If you’re trying to grow your hair faster, combat hair thinning, or repair your strands, experts say that eating food for hair growth is one of the best things you can do.
“The saying you are what you eat is no joke,” says celebrity hairstylist celebrity hairstylist Laurabeth Cabbot, and doctors agree: “Eating a balanced, well-rounded, nutritious diet is essential for the health and growth of your hair,” adds Lauren Penzi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at New York City’s MDCS Dermatology. “Protein is an essential food group for hair, for example, as hair is composed of proteins called keratin, and amino acids like L-cysteine, and L-lyseine are also necessary, as they are the building blocks of protein.”
That’s also why limiting your nutritional intake can have negative effects on your hair. “We know that nutrient deficiencies contribute to hair thinning and hair loss,” says Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. “Strictly restrictive diets are most at risk of contributing as they may be more likely to lack the full balance nutrients required to support hair growth.”
Nutrients for hair growth
As for what you should eat to boost hair growth and strength? “A well-balanced diet for hair health should include but not limited to vitamin D, vitamin C, folate (vitamin B12), riboflavin (vitamin B2), biotin, iron, zinc, selenium, antioxidants, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and include a sufficient amount of macronutrients like protein and healthy fat,” Dr. Murphy-Rose continues, though she clarifies: “All vitamins A, B, C, D, and E are important, but some of the most important supported by studies are listed above.”
That said, Dr. Murphy-Rose points out that overdoing the amount of these vitamins and minerals is not the goal. “For example, vitamin A helps hair health, but too much vitamin A can have the opposite effect, and too much of many different vitamins and minerals can have negative systemic effects,” she says.
Want to incorporate more of the above vitamins into your diet? See experts’ top foods for hair growth ahead, and get ready to go grocery shipping.
The best food for hair growth
Lean meats and poultry
“Hair is primarily made of protein, so it’s crucial to get enough protein in your diet,” says Michelle Henry, MD, FAAD, a New York City board-certified dermatologist, pointing to lean meats and poultry as some of the most popular sources of the nutrient—especially since they’re rich in iron as well. “Iron deficiency is linked to hair shedding, and foods rich in iron can help prevent hair shedding and thinning.” Red meat in particular also contains zinc.
Beans and lentils
If you don’t eat meat, that’s okay: Dr. Henry points to plant-based options like beans, lentils, and tofu as essential sources of protein and zinc. “Zinc helps the hair’s tissue growth and repair,” she says. Beans are also high in iron, says Dr. Penzi.
Feel fancy and support healthy hair at the same time. Both Dr. Penzi and Dr. Henry point to oysters as a food that’s especially rich in zinc.
You can get your daily serving of iron through spinach, too, which Dr. Penzi notes is also an all-star source for Vitamin A. “The saying ‘You are what you eat’ is no joke,” says Cabbot. “Simply eating more spinach will help your hair health greatly.”
Celebrity hairstylist Marc Mena points to avocado as one of his top choices for hair growth, since it contains vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and biotin. “Biotin is often recommended for hair health and can be found in eggs, nuts, and whole grains,” Dr. Henry says.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds contain zinc and a handful of other essential hair care nutrients. “Many nuts and seeds contain many vitamins and minerals that promote hair growth, including vitamin B and vitamin E, zinc, fatty acids,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says.