10 Foods to Eat for Thicker and Healthier Hair (Plus Recipes!)
Looking good is not just about taking care of your hair and skin from the outside, but it is also about taking care of your body on the inside.
In fact, your diet has a much larger role to play when it comes to your looks than anything else, be it your daily oil massage or your weekly protein treatment – your diet beats it all.
A nutritious diet improves each and every part of your body, including your hair.
However, improving hair health is not only about addressing hair issues directly, but it’s also about eliminating factors that are causing hair to fall or break. Some examples include iron deficiency anemia, a problem which may cause hair to fall amongst other symptoms such as pale skin.
Another underlying factor can be hypothyroidism, which occurs because your body isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone – this can be improved by having more iodine in your diet.
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Furthermore, having a healthy and nutrient-dense diet can improve your overall physique, make you feel good, reduce your risk of chronic disease and boost the quality of your life –it’s a win-win.
The following are the best foods you can feed your body and hair to get thicker, lustrous and enviably fluffy hair:
10 Foods to Eat for Thicker and Healthier Hair
1. Fish, chicken and beans for protein
Hair is made of protein; therefore, having a protein-packed diet will help you grow thicker and longer hair. If you aren’t having enough protein in your diet, you will most likely have hair that is weak, brittle, dry and limp. In addition, extremely low levels of protein can result in dramatic hair loss.
If your hair doesn’t have enough protein to build and repair, it will go into a resting phase. During this resting phase, your will shed a lot of your hair and may notice clumps of hair in your hairbrush, in the drain… almost everywhere.
However, it is important to remember that having steak, even though it is a super-rich source of protein and iron, will not get you anywhere. In fact, you may be doing more harm than good to your body because of the fact that red meat is high on saturated fat. There has been a lot of debate regarding whether saturated fat is truly bad for you and will it cause heart disease but regardless of what the truth is, it’s best if you add in some variety into your diet and have foods that make you feel good.
High-fat diets may also elevate testosterone levels in men, which is also linked to hair loss in most cases so maybe steak every day isn’t such a great idea after all.
Leaner proteins such as chicken, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, dairy and eggs are amazing for the hair and body. In order to add some “oomph” to your diet, you can also try having a morning smoothie with a scoop of whey protein every day.
Studies show that whey protein does not only add to your daily protein intake, it also controls your appetite and suppresses your cravings to have more carbs and sugar.
2. Leafy greens and raisins for iron
Iron is critical for hair health because it plays a major role in forming hemoglobin, the red pigment in red blood cells that carries oxygen in your blood. When you have a healthy level of hemoglobin in your blood, this means that ample oxygen and nutrients are being fed to your organs and tissues, including your hair.
Insufficient iron in your diet will result in iron deficiency anemia, which is a major cause of hair loss in adults. Your hair follicles require oxygen and nutrient rich blood supply to produce thick and healthy hair. People with anemia often have thin and unhealthy-looking hair.
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Adding more iron doesn’t mean you have to go on a steak or liver fest, you can also have something that is sweet to curb your sugar cravings such as tart cherry juice, raisins or dates.
Some other excellent sources of iron which have a high bioavailability include dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach, whole grains, eggs, dairy, lentils and animal meat.
Couple your iron rich foods with vitamin C foods such as oranges, limes, lemons, strawberries, peppers, cabbage or guavas to not only create a delicious meal but also to increase the absorption of iron in the blood.
3. Liver for biotin
Found in numerous cosmetic and beauty products, biotin is a water soluble vitamin of the B complex group. Biotin plays a major role in the development of the hair protein, keratin.
Insufficient biotin in the body may lead to hair loss and hair thinning and also unhealthy skin and nails.
You can find biotin in almost any real, whole food you eat and the best sources include, eggs (especially the yolks so don’t throw them away!), dairy, soy, liver, whole grains, leafy greens and lentils. The best biotin-rich food I can think of is a frittata!
4. Whole grains and nuts for omega 3's
Salmon is an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids as well as biotin and protein. Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, give skin a healthy glow and improve the health of hair follicles in your scalp.
Omega 3s are good fats or essential fats that your body cannot manufacture on its own, therefore, it is important that you obtain them through your diet.
Omega 3s can be found in the cells lining your scalp and they help in the production of sebum, the oil that hydrates and conditions the hair and scalp.
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines are the best sources of omega 3s, but plant sources such as nuts and seeds, whole grains and avocado are excellent options too.
5. Oysters, nuts and eggs for zinc and selenium
In order to protect your scalp and accelerate hair growth, you need to have more minerals such as zinc and selenium from your diet.
Lack of zinc may result in dry, flaky scalp and hair loss in both men and women. Zinc plays a crucial role in almost every function in the body, from cellular reproduction to maintaining a healthy balance of hormones, both of which can affect hair growth and health.
Zinc also manages the hair follicle glands in your scalp, therefore, not having enough zinc will lead to weak strands that are thin and are prone to fall off.
Selenium is a trace element that protects tissues from oxidative stress. Studies with rats showed that a lack of selenium in the diet lead to very little hair growth.
The best sources of zinc are oysters, containing a whopping 74 grams of it per serving. However, since we can’t have oysters every day, other awesome sources of zinc include shrimp, mussels, eggs, chicken, beef, fortified cereals, beans and nuts.
Selenium can be found in most nuts. According to the National Institutes of Health, having just about eight Brazil nuts may meet 800 percent of your daily recommended value of selenium! However, opt out of reaching for a zinc supplement because too much zinc may lead to hair loss.
6. Salmon for vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, also known as the sunlight vitamin. Vitamin D is produced in your body when sunlight converts a certain chemical in your skin to a compound which is later converted to vitamin D.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in maintaining our health and helps in preventing chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
The Harvard Medical School explains that vitamin D deficiency was a rare problem because individuals were exposed to sunlight regularly. However, due to the rising concern of skin cancer and UV light damage to skin and hair and also the rise in shift of work spaces from outdoor labor to office jobs, people aren’t getting enough sun.
There’s a substantial link between hair loss and vitamin D deficiency. Researchers at Cairo University discovered that women experiencing hair loss had lower levels of vitamin D2 and iron.
Adults can benefit from a minimum of 600 IU of vitamin D each day. It may be difficult to get enough vitamin D every day but packing your diet with vitamin D-rich sources such as salmon containing 450 IU of vitamin D in a 3 ounce serving and whole grains, dairy and fresh orange juice containing around 110 to 135 IU can benefit you immensely and help you thicken your hair.
7. Blueberries for vitamin C
Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron in the body, therefore, make sure you have iron-rich foods along with some vitamin C. In addition, vitamin C is an antioxidant so it protects your cells against free radical damage, this includes your hair follicle cells as well.
The damage caused by free radicals increases inflammation and stress hormone levels, which can negatively affect the cells of the body, including your hair and skin cells.
And if that’s not enough, vitamin C also aids in the production of collagen which strengthens the capillaries supplying nutrients to the hair shafts.
8. Nuts for vitamin E
External damage to hair and skin caused by sun exposure can lead to premature aging in the form of graying hair, hair thinning, brittle hair, wrinkled skin etc. However, having more vitamin E can protect you from this damage and ensure that your hair and skin remain the same for a longer period.
Nuts are rich in everything you need for better hair health; including a large amount of vitamin E. they are also rich in zinc and selenium.
9. Sweet potato and carrots for vitamin A
Your hair needs vitamin A for the production of sebum for your scalp. Sebum is the oily substance your sebaceous glands in your hair follicles create to naturally condition and hydrate your scalp and hair. Not producing enough sebum will eventually lead to dry and damaged hair and itchy, dry scalp.
Therefore, your best bet is to have more vitamin A foods in your diet. Animal meat, orange and yellow vibrant fruits and vegetables that are packed with beta carotene, which is later converted to vitamin A are excellent choices as well.
10. Bean sprouts for silica
Not a very common term in the beauty world, but silica is something that really packs a punch when it comes to speeding up hair growth and reducing hair loss. Your body requires silica to absorb minerals and vitamins. Therefore, if your diet doesn’t have much silica, almost all of the above nutrients won’t be of much use.
Silica can be found in bean sprouts, red and green peppers, cucumbers and potatoes. Make sure you have most of the foods mentioned on this article whole and raw to conserve their nutritional value.
What are the worst foods for hair health?
It is important to understand that adding healthy foods to your diet is not enough. Having a banana-berry smoothie with heaps of sugar and full-fat cream poses a risk of poor hair health because the negative effects of the sugar and fat cancel out the positive effects of these nutrient-dense super foods.
It’s important that you eat foods that balance the hormones in your body and avoid foods that cause major spikes and declines.
To further elaborate this; here are the top worst foods you shouldn’t add to your diet if you plan on improving hair health… or your overall health for that matter:
Sugar is practically bad for everything, even though it may make some of your foods taste good. One of the most noteworthy effects of sugar is that it causes blood sugar spikes. This causes your pancreas to pump out more insulin in order to regulate your sugar levels. During this process, your androgen levels also increase. Androgen is a male hormone that can shrink hair follicles in men as well as women.
2. Refined carbs
complex carb sources such as whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, sweet potato and vegetables are actually good for you because the body actually has to work to break the carbs down – hence, the term complex carbs.
However, processed foods such as buns, cookies, pies and burgers are packed with refined carbs that doesn’t require much work to be broken down and is thus, rapidly absorbed by the body. This will cause your blood sugar levels to spike, and as mentioned above, will lead to hair loss and hair thinning.
You can’t skimp on carbs if you plan on maintaining a balanced and healthy diet. Therefore, stick to whole and minimally refined carbs with low glycemic index as they are a rich source of fiber, biotin, vitamins A, D and E and protein.
Excessive alcohol use can lead to poor skin and hair health. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it dehydrates you and causes your body to remove necessary fluids. Staying hydrated is one of the major ways through which you can improve hair health. Moreover, important nutrients that are critical for hair health are also removed from the body along with the fluids.
4. Too much vitamin A
The American Academy of Dermatology states that even excessive vitamin A intake can lead to hair loss and hair thinning. This is especially a problem if you take individual vitamin A supplements. However, taking a multivitamin will not give you a dangerous dose of vitamin A, nor will it affect your hair health negatively. The best way to get your vitamin A is by having foods containing it.