We all know that eating the right nutrients has been proven to be beneficial for our overall health. It’s been said time and again that a nutritious diet isn’t only crucial for our physical well-being, but that our outward appearance is affected by what we put into our bodies as well. Championing a balanced diet comprised of fresh, natural ingredients versus over-processed meals or fast food affects our health, skin, nails, energy levels and hair. For the latter, in particular, how it looks and feels definitely depends not only on how we care and style it but also on the quality of nutrition we take in.
A lot of us might still need more insight on which nutrients can help with growth or at least prevent hair loss or breakage. The good news is that there are certain vitamins and minerals we can take to help prevent hair loss, and that eating the right foods as well as finding the right supplements to boost the nutrients you need is definitely helpful in maintaining a healthy head of hair and even promoting more growth.
Do men and women need to consume the same nutrition for hair?
Recent studies have shown that women lose hair differently than men, as the endocrine system—male and female hormones—plays a part in compromised hair health. Clinicians have now created hair loss diagnostic tools that are specifically geared towards each gender.
One hair loss study has found that the major difference between men and women is that women are also more iron-deficient than men. The study stated that hair loss is common, “with close to 50 percent of men and women affected by pattern hair loss by age 50.” Women become iron-deficient via menstruation and the varying states of menopause (pre, menopause and post); therefore, their nutrient needs are different from men’s needs for hair growth.
When it comes to nutrition, and a diet specifically geared towards women with the aim for hair growth, women should concentrate on foods that contain biotin, B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as iron-rich foods.
Ed’s note: That avo toast with salmon on the side is sounding even more appetizing, now that we know we’re literally doing our body—and our iron levels!—more good.)
Read on as we break down the necessary nutrients you might find valuable to add to your current diets, and thus aid in your quest for thicker, healthier-looking hair:
5 Best Nutrients for Hair Growth
Switching to plant-based foods is said to be helpful in general, as plant-based meals are high in nutrients and proteins that can either prevent hair loss and in some cases, even promote growth. When in the supermarket, stay away from processed foods and go for those that are dense in nutrients and proteins: eggs, unsweetened yogurt, chicken, fish, beans and legumes are great places to start.
Try to add 100 percent whole grains like barley, amaranth, bulgur, quinoa and buckwheat to a healthy eating plan as well, as these whole grains are packed with B vitamins, proteins and fibers that can also promote healthy hair growth.
Stay away from processed sugar and foods that turn into sugar when consumed. Those foods include pasta, bread and most desserts. Instead, try consuming foods known to help promote healthy hair. Below, we list the most important nutrients you should keep on your radar, plus which foods have them:
1. Vitamin A and Iron
Dark leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in Vitamin A, a vitamin that can promote hair growth by helping maintain a healthy sebum production. Sebum moisturizes your scalp and hair strand, encouraging a smooth, hydrated shaft; it also protects the scalp and hair from the elements and oxidative or “free radical” damage (which can cause aging). Having healthy oil levels in your scalp also helps prevent hair follicles from regressing. Add to that that spinach is also a great source of iron, which is another mineral that helps red blood cells oxygenate the body, thus improving circulation in the hair follicle which encourages hair growth.
Sweet potatoes are another great food to incorporate into your diet, as it also contains Vitamin A and biotin, a B-complex vitamin that when deficient, can lead to hair loss.
2. Vitamin B
As mentioned, biotin, a water-soluble form of Vitamin B7, is an essential micronutrient that helps convert the food we eat into energy and carries oxygen and nutrients to our scalps, a process which aids in hair growth. Hair loss is a symptom of biotin deficiency, so making sure you get a balanced amount of this nutrient in the form of egg yolks, whole grains, wheat and oats, almonds, fatty fish and seafood, white mushrooms and spinach can help.
Hair care products have also taken to including biotin in their formulations to help strengthen hair. TRESemme Biotin + Repair 7 Shampoo and Biotin + Repair 7 Conditioner is a biotin-infused system that helps repair dry, brittle hair against the most common types of damage—namely bleaching, blow-drying, braiding, brushing, coloring, curling and straightening—that can lead to breakage.
3. Folate (Folic Acid)
Folic acid helps with healthy cell and tissue growth including those in our hair and nails, so foods that supplement them such as legumes, asparagus, bananas, Brussels sprouts, nuts, leafy greens like kale, spinach and arugula, beets, eggs and citrus fruits are all great ways to keep folic acid deficiency-related hair loss at bay.
4. Vitamin C and E
Known as a powerhouse antioxidant that also helps with iron absorption (which is key to hair growth!), Vitamin C keeps oxidative stress at bay and also helps with collagen production, which is always a good thing! Free radicals can block hair growth and cause hair and cell aging, so making sure you’re all squared up with citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, peppers and guavas can help keep your cells protected against damage and guard against brittleness, breakage or premature hair fall.
Like Vitamin C, Vitamin E also helps against free radical damage. Avocados, almonds, sunflower seeds and spinach are great sources of this nutrient.
Hair loss is also a symptom of a zinc deficiency, so if you’re lacking in this nutrient, try supplementing your diet with whole foods and oysters, lentils, pumpkin seeds, spinach and yes, beef! Zinc aids in hair growth and tissue repair, not to mention making sure your follicles’ sebum or oil is at a healthy level; it helps balance the turnover rate of skin cells and the secretion of fatty acids from your oil glands—which, BTW, is why dandruff shampoos, such as Dove Dermacare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, use it as an active ingredient as well in the form of Pyrithione Zinc.
A basic rule of thumb is to take a holistic approach by incorporating foods and a supplement like Nutrafol that contains Vitamin A, the B vitamins, iron, zinc and protein, and whose breakthrough formula also contains antioxidants like ashwagandha (an adaptogen that helps balance cortisol and strengthen the body’s natural response to stress) and tocotrienol (a powerful form of Vitamin E) to help support healthy hair growth.
Supplements that are tailored specifically for each gender can also boost hair growth and overall hair health. Nutrafol has created a line of natural, medical-grade supplements that target the root causes that impact hair health in both men and women. Take their quiz and find out which supplement will best assist in your hair growth journey.