This post has been updated since its initial publication date to include more expert information.
Hair loss is a common yet frustrating struggle that can leave a significant dent in your self-esteem, making it increasingly difficult to style the hair you have. Due to various causes, some preventable and others not so much, hair loss also has a series of potential treatments, starting with growth supplements and ending with stimulating products to be applied directly to the scalp.
If you suffer from hair loss and feel like you’ve tried all the topical remedies, there’s one thing that can make a significant impact on your hair without breaking the bank: your diet. We spoke with Dr. Dominic Burg, Chief Scientist, Hair Biologist, Microbiologist and Trichologist at evolis Professional, and Amy Neuzil, ND of ToHealthWithThat.com for an idea of the best food to incorporate into your daily routine for hair growth, and this is what he had to say.
While, by all appearances, your hair is a marker of beauty, struggling with hair loss can also be an indicator that something is wrong with your internal health. So working towards a healthier body through your diet will naturally also have a positive impact on your strands. “The condition of our hair is often the first thing to be affected if there is a nutrient imbalance, illness or stress. So if you are experiencing thinning hair or thinning hair, brittle hair and nails, or dull skin, you need to take a holistic view of your health and nutrient intake,” explains Burg. That said, there are three specific nutrients you should be prioritizing in your foods to encourage hair growth.
While there are a variety of nutrients that can help boost your hair’s strength, zinc, found in shellfish and red meat, is one of the most important for the growth of weak, weak hair. Often found in animal-based proteins, it’s notably harder for those following a plant-based diet to get adequate zinc, and these diets actually require more of it.
“The challenging aspect of these diets is that they contain a large number of foods rich in molecules known as phytates, particularly legumes, seeds, nuts and grains. Phytates bind nutrients such as zinc and prevent their absorption, so those on high-altitude diets plant-based diets need to increase their intake of these nutrients, sometimes needing 150% of the intake of meat-containing diets,” notes Burg. However, maintaining adequate zinc intake will help your hair grow for stronger and more durable strands.
Vitamin D, found in foods such as fish, egg yolks and red meat, is essential for increasing hair strength as it can help stimulate hair growth from the root to repair damage. Consuming a balanced diet will help you get enough of this vitamin naturally, but if you follow a plant-based diet, it may be helpful to include a supplement to fill the gap.
That said, vitamin D can also be found in foods like soy milk and mushrooms, stimulating hair growth and allowing stronger, healthier strands to develop. It’s worth noting that by ingesting any of these nutrients, you can’t expect to see changes overnight, but you can see results in your hair’s shine and strength in just a few weeks with a more balanced, healthier diet.
Vitamin B is undeniably one of the best nutrients for stronger hair, but it’s also one of the hardest to get on a vegetarian or vegan diet (learn how to get more protein on a vegan diet!). With that said, foods like tempeh, nutritional yeast, and nuts will be your best bet as sources of ample B vitamins, and when all else fails, consider integrating a supplement into your routine after consulting with a healthcare professional.
“B vitamins help maintain energy production necessary for hair growth, as well as other important metabolic functions, for example, B6 helps replenish neurotransmitters affected by stress,” explains Burg.
And finally, adding vitamin E to your daily diet is a great way to add volume to thinning hair. Nuts, specifically, are a food group rich in vitamin E, with almonds being the top choice for giving you the thick, silky hair of your dreams.
In particular, eating nuts helps provide your body with healthy protein, vitamin E, and fatty acids, according to Neuzil. “An ounce of roasted almonds provides 5% of your daily biotin and also 37% of your vitamin E, which increased hair growth by 34% in one study,” she reveals. Plus, “Almonds are also a great source of other beneficial hair nutrients like zinc and essential fatty acids.” Because almonds tend to contain more biotin than other nuts — like peanuts and walnuts — they make a perfect health (and beauty) snack. You can add almonds to your oatmeal in the morning to boost your metabolism! Once you prioritize these nutrients in your diet, Burg says you can expect changes in hair growth speed within several months, with significantly reduced shedding.