Your diet plays a massive role in your hair health. Most people have around 100,000 active scalp hair follicles, each of which requires an adequate and consistent supply of nutrients to produce strong, healthy hair .
Eating a balanced diet can boost hair growth, improve the condition of your hair, and minimise the risk of vitamin deficiency-related hair loss.
So which are the best foods for hair growth? In this article, you’ll learn:
- Which vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients your hair needs
- Which foods you should add to your diet to improve hair growth (and which ones to avoid)
- How to eat the right foods to encourage hair growth if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
- How does diet impact hair growth?
- Essential nutrients for hair growth
- Eating a balanced diet for hair growth
- 15 best hair growth foods to add to your diet
- Which vegetarian/vegan foods are good for hair growth?
- What foods should I avoid for healthy hair?
- Do vitamin supplements work for hair growth?
- Is there another reason why my hair is damaged?
How does diet impact hair growth?
While it’s widely agreed that the food you eat has a significant impact on your hair, the link between diet and hair growth is complex, with several factors at play. Let’s look at four of the key ways diet can affect your hair.
Good nutrition aids cell proliferation
Hair follicles are made up of rapidly dividing cells . This cell division is what causes hair to grow. The micronutrients found in food give hair cells the energy and molecular building blocks they need to proliferate and make your hair grow .
Not getting the right nutrients from your diet can impact both the structure and growth of your hair . Studies have shown that a lack of vitamins and minerals can contribute to the development of hair loss conditions, including:
- Androgenetic alopecia in men and women [4-5]
- Telogen effluvium 
- Alopecia areata 
The link between your gut and scalp health
It’s not just micronutrient deficiency that can impact your hair health. The food you eat affects your gut microbiome, which researchers believe may be linked with the development of female pattern hair loss, male pattern baldness, and alopecia areata [7-8].
Your gut flora can impact hair health in three ways:
- A healthy gut ensures you absorb as many nutrients from your food as possible, so your blood can carry more of these nutrients to your hair follicles.
- Hair follicles are highly sensitive to your immune response, which is partly regulated by your gut flora.
- Cultivating a healthy gut microbiome can modulate hair follicle inflammation.
Caloric restriction can lead to hair loss
Not eating enough calories can also lead to hair loss, as seen in many patients who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa [2-3].
Anyone who restricts their caloric intake can experience hair loss. Low carb diets may lead to hair loss, and intermittent fasting has also been linked with slower hair growth. So if you’re planning to lose weight on a calorie-controlled diet, find out how to stop hair loss due to weight loss.
Hair is often the first thing to suffer if you’re not eating well. Dermatologist Dr. Sharon Wong explains:
“Because hair is not an essential structure for our body to survive, it doesn’t actually prioritise nutrition to our hair. So if we are having a different diet, we’re having exclusion diets, and nutritionally we’re being deplete, your body will not prioritise those nutrients to your hair. It will prioritise it to other essential organs.”
That means there’s no quick fix. Make sure your diet is healthy, balanced, and contains enough energy and nutrients that your body can supply them to your hair, as well as the rest of your body.
Essential nutrients for hair growth
These key nutrients are essential for hair growth:
- Protein — Hair is mostly made up ofa protein called keratin, so your body needs a plentiful supply.
- Biotin — Biotin metabolises amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
- Iron — Iron is essential for providing the follicles with a healthy blood supply.
- Vitamin C — Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, aiding with circulation.
- Calcium — Calcium deficiency may be linked with hair loss .
- Omega 3 fatty acids— Omega-3 fatty acids generate oils that keep your hair and scalp hydrated.
- Zinc — Zinc is essential for protein synthesis and cell division in the hair follicles .
- Vitamin E — Antioxidant properties in vitamin E can reduce oxidative stress, which has been linked to hair loss .
Eating a balanced diet for hair growth
Plenty of foods that can support hair growth are easy to include in an everyday balanced diet. According to the UK government’s Eatwell Guide, here’s what a well-balanced diet should consist of:
- Fruit and vegetables: 40%
- Starchy, fibrous foods like potatoes, wholewheat pasta, and grains: 38%
- Meat, beans, eggs, and other protein sources: 12%
- Dairy products like milk and yoghurt: 8%
- Unsaturated fats from oils and butter: 1%
- 6-8 glasses of water, tea, coffee, or other sugar-free low-fat drinks
The remaining 1% can include sugary or snack foods, but aim to keep this to a minimum. High sugar diets can lead to type 2 diabetes which has been linked with hair loss.
15 best hair growth foods to add to your diet
Nutrient-rich foods are good for your body, so it’s no surprise they’re also the best foods to support hair growth. Here are 15 hair growth foods that can promote healthy hair as part of a balanced diet.
1. Oily fish
Oily and fatty fish are packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These are the healthy fats that your body can’t make, so you need to get them from the food you eat.
The best oily fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Salmon — As well as omega-3, salmon is a great source of protein and biotin, both of which are essential for healthy hair growth. You’ll get around 25g of protein and 5.8mg of biotin per 100g of salmon.
- Sardines — Sardines are low in saturated fat, high in protein, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, all of which is great news for your hair. Plus, tinned sardines make a great quick, healthy lunch.
- Mackerel — Mackerel is a fatty fish that’s naturally rich in protein, as well as B vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, and vitamin D, all of which are important for hair health.
There’s approximately 25g of protein per 100g of salmon and sardines, and 19g in the same amount of mackerel. So as well as giving you the essential fatty acids you need for your general health, these fish also provide around half your daily protein intake, which is essential for strengthening your hair.
Be wary of tinned tuna, as this often contains high mercury levels that have been linked with hair loss . Find out more about foods that can contribute to hair loss.
2. Greek yoghurt
Even though your hair is mainly made up of keratin, eating keratin directly doesn’t help, as the body can’t absorb this protein . Instead, you need to eat the component parts of keratin: amino acids.
Protein-rich foods supply amino acids that promote keratin production. Greek yoghurt is a great source of protein, containing approximately 2.6g of protein in a 45g serving.
Greek yoghurt also contains Vitamin B5, which has been shown to help with hair follicle cell proliferation in animal studies .
A derivative of vitamin B5, panthenol, is commonly incorporated into shampoos, as it’s known to promote cell growth and reduce cell death .
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are packed full of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta carotene, and iron. These vitamins are all great for nourishing your follicles and preventing brittle hair.
It’s especially important to get vitamin A from your food rather than supplements, as too much vitamin A can actually cause hair loss [1, 3]. While it’s still possible to get too much vitamin A from food sources, this is much less common than for people who take supplements.
4. Fortified cereals
Fortified cereals contain vitamins and minerals that have been added to help you get your recommended daily intake (RDI). Some fortified cereals contain 100% RDI of specific nutrients.
That said, fortified cereals can also be loaded with sugar and preservatives, while some non-fortified cereals contain exclusively healthy ingredients. So look at the nutrition as a whole, rather than just focusing on the fortified nutrients.
These fortified cereals have a low sugar content, while also containing high nutritional value:
- Weetabix — Weetabix is fortified with B vitamins and iron, and contains just 0.8g of sugar per biscuit. Weetabix Protein is slightly higher in sugar, but can also boost your protein intake.
- Kellogg’s corn flakes — This cereal is fortified with 9 vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. While some sugar is added, it’s very low in saturated fat, with just 0.1g per serving.
- Ready Brek — These porridge oats are fortified with vitamin D, calcium, and iron, and contain no added sugar or salt.
You can also boost your protein intake at breakfast time by adding a scoop of peanut butter, a handful of almonds or walnuts, or a scattering of chia seeds to your fortified cereal.
5. Chicken and turkey
If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, your hair will go into rest mode while the body distributes the protein you are getting among more vital organs. That’s why it’s important to eat plenty of protein-rich food sources like chicken and turkey.
Lean poultry like chicken and turkey are excellent hair-growth foods. With around 31g of protein per 100g of chicken breast and 27g per 100g of turkey mince, these foods help feed your hair follicles with the protein they need.
Poultry is also low in saturated fat compared with other types of meat, especially if you remove the skin. It also contains significant amounts of zinc, selenium, and B vitamins, all of which contribute to a good diet for healthy hair.
Eggs are another great source of protein, but they’re also rich in biotin. Biotin, or vitamin B7, is an essential hair growth nutrient, as it helps metabolise proteins and fatty acids that contribute to cell division.
Eggs also supply zinc and selenium, both of which are necessary for healthy hair. Many other zinc-rich food sources aren’t suitable for vegetarians, so eggs are especially important for those who don’t eat meat or fish. Research suggests eggs are one of the best hair growth foods to eat for optimal hair health .
7. Sweet potatoes
If you have dull and dry hair, consider incorporating more sweet potatoes into your diet. Sweet potatoes contain a powerful antioxidant known as beta-carotene.
The body uses beta-carotene to create vitamin A, which in small doses can promote healthy, shiny hair. Eating foods high in beta carotene may be a safer way to get your required intake of vitamin A, as excessive consumption of preformed vitamin A (via sources like supplements and liver) is more likely to lead to telogen effluvium (a hair loss condition characterised by hair thinning) .
Beta carotene may also help produce scalp sebum, which nourishes the hair and prevents it from drying out . Research suggests beta carotene can reduce inflammation in people with alopecia areata .
Beta carotene is the element that gives orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, and mangos their vibrant colour, so you can also eat these to take advantage of this healthy hair nutrient.
A Japanese animal study also suggests the oil byproduct of sweet potato shochu (a type of liquor distilled from sweet potato) can promote new hair growth . While eating sweet potato is unlikely to have the same effect, this paves the way for future research into how different food preparation techniques can help discover more hair growth solutions.
8. Mussels and shellfish
Mussels, oysters, and other shellfish are excellent sources of zinc. Zinc helps your hair follicle cells proliferate, boosting hair growth. So it’s important to add zinc-rich foods to your diet.
A 100g serving of mussels can contain up to 15% of your recommended zinc intake, while just two to three oysters can give you 100% of your zinc RDI . Prawns, scallops, and crab are also good sources of zinc.
Zinc deficiency may also lead to dandruff and other scalp conditions . So even if you’re using an anti-dandruff shampoo that contains zinc, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet, too. Adding a portion of shellfish to your diet can help keep give you a healthy scalp, which is essential for hair growth.
Cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound found in cinnamon, has been shown to promote hair growth by increasing skin thickness and follicle density . That’s why applying topical cinnamon oil for hair may be an effective way to stimulate growth.
Cinnamon can also improve your blood flow, ensuring your hair follicles get the oxygen and nutrients they need to thrive .
Cinnamon is often associated with sugary foods, which shouldn’t make up a significant proportion of your diet. To add cinnamon to your diet without resorting to sugary treats, you could try:
- Making chai tea infused with cinnamon.
- Adding cinnamon to Indian-style curries.
- Sprinkling cinnamon on fortified cereal such as porridge or muesli.
Avocado is full of healthy fats that help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D. They’re also a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect your scalp. Antioxidants are important for hair growth because they neutralise free radicals that can harm hair follicle cells. One avocado contains around 20% of your RDI of vitamin E .
Avocados also contain lots of vitamin C. One avocado contains approximately 12g, which is 13-15% of your recommended intake. Vitamin C is essential for iron absorption, so you can get as much nutritional value as possible from the iron-rich foods you eat.
Lentils are one of the best hair growth foods, especially for vegetarians and vegans looking for healthier, thicker hair.
Packed with biotin, zinc, iron and protein, these legumes are dense with nutrients. Vegan and vegetarian diets are often lacking in some of these areas, particularly protein and iron. Therefore, lentils are one of the best foods to support hair growth if you follow a meat-free or plant-based diet.
Lentils are also a great source of the amino acids that are used to generate keratin, including arginine, leucine, cysteine, and alanine . So adding lentils to your diet for healthy hair can help ensure you get the nutrients you need to promote hair growth and repair.
11. Chilli peppers
Capsaicin, an active ingredient found in chilli peppers, can promote hair growth in people with alopecia . So if you’re a fan of spicy food, you’re in luck as foods containing plenty of chillies could help boost your hair growth. If you can’t handle the heat, applying chilli oil to your hair may have a similar effect.
In addition, chillies are high in vitamin C. One red chilli contains around 65mg, while a green chilli pepper contains a whopping 109mg. So adding some chilli to your recipes can help you easily reach your recommended vitamin C intake.
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are all rich sources of vitamin C. As well as helping the body absorb more iron from your diet, vitamin C helps with your body’s collagen production, which strengthens hair and stops it from becoming brittle .
Unlike certain other nutrients, your body can’t store vitamin C. So it’s important to incorporate vitamin C-rich foods into your diet every day. Make berries part of your everyday diet by:
- Scattering some berries on your cereal or porridge in the morning.
- Adding a handful of frozen berries to a break time smoothie.
- Eating berries with Greek yoghurt for dessert.
Animal studies suggest that a lack of calcium and vitamin D can lead to non-scarring alopecia . So it’s important that your healthy hair diet contains plenty of both. That’s why milk is an essential food for hair growth.
A 200ml glass of semi-skimmed cow’s milk contains 247mg of calcium — just over a third of your RDI. Oat milk contains even more, at around 290-300mg (each brand will contain a different calcium content). So no matter what kind of diet you follow, it’s important to drink plenty of milk to keep your calcium levels high.
14. Wheat germ
Wheat germ is a fantastic addition to any diet for healthy hair, but especially for veggies and vegans. Wheat germ is a small part of the wheat kernel, and it’s jam-packed with healthy hair nutrients, including zinc, protein, and vitamin E.
Wheat germ is also one of the best sources of spermidine, an organic compound that’s been shown to promote hair growth in humans [26-27]. Spermidine prolongs the growth phase of the hair growth cycle, thereby shortening the shedding and resting phases. So adding a healthy source of spermidine to your diet may help keep your hair healthy.
If wheat germ isn’t a store cupboard staple in your house, here are some simple ways to incorporate it into your diet:
- Add raw wheat germ to smoothies, cereals, or porridge.
- Use seasoned wheat germ as a coating for baked salmon or chicken.
- Add a scoop of wheat germ to soups and casserole dishes.
15. Nuts and seeds
Adding nuts and seeds to your healthy hair diet is a great way to pack in more nutrients. Here are some of the best nuts to eat for hair health:
- Brazil nuts — Five brazil nuts contain approximately 14% of your daily protein requirement, and they’re a good source of calcium and iron, too.
- Sunflower seeds — A 30g portion of sunflower seeds offers 37% of your recommended vitamin E intake and 32% of your selenium RDI, plus more than 5g of protein.
- Hazelnuts — Like wheat germ, hazelnuts contain spermidine, and they’re loaded with antioxidants to fight free radicals.
- Almonds — You can get almost half your recommended daily intake of vitamin E from a 28g serving of almonds, plus 6g of protein.
- Cashews — Like many other nuts, cashews are packed with protein, and will also contribute to your daily iron intake.
Many nuts and seeds have a relatively high fat content. But most of these fats are unsaturated, so they’re better for your general health than foods with high amounts of saturated fat.
In addition, evidence suggests some fats are necessary for hair health, as they contribute to manageability, shine, texture, and strength .
Which vegetarian/vegan foods are good for hair growth?
Being vegetarian or vegan is a risk factor for hair loss, as it’s often more difficult to get all the essential hair health nutrients you need from a meat-free or plant-based diet .
That said, there are plenty of readily available veggie- and vegan-friendly foods that are great for hair growth. With the exception of chicken, turkey, yoghurt, and shellfish, all the foods in the list above are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.
Other great vegetarian- and vegan-friendly foods for hair growth include:
- Beans — Beans are plant-based and protein-packed, and they’re also good sources of zinc and biotin. So add plenty of beans to your diet for healthy hair.
- Citrus fruits — Packed with vitamin C, lemons, oranges, and grapefruits can all help with iron absorption and collagen production for healthy hair.
- Tofu — Tofu contains all nine essential amino acids, helping your body produce keratin and other proteins for hair growth.
- Mushrooms — Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, including selenium and choline. Choline has been shown to have a beneficial effect on hair, especially as you get older .
- Chickpeas — Chickpeas are a great meat substitute in curries and tagines. Just 100g of chickpeas contains 38% of your protein RDI.
What foods should I avoid for healthy hair?
Most foods are fine in moderation. But there are some you should think twice about eating or drinking if you want to maintain your hair health. Foods to avoid for healthy hair include:
- Alcohol — Studies suggest there may be a link between high alcohol consumption and temple hair loss, as well as alopecia areata [30-31].
- Tuna — One study found that a diet high in tuna led to excessive mercury consumption, which was found to cause reversible alopecia .
- Sugary foods — Foods with high sugar content (including crisps, sweets, and biscuits) are an indirect cause of hair loss, as they can lead to inflammation, excessive sebum production, and higher dihydrotestosterone (DHT) concentration .
- Liver — A 100g serving of beef liver can contain more than 1,000% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A. As high doses of vitamin A can lead to hair loss, it’s important to limit how much liver you eat
- Red meat — While beef and lamb can be a good source of iron, they’re also high in cholesterol, which has been linked to hair loss . So try to moderate how much red meat you eat on a weekly basis.
Do vitamin supplements work for hair growth?
In general, it’s safer and healthier to get nutrients from food rather than supplements wherever possible . In fact, there’s very little evidence to suggest that vitamin supplements for hair growth are effective, unless you have a clinical vitamin deficiency.
If you have unexplained hair loss, it’s important to get a checkup with your doctor to establish the cause. They may be able to help you unearth a nutritional deficiency, in which case supplements might be the best way to reverse your hair loss and boost hair growth.
Is there another reason why my hair is damaged?
While vitamin and mineral inadequacies are fairly common, clinical nutritional deficiencies are rare in people who eat a Western diet, even if you’re vegetarian or vegan. So if your hair is falling out, it may be unrelated to your diet
There are lots of other reasons your hair could be falling out. These include:
- Genetics, hormones, and age — Female pattern hair loss and male pattern baldness are the most common types of hair loss, and generally occur as a result of these three factors.
- Underlying illness or condition — Certain autoimmune disorders may cause hair loss, as well as other underlying health conditions.
- Medication — The medications you take may lead to hair loss. Chemotherapy is a common hair loss trigger, but birth control pills, antidepressants, and even some painkillers have also been linked with increased hair fall.
- Stress and anxiety-related hair loss — Stress is a common trigger for telogen effluvium, so if you’ve been going through a hard time recently, you may see more hair shedding than usual.
- Damaging styling techniques — Overuse of heat styling can harm your hair. Using too many chemicals like bleach and hair dye may also lead to hair loss and poor hair quality.
If you’re eating a well-balanced diet but you’re still losing hair, it’s time to speak to a specialist. Talk to an experienced hair loss consultant at the Wimpole Clinic to diagnose and treat your hair loss.
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- “Let Food be Thy Medicine”: Value of Nutritional Treatment for Hair Loss
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- Dexpanthenol Promotes Cell Growth by Preventing Cell Senescence and Apoptosis in Cultured Human Hair Follicle Cells
- Hair and Food
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- Oysters, raw | Food Data Central
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- Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects
- Seed Protein of Lentils: Current Status, Progress, and Food Applications
- Administration of capsaicin and isoflavone promotes hair growth by increasing insulin-like growth factor-I production in mice and in humans with alopecia
- Spermidine Promotes Human Hair Growth and Is a Novel Modulator of Human Epithelial Stem Cell Functions
- A spermidine-based nutritional supplement prolongs the anagen phase of hair follicles in humans: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study
- Role of Internal Lipids in Hair Health
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- The contribution of endogenous and exogenous factors to male alopecia: a study of identical twins
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- Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause
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