Hair follicles go through a natural cycle, and they need the raw materials, nutrients for hair growth, to be able to do their job. Whether you want to ensure healthy hair growth or you want to fight hair loss, you’ll need these nutrients and the hair growth food that contains them.
In order for nutrients to prevent hair loss, they need to make their way to the follicle. For this reason, blood flow and scalp circulation are also very important to healthy hair growth – the nutrients have to make it to their destination. The right hair growth food, combined with the right products/treatments can vastly improve hair loss issues.
When trying to determine which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss, it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one. Many vitamins and other nutrients work together for total hair health. If you deprive hair follicles of the essential nutrients, they cannot thrive. Foods for hair loss recovery should really be the first line of action. Then we can address other issues such as pattern balding and DHT.
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Follicles Need Hair Growth Food
The hair that you can see and feel is actually dead protein. It’s called Keratin, and its good looks come from a wax coating that’s made out of sebum, a fat-like material. So you don’t feed the hair, you feed the follicle.
The nutrients for hair growth are delivered to the follicle by the bloodstream, and then used to build hair. The hair that you see has already been grown, so it’s the hair that has not actually grown yet that benefits from how the follicle is fed.
It’s also important to eat healthy for the whole body, not just for hair. Many of the same nutrients needed for healthy hair are needed for significant body functions. If we are deficient in any of these nutrients, whatever is available will be used for the more important bodily functions first. So we need to make sure we take in enough to go around.
Getting Nutrients to the Follicle
Since nutrients are delivered to the follicle through the bloodstream, good circulation is essential for these nutrients to prevent hair loss. Cardiovascular exercise and regular activity in general provide the most benefits to circulation. This, combined with a healthy diet of foods for hair loss recovery and growth can can do wonders for your hair.
There are also hair loss products that can improve circulation in the scalp, and work on the foundation of increasing blood flow to the hair follicles. These products include minoxidil and anti-inflammatory shampoos. You may also be interested in individual product reviews on this site, such as this Lipogaine minoxidil review.
The 13 Main Nutrients for Hair Growth (Food Sources Included)
Hair health is related to whole body health. We can’t always rely just on nutrients to prevent hair loss, but they are a requirement. It’s never a bad idea to see a doctor for some strait forward blood work, to rule out any other medical issue that may be causing hair loss.
Before exploring other options to improve your hair, you’ll need to make sure you include the right food for hair growth in your diet. There are many vitamins and minerals suggested when researching the most essential nutrients for hair growth. The following list narrows it down to the top 13.
A lack of zinc can cause hair shedding. Healthy hair follicles need zinc because this mineral regulates growth hormones which are used to manufacture hair. Zinc also helps the scalp produce enough oil in the oil glands to prevent a dry scalp. This reduces dandruff, which is known to cause hair loss.
Sources of zinc
Zinc can be easily obtained by eating nuts, whole grains, eggs, beef, chicken, dark leafy greens and seafood. For nuts, walnuts sit high in the list, and the top seafood choices include shrimp, oysters, and shellfish.
Zinc Supplements are also an option if you don’t feel you’re getting enough of from the foods above.
Iron converts testosterone to estrogen, and hair growth is regulated by hormones, estrogen being one of the most important. An iron deficiency can result in the follicle producing weaker, flaky hair which can easily break and even shed.
For these reasons, a deficiency in iron is a very common cause of thin hair and hair loss in general. This is something women are even more prone to, because they lose significant amounts of iron through their menstrual cycle. A visit to the doctor to check your iron levels is the best way to find out if your iron deficient.
Sources of Iron
There are plenty of iron supplements on the market, but it’s quite easy to get iron from natural sources. Hair growth foods rich in iron include spinach, beans, oats, chicken, eggs, fish, liver, oysters and dairy products.
It’s also worth noting that our systems absorb iron that comes from animal sources the easiest.
The proper amounts of oxygen in our blood is supplied to our hair (and all organs and tissue) by hemoglobin. Copper is needed for hemoglobin and red blood cell production. A lack of copper can lead to weak, unhealthy hair.
Sources of copper
Copper cannot be manufactured by the body, so it is critical that it be provided through food sources or copper supplements. Foods that provide copper include sesame seeds, cashew nuts, meat, seafood and soya.
Consider this – hair is mostly made of protein, an important building block in all body tissue. Healthy hair is highly dependent upon adequate amounts of protein, making it one of the most important nutrients for hair growth. A deficiency can lead to thin, dry, fragile hair that breaks easily, and even to hair loss.
Sources of Protein
All natural sources of food have protein. The highest quality protein comers from chicken. Other excellent sources include eggs, fish, nuts, grains, milk, cheese, lean meats, legumes, and soy beans.
For those vegetarians out there, soya chunks and lentils are a good source of protein as a meat substitute.
5. Vitamin A
The reproduction of cells is assisted by vitamin A and this is important to hair growth and health of our scalp. This nutrient performs as an antioxidant and protects follicles from dangerous free radicals. Vitamin A is also used in the production of sebum, the coating that lubricates hair.
A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to a dry itchy scalp, and dry, brittle hair.
Sources of Vitamin A
Foods rich in vitamin A include many fresh vegetables, such as carrots, lettuce, dried apricots and sweet potatoes. You can also get your vitamin A from eating liver, eggs, fish oil, and dairy products.
Vegans and vegetarians need to make sure they supplement their diet. Vitamin A supplements are easily found online and in local stores.
6. Vitamin B-Complex
Often thought to be just one vitamin, the many B vitamins are referred to as B-complex. They each have different health benefits and together they assist many important bodily functions. The B vitamins are essential nutrients for hair growth.
B1 and B9 protect the scalp from sun damage and B2 supports the metabolism of protein and carbs. B5 contributes to hair follicle and scalp health, while B6 can prevent dermatitis, which can cause hair to thin and slow hair growth.
B7, also known as Biotin (see below), helps hair and nails to grow strong. B 12 supports metabolism, which can impact hair growth and health.
It’s best to try and maintain adequate levels of all B vitamins in B-complex rather than focusing just a select few. A lack of B-Complex can result in malnourished hair, stopping hair regrowth, and even increase shedding.
Sources of Vitamin B-Complex
To get a good intake of B vitamins, we need to eat a variety of food to cover the B-complex. Fruits and vegetables including Leafy greens, broccoli, beetroot, soybeans and oranges. Animal sources include chicken, eggs, tuna, salmon, pork and. Walnuts are an excellent source of B1 and B9, and yogurt contains B5.
Due to there being many vitamins in the B-complex, many will opt to take a B-Complex supplement to ensure they are receiving adequate levels of these nutrients for hair growth.
7. Vitamin C
This is one of the most popular vitamins, and well known for its many health benefits such as boosting our immune system. Vitamin C can also assist hair growth, help prevent hair loss, and even stimulate regrowth. This nutrient is used in the production of collagen, which is vital to healthy tissue and allows hair to grow strong. Our bodies also use Vitamin C to produce tyrosine, an amino acid that synthesizes proteins, helping maintain the strength of hair follicles and strands.
Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant, protecting hair follicle cells from the damage of Oxidation. This important role greatly helps to prevent hair loss. Also on the list of benefits as a hair growth nutrient, vitamin C is used with other nutrients in this list. It works along with vitamin A to build the sebum layer that coats the outside of hair, and helps the body with iron absorption.
A lack of vitamin C can cause split ends, and dry hair which is easily damaged and eventually lost.
Sources of Vitamin C
Foods rich in vitamin C include most fresh vegetables, lemons oranges, lime, papaya, blueberries, Kiwi, and watermelon.
The US Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables for the average adult to get enough vitamin C. While most people get enough of this vitamin for the day from food, vitamin C supplements are also an option if needed.
Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is made from a chemical conversion in your skin when exposed to sunlight. This nutrient plays a big role in many aspects of our well-being. This includes bone growth, calcium absorption and prevention of serious illnesses such as diabetes and thyroid problems which can accelerate hair loss.
There have been studies that suggest that low levels of vitamin D may contribute to excessive hair shedding as well. Some research even suggests that low vitamin D levels may contribute to autoimmune diseases, including alopecia areata. See your doctor of course, and have your levels checked if this is a concern.
People get far less sun exposure these days because much of our work is done indoors. As a result, vitamin D deficiencies have become more common than ever. This is not to suggest we should be ‘baking’ in the hot sun all day of course, but moderate exposure to sunlight can keep this nutrient for hair growth at a healthy level.
Sources of Vitamin D
Ultraviolet light exposure supplements are among the best ways to get adequate amounts of vitamin D. According to this article from The National Center for Biotechnology Information, 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight exposure per day should be sufficient for enough synthesis of vitamin D to occur.
Vitamin D supplements are more often recommended for those who are not getting adequate exposure to sunlight. The recommended intake is 5 mcg daily for adults under 50 years of age, 10 mcg daily for anyone between 50 and 70, and 15 mcg daily for those over 70.
This nutrient is not naturally found in a lot of commonly consumed foods. In fact, most food with the exception of cold water ocean fish is not a good source of vitamin D. Foods that do provide some vitamin D include fish, milk, yogurt, pork, beef, margarine and egg yolks.
9. Vitamin E
This vitamin is well known for its health and beauty perks. One of the main benefits of vitamin E is that it works as a powerful antioxidant. This is very important to regeneration as it protects our body tissue and organs from the damage of free radicals. This of course promotes hair growth and helps repair damaged follicles.
As one of the nutrients to prevent hair loss, vitamin also helps to keep our scalp healthy by assisting in circulation and oil production.
Sources of Vitamin E
Vitamin E has been known to be included in many hair products and homemade treatments but like all nutrients, nothing beats eating nutrient-rich food to provide nourishment from within.
There are quite a few natural sources of vitamin E. These Hair growth foods include almonds, walnuts and raspberries, strawberries, coconut oil, olive oil, Palm oil, sunflower seeds, avocados, wheat germ, nuts, whole grains. Vegetables such as vegetables such spinach, Broccoli, turnip, Avocados, asparagus, sweet potato and tomatoes are also rich in vitamin E.
10. Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids
These are essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. Omega 3 and 6 are anti-inflammatory agents and provide a long list of benefits to our hair.
They nourish the follicles and improve hair strength and thickness, and even increase elasticity. While preventing dry scalp, these omegas assist with circulation and control water loss in our hair.
It seems fatty acids are impressive nutrients for hair growth. Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are also used to build sebum, the shiny coating on hair we mentioned earlier.
Sources of Omega 3 and Omega 6
Based on the perks listed above, it’s safe to say if it contains omega 3 or omega 6, it’s a hair growth food. This includes flaxseed, salmon, hemp, canola oil, olive oil, brazil nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and leafy green vegetables.
Omega Fish Oil Supplements are also a popular source of these healthy fatty acids.
This mineral has gotten quite a bit of attention in recent year for its contribution to hair health. Silica helps balance our levels of magnesium and calcium, to keep our hormones in check. It boosts our immune systems and is used by every part of the body.
Silica contributes to hair growth by breaking down the acid in our scalps and helping other essential nutrients make their way to the hair follicle.
Sources of Silica
Our bodies are not always able to absorb the silica found in many common foods, so silica supplements are one of the easiest ways to address a deficiency of this mineral.
Foods rich in silica include leafy green vegetables, strawberries, cucumbers, onions, rice, oats, whole grains, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Chances are you have heard of using biotin for growth. It has become very popular as a hair, nails and skin supplement and there’s no shortage of options for products that contain it. It has even been called the ‘hair vitamin’.
Although it is a part of the B Complex mentioned above (B7), it is listed separately here because it does stand out from the other B vitamins for its contribution to healthy hair growth. Results from several small studies suggest that biotin supplements can in fact improve thinning hair and brittle nails.
Biotin is known to synthesize the hormone used to create keratin, the protein that hair (as well as nails and skin) is made of. Even the most skeptical of professionals seem to agree that biotin does improve the structure and strength of keratin. This is the foundation of biotin’s popularity – it basically is used to build hair.
Biotin is often explored by the hair loss community because it’s considered food for hair loss recovery. It’s keratin building ability makes it the go-to vitamin for rebuilding damaged or thinning hair. A biotin deficiency is not common, but it can wreak havoc on your locks.
Sources of Biotin
Some experts believe that most people get a sufficient amount of biotin from their diets. Others often recommend Supplements though, in case we don’t eat enough of the foods that contain it.
Biotin Supplements should not cause an issue, simply because biotin is generally a safe vitamin and it is unlikely that we would take in too much of it.
Hair growth food that contains biotin includes eggs, beans, almonds, salmon, beef, chicken, avocados, nuts, potatoes and dairy products.
Also known as methyl sulfonyl methane, MSM is an organic sulfur compound that occurs naturally in all vertebrates. It has shown some promising effects on hair growth and has been shown to lengthen the growing phase of your hair. A longer growing phase (before resting and shedding) means longer hair.
As an added benefit, MSM also maintains the immune system and helps in relieving swelling, inflammation and pain.
Sources of MSM
Supplements, either as a powder or a tablet, or from foods including milk, eggs, chicken, meat and fish. Non-animal sources include tomatoes, Brussels / alfalfa sprouts, garlic, onions, kale, asparagus and wheat germ.
Food for Hair Growth Means Eating For the Entire Body
You may have noticed that the nutrients listed above benefit whole body health, and not just for hair growth. Many of these nutrients share the same positive gains and work together to promote multiple body functions.
A diet of foods for hair loss recovery and growth is not hard to maintain. Most of these foods are common, tasty and easy to come by. Feeding our bodies properly will result in providing our hair with the necessary nutrients to prevent hair loss, as well as a hoard of other issues.
People often want to know which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss, but the real question should be ‘Do I have a vitamin deficiency’? …Period! If you’re not eating enough hair growth food, chances are the symptoms of a deficiency will show up in more places than just your hair.
Supplements and Hair Products to Complete the Solution
Many people will feel confident that most of these nutrients are obtained from the food they eat regularly. In this case a standard multivitamin can help to maintain healthy hair and top up any vitamins or minerals you may be missing. Keep in mind of course, that maintaining a balanced diet should ALWAYS be a priority, regardless of whether or not you take supplements!
I use the products mentioned in my daily routine (which have multiple benefits), MSM, and a multivitamin which should cover the basic needs. I also bounce back and forth between taking biotin supplements. I’m pretty sure I get enough biotin from my diet, but once in a while I’ll take the extra vitamin.
Eating the foods for hair loss recovery mentioned above is priority for any regrowth to occur. To further address any genetic hair loss, the products I use to improve the delivery of nutrients for hair growth to the follicles and reduce DHT, as well as how I use them are explained in my Hair Loss Treatment Daily Routine.
Please feel free to leave any comments below, and remember, the health of your hair and the health of your body are very closely connected. When you eat hair growth food, you’re eating to improve your health overall.