By Dr. Josh Axe
While products like expensive conditioners and hair masks might help your tresses to look more silky and shiny, a healthy diet and lifestyle can actually encourage your hair to grow in thicker and more lustrous.
When it comes to your diet and supplement choices, what helps to support healthy hair growth naturally and fight hair breakage?
As explained more below, some of the best foods for hair growth are those that provide the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids that your body needs to maintain healthy hair follicles. These include generally nutrient-rich foods like eggs, wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, vegetables and fruits.
Supplements and other products can also come in handy by helping to fill in gaps in your diet. For example, nutrients like collagen protein, zinc and vitamin C can help support or even improve the overall quality and health of your hair, nails and skin.
Hair Statistics (You're Not Alone!)
The natural hormonal changes that occur as we age can lead to hair changes, as can some lifestyle choices, such as the use of some medications as well as too much stress and coming up short on certain nutrients.
While adult men experience more hair thinness on average than adult women do, and typically deal with it earlier in life, both genders are susceptible to dealing with hair that’s not as thick as they wish (or even hair breakage) as they normally age.
In fact, adults are estimated to normally lose between 50 and 100 hair strands every single day. It isn’t always noticeable how much hair we’re constantly shedding because we’re growing new strands at the same time — that is until there starts to be some changes, such as hair not being as thick as usual or hair breakage.
By the time men reach the age of 50, nearly 85 percent will experience changes with their hair, according to some statistics.
And by the age of 35, approximately two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of change to their hair. Truth be told, about 25 percent of men who eventually see major changes with their hair can notice changes beginning as early as their 20’s.
Hair thickness and breakage are also a concern for women, including those who are going through the normal aging process. In fact, approximately 33 percent of women experience changes in their hair at some point in their lives.
Best Foods for Your Hair
What should you eat to support healthy hair? Here are some of the best foods for hair growth, based on the fact that they provide the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids that your body needs to maintain healthy hair:
1. High antioxidant foods (such as fruits, vegetables and herbs/spices)
Antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are the perfect foods for growing hair since they fight free radical damage and help support healthy hair.
Fill up on colorful foods like oranges, red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cocoa, strawberries, sweet potatoes, acai, grapefruit, kiwi and mango to obtain more antioxidants and key vitamins.
2. High protein foods (like eggs, fish, organ meats and grass-fed meat)
Protein foods provide your body with amino acids, the building blocks that help to form hair strands. A lack of protein in one’s diet has been shown to be linked to also having effects on hair health and growth.
Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and herring are especially good for hair health since they are high in both protein and omega 3s, healthy fats that can aid in hair’s appearance and structure.
Many protein foods such as organ meats, dark poultry meat and beef are also high in iron, which is needed to support healthy iron levels, which are important for hair health as well.
3. Healthy fats and oils (such as fats from fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil)
Fatty acids including omega 3s, omega 6s and omega 9s can help to support hair strength, shine and hair density. Incorporate plenty of fat-containing foods into your diet like salmon, mackerel, tuna, white fish, sardines, egg yolks, walnuts, hemp seeds, almonds, flax seeds, olive oil and coconut oil.
Eggs are particularly a great source of healthy fats for your hair, as well as zinc, selenium and other hair-healthy nutrients.
Avocados are a great source of vitamin E, which can help fight free radicals and promote the way your body uses oxygen, increasing circulation to your scalp. Avocados are also high in healthy fats that support hair’s shine and strength.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are among the most nutrient-dense fruits, prized for their antioxidants and high amount of vitamin C and vitamin A. These nutrients can help boost collagen production and support a healthy immune system, helping follicles to remain strong and supporting hair thickness and reducing hair breakage.
6. Leafy Greens
Veggies such as Swiss chard, spinach, kale and cabbage are high in vitamins A, C, and K – musts for hair growth. Vitamin K also plays an important role in maintaining healthy circulation, promoting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the tissues in your scalp.
7. 100 percent whole grains
Grains such as wheat, barley, oats and brown rice all contain silica, a natural building block of collagen, which helps to form hair strands.
8. Foods high in biotin
Biotin is involved in synthesis of the protein called keratin, which helps to give hair its structure. Eating biotin and vitamin B5 foods — such as eggs, beef, chicken, avocado, legumes, nuts and potatoes — helps you to keep biotin levels up and aids in hair growth and thickness.
Best Supplements and Other Products
While optimizing your diet should be your No. 1 priority when it comes to obtaining more nutrients, taking a holistic approach to health by also supplementing can help to improve hair health and promote growth. Of course, you should always consult with your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen.
Try incorporating some of these superfoods and products below into your routine, which are among the best supplements for overall hair health and growth:
1. Multi Collagen Protein (MCP)
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, helping to form hair strands, the skin on your scalp, as well as your nails and many other types of connective tissues.
While collagen can be obtained from drinking real, traditional bone broth, the best way to consume a hefty serving of this valuable protein is to use a collagen protein powder supplement. Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein Powders combine hydrolyzed collagen (types I, II, III, V and X) to provide a broad spectrum of collagen benefits, including support for healthy hair, skin, nails, joints and more.
Our new Multi Collagen Protein is the industry's only collagen that includes ingredients backed by human clinical trials. It's been shown to promote healthy hair thickness and growth while reducing hair breakage†.
Our MCP Beauty Within formula also features a clinically studied blend of phytonutrient-dense fruits and vegetables like acai berry, asparagus shoot, pomegranate fruit and others to support overall skin health and skin elasticity.
2. Omega-3 fish oils
Omega-3s are fatty acids that help nourish hair, support hair thickening and promote a healthy response to inflammation which may help support overall hair health. Most adults can benefit from taking one to two omega-3 capsules or one tablespoon of a top-notch fish oil supplement daily.
3. Rosemary essential oil
Rosemary oil is believed to help support healthy hair when used in hair shampoos or conditioners.
Best Vitamins and Minerals
Sometimes hair health can be affected by coming up short on certain vitamins; however, shortfalls can be managed by adding vitamin-rich foods to your diet and taking high-quality supplements.
Which vitamins are best for supporting overall hair health?
1. B-Complex Vitamin (Biotin & B5)
Biotin and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) have been used to support overall hair health for decades. Vitamin B5 and biotin may help to support healthy hair fibers and boost pliability, giving hairs a better chance at reducing breakage.
Zinc is an essential co-factor for multiple enzymes including those involved with activities that create and maintain healthy hair follicles. It may help hair health in part by supporting collagen synthesis.
3. Vitamin C
Oxidative stress is thought to play a major role in the normal aging process. By helping to support a higher antioxidant status and a healthy immune response, vitamin C can help support the body against free radicals that can directly affect hair health. Vitamin C is also involved in collagen synthesis, meaning it promotes a healthy scalp and hair strands.
Foods to Avoid
Now that you know about the best foods for hair health and overall growth, you’re probably wondering, what foods are bad for your hair?
Overall, the goal is to eat a nutrient-dense diet and to support a healthy response to inflammation and oxidative stress. To do this, it’s best to avoid or limit the following foods:
- Foods with added sugar, which contribute to an imbalance of yeast and microbes in the gut which affects nutrient absorption.
- Trans fats/hydrogenated fats, which are added to many packaged/processed foods and can negatively impact overall metabolism.
- Refined vegetable oils (like canola, corn and soybean oils), which supply lots of omega-6s which many people already get plenty of.
- Refined grain products such as cereals, breads, pasta, rolls, cookies, etc. that are mostly considered “empty calories.”
- Pasteurized dairy products, which can sometimes be an allergen and cause gut issues.
Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food and nutrition. He operates the leading natural health website DrAxe.com and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health supplement company. He’s also author of the books Eat Dirt, Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, Keto Diet, Collagen Diet and Ancient Remedies.