When it comes to thick, healthy hair, the most important diet-related step you can take is to fill your plate with mostly plant-based foods. Follow a Mediterranean-style plan and regularly eat protein from nutrient-dense sources, fiber-filled veggies and fruit, 100% whole grains, and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils. A balanced diet will help you get enough of the key nutrients that keep skin, hair, and nails in great shape.
The Best Vitamins and Nutrients for Hair
• Omega-3 fatty acids
• Vitamins A, C, D, and E
• B vitamins
Colorful fruits and veggies provide a variety of antioxidants (like vitamins A, C, and E) necessary for cell regeneration. They act like a “shield” that keeps your hair follicles and the skin on your scalp in the best shape possible. Eggs, seafood, unsweetened dairy products (like yogurt), poultry, legumes, and beans provide protein, a.k.a. the building blocks for your cells. Dairy products are also packed with crucial minerals like zinc and calcium, and often get fortified with the beneficial vitamins A and D. Choose 100% whole grains for fiber, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. Barley, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, and bulgur are all great choices. B vitamins serve as helpers to the metabolic reactions going in your body, enabling your body to use the protein, carbs, and fat you eat more efficiently — especially in the cells that make up your skin and hair tissues.
The only foods I’d urge you to consider replacing are the nutrient-poor ones — a.k.a. processed and packaged foods. Many of these come loaded with the stuff you just don’t need, rather than nourishing your body with the nutrients that promote cell regeneration or minimize skin cell breakdown. They’re also won’t do your body’s probiotics any favors. This friendly bacteria again helps with nutrient absorption, bolstering your hair, skin, and nails.
If you’ve recently noticed significant hair loss, your first step is to check with your physician. It could indicate an underlying medical condition. You should especially talk to your doctor before trying any hair supplements. While the additional B vitamins can help in specific cases(like if you have an underlying condition causing a deficiency), they can also cause negative effects, like dangerously altering lab test results. Supplements also often provide unnecessary biotin that far exceeds what your body can actually use. Considering that most people can get all the B vitamins they need in food, buying these supplements is likely just a waste of money.
Load up on the food groups listed above and you’re primed for results, but here are some specific key all-stars to add to your grocery cart for healthy hair, ASAP:
As a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, salmon has many health benefits beyond supporting hair, including reducing inflammation and benefiting your central nervous system (a.k.a. your brain).
Eggs are chock full of protein and essential nutrients that contribute to hair health, such as choline and vitamins A, D, and B12 . Make sure you keep the yolk in your scramble to get the most vitamin D, though. Two specific carotenoids found in eggs, lutein and zeaxanthin, also play a role in maintaining cellular health, especially of eyes, skin, and hair.
A ¼ cup serving packs up to 9 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and a unique profile of antioxidants. Peanuts are also super filling, which is why they’re an ideal swap for meat if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
Spinach is packed with magnesium, iron, and folate, one of those all-important B vitamins. Other leafy greens like kale also offer nutrient-dense benefits for skin and hair.
While we’re used to hearing about the heart-healthy benefits of salmon, omega-3 and vitamin D-packed sardines come readily and cheaply available in canned form. (Just buy them in water, not oil!) Try adding sardines to salads and spreads as a lower-mercury alternative to other fatty fish.
Looking for a vegetarian or vegan source of omega-3s? Chia seeds are full of them, not to mention fiber, protein, and antioxidants. These tiny, shelf-stable seeds can go in anything from soups to cereal, smoothies to puddings, and even as a heart-healthy boost in baked goods.
A half cup of your favorite squashcontains just a mere 83 calories and less than a gram of fat. Plus, it’s loaded with iron and beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A — an important antioxidant for your skin, as well as vitamins C and E that help repair your body’s cells from damage. Load up on the canned puree and use it in sauces, protein dishes, and even in snacks to help keep hair at its healthiest.
Like other plant-based foods, grapescontain polyphenolic compounds with antioxidant properties, which may help reduce cellular damage. Eating about a cup of grapes per day can help to protect your tissues from inflammation.
Buckwheat is a gluten-free seed (not a grain!) and its benefits are endless. Buckwheat is filled with key antioxidants and fiber, which can help you fill up faster. Use it as a swap for oatmeal at breakfast or rice in stir-frys, and try buckwheat-based Udon when making ramen or other noodle dishes.
If you’re aiming to load up on fiber (which, ahem, we all should be!), whole-grain pastas are a prime choice. A 100% whole-grain wheat flour will pack up to 7 grams fiber and 8 grams protein per 2-ounce serving. Think of this meal as an easy way to load up on extra veggies — fresh, frozen, or canned.
Tomatoes come packed with vitamin C, which assists several enzymes in doing their jobs. One of those jobs is the formation and maintenance of the collagen — the structural protein found in your skin.
These four are all considered pulses, a.k.a. the dry, edible seeds of veggies. They’re packed with plant-based protein and fiber, making them super filling and often more cost effective than buying meat. Try pulse-based products like Banza pasta and RightRice instead of the traditional refined-grain versions for a nutrition boost.
The B vitamin folate is found in abundance in asparagus, as well as avocados, oranges, and broccoli. This nutrient is responsible for gene synthesis and red blood cell formation. It also plays a big part in breaking down protein, therefore providing the building blocks of hair follicles.
Unsweetened plain Greek yogurt and its friend skyr contains tons of protein and they’re ultra versatile, lending themselves to both sweet-but-tart breakfasts (think smoothies and parfaits) and savory fare (like dips and condiments). The greatest attribute of yogurt: the probiotics, the good bacteria that helps your body absorb nutrients. Choose brands that have five strains or more of bacterial cultures per 6-ounce serving.