shine and vibrant look. They also keep your hair well hydrated, which is important in preventing dullness, breakage and split ends.
With full health and good hydration, your hair is likely to grow much faster and gain more volume. If you have damaged hair, Omega-3 fatty acids will help nurture it back to health.
Sea foods such as salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel and herring are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. If you cannot access sea food where you live, there are certain plants that also provide these essential nutrients. They include avocados, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, canola oil and soybean oil.
As a bonus, foods rich in Omega-3 will also improve the appearance and health of your skin and nails.
2. Lean meat and other protein-rich foods
Your hair is mostly protein, specifically a type of protein called keratin. So it makes sense that you need to eat enough proteins to keep your hair healthy. Protein-rich foods are especially important if you want to accelerate hair growth. In fact, having too little protein in your diet has been linked to hair loss.
Experts recommend that adults take in around 46 to 56g of proteins daily for healthy hair. Generally, as long as you are eating a healthy balanced diet with enough protein sources, you are good.
But if you think you are not getting enough protein, add a protein-rich food to every meal. Lean meats are some of the best sources of proteins. They include chicken, turkey, flank steak, lean ground beef, lamb chops and pheasant. Low-fat dairy products and eggs are also good sources.
Make sure you also add plant proteins such as nuts, beans, grains, soy products and most legumes. Certain vegetables such as kale, sprouts, mushroom, peas and artichokes also contain proteins.
3. Leafy green vegetables and other iron-rich foods
Anaemia is a condition caused by iron deficiency in the body. Among its many negative health effects, one of the most visible ones is hair loss. Too little iron in the blood reduces nutrient supply to the hair follicle and root.
Without these important nutrients, the hair slows down in growth and in severe cases begins to fall off. An iron-rich diet ensures your hair grows normally and gets the nutrients it needs to increase in thickness.
Leafy green vegetables are great sources of iron. Some good options include broccoli, kale, spinach, mustard greens and Swiss chard. Animal products that provide iron in adequate amounts include chicken, red meat, pork and seafood.
4. Whole grains and other zinc-rich foods
Zinc is another mineral whose deficiency in the body can lead to hair loss. It also causes your hair and scalp to appear duller and feel drier.
Animal foods such as seafood, meat, chicken, eggs and turkey are rich in zinc. Some good vegan sources include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and legumes.
Important vitamins for hair growth and health
So which vitamins are good for healthy hair growth? One of the most important vitamins for your hair is Vitamin C. It helps the body absorb iron, an extremely important mineral for your hair. Experts recommend eating vitamin C-rich foods such as fruits and sweet potatoes alongside iron-rich foods.
Another important vitamin is Vitamin A. It is an essential ingredient for your hair’s natural conditioner, sebum. Sebum keeps your scalp and hair soft, shiny and well hydrated. It helps prevent hair loss and breakage. Vitamin A rich foods include eggs, cod liver oil and orange-coloured vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
There is also Vitamin E which provides damage protection to hair, allowing it to grow without falling off. Vitamin E is especially important in UV protection. Some good foods to eat to get this vitamin include nuts (especially almonds), spinach, avocado and kale.
Finally, check your intake of biotin, a type of B-vitamin. Biotin deficiency has been linked to hair loss and brittle hair. Some good foods to eat are egg yolk, whole grains, nuts and soybeans.
Should you take hair vitamin supplements?
Diet should always be your first solution when it comes to boosting hair growth. Under normal circumstances, supplements are unnecessary if you are eating a healthy and balanced diet that provides all the minerals and vitamins mentioned above.
But in some situations, hair vitamin supplements may be necessary. For instance, if you have a vitamin deficiency caused by a medical or genetic condition, supplements can help. Experts also recommend the use of vitamin supplements as a last resort for people experiencing hair loss.
If you are going to use vitamin supplements, make sure you buy the right ones (check our Hairburst review and Viviscal review). It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and get recommendations for supplements that will actually help you.