We cut harmful chemicals out of our hair care products, get regular trims, and regularly stimulate our scalp, yet sometimes it feels like our strands have been stuck at the same length for years. What gives? According to board-certified dermatologist Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, our bodies require a diet high in plant-based foods, fiber, antioxidants, and protein for optimal hair growth.
To determine the best foods for hair growth and hair health, it's helpful to know which vitamins and nutrients are important for the hair growth process. For example, consuming foods high in vitamin C, E, D, biotin, and zinc all play a role in hair growth. That being said, we wanted to get specific on what we can incorporate into our diet to get the locks of our dreams, so we tapped nutritionists and dietitians in addition to St. Surin-Lord.
Keep scrolling to find out the exact foods that promote hair growth.
According to Meryl Pritchard, holistic nutritionist and creator of Kore Kitchen, B vitamins are excellent for hair growth. "B vitamins like biotin and niacin stimulate hair growth and help keep it healthy and nourished," she says. Grilled chicken is one of the best sources, with 8.9 mg of B3 per for every three ounces.
Healthy fats are essential to hair health, Pritchard tells us. Our bodies can't produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, so it's important to get these fats through our diet. Not only do omega-3 fatty acids nourish hair follicles to give strands that strong, shiny, lustrous glow, but they're anti-inflammatory and stimulate the dermal papilla cells of the hair follicles, which regulate hair growth, according to St. Surin-Lord. Avocados are a great source, and they're also rich in vitamins E and B(s). Incorporate them into your morning smoothie or salad.
Legumes (aka beans and lentils) are saturated with hair-improving vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron, and, most importantly, biotin. "Biotin strengthens the structure of keratin, which makes up the hair, skin, and nails," notes St. Surin-Lord. "It makes hair stronger, more resistant to breakage, and thicker in appearance." Legumes are a great source of protein—especially if you're vegetarian or vegan.
According to Sammi Haber Brondo, a New York-based dietitian, nuts (especially almonds or walnuts) are particularly great for hair growth due to their high biotin content: "While research doesn’t directly show that biotin helps hair grow, it does show that a lack of biotin can cause hair loss. With that in mind, it definitely can’t hurt to add a handful of almonds to your afternoon snack. These nuts are also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps nourish both the hair and scalp."
Salmon (and other fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, and high-quality tuna) are great for feeding hair from the inside out with the shine- and growth-encouraging likes of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and B vitamins. Best part? They're extremely versatile to prepare—cook them in an air fryer and shred for fish tacos, or cook a few filets in the oven and serve over a bed of spiced lentils.
According to nutritionist Carolyn Brown, cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli are rich in folate, which encourages cell division: “If you have weak, thinning, or brittle hair, it can be a sign of low folate levels.” Thus, for healthier hair growth, reach for an extra helping of these veggies.
High in protein, (healthy) fat, and zinc, chia seeds are another great addition to your diet if you're looking to maintain healthy hair growth. Plus, St. Surin-Lord says they're also high in antioxidants, which help combat premature signs of aging like hair loss. Throw a teaspoon into your morning smoothie or incorporate into overnight oats to meet your quota.
There's been a lot of buzz surrounding collagen, and according to both Pritchard and Haber, it's one of the very best things to incorporate into your diet for hair growth. "Collagen gives skin its elasticity, hair its strength, and connective tissue its ability to hold everything in place," says Pritchard. "Our bodies produce collagen naturally, but it declines as we age, so it's important to supplement through diet." Organic bone broth or powder forms (that you can mix into smoothies or oatmeal) are great options.
"Zinc is an important trace mineral that helps prevent hair loss, keeping it healthy so it can grow," Haber tells us. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of the mineral, and according to St. Surin-Lord, are one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, the anti-inflammatory type. Add these to a homemade trail mix for an easy, on-the-go snack.
Citrus is an incredible source of vitamin C, which boasts plenty of important health benefits. And, it's especially helpful for hair growth as it protects and maintains collagen stores, which as our experts told us, is key for hair growth. "In addition to being necessary for collagen production, vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant, which is necessary to fight off free radicals," says St. Surin-Lord. "Vitamin C also enhances iron absorption, and iron is important in maintaining hair health as it is a co-factor for DNA and it delivers oxygen to tissues."
Green Leafy Vegetables
In the same vein, green leafy vegetables are one of the best foods for hair growth. Rich in antioxidants, they'll ward off pesky free radicals that can damage your skin's natural collagen supply. St. Surin-Lord recommends incorporating superfoods like kale and spinach into your routine, as they're high in vitamin A.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant that regulates cell turnover and oil production. Too much of it, though, can cause hair loss, according to St. Surin-Lord. This explains why people on oral isotretinoin (Claravis, or Absorica, and formerly Accutane) for severe acne may have experienced hair loss.
High in protein and essential vitamins and minerals like zinc (one cup has about one and a half milligrams), Greek yogurt is a strategic addition to your daily snack or breakfast rotation in the interest of strong, lusciously long hair. For an upgrade, add a handful of berries, a pinch of chia seeds, and search for yogurt that's plain, organic, and from a grass-fed source.
Since our hair is made up of protein, it's imperative to load up on healthy sources like eggs, which are also a handy source of biotin. Enjoy them hard-boiled, or try them scrambled in avocado oil for an extra hit of nutrition.
Like citrus, papaya is filled with hair-perfecting vitamin C, which protects collagen. Just one cup of the fruit chopped up yields 86.5 mg of the vitamin. St. Surin-Lord also calls out the fact that papaya is high in fiber and carotenoids, which aid in scalp health.
The biggest selling point about adding bell peppers into your diet? They're high in vitamin C—so much so that they contain triple the amount than oranges, with green peppers containing 95.7 mg, red peppers containing 152 mg, and yellow peppers containing an impressive 341 mg. Plus, they're a great source of fiber. Snack on these with hummus or incorporate into a healthy stirfry.
St. Surin-Lord says that sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene, the precursor for vitamin A that not only promotes a healthy scalp but effectively promotes hair growth, too. Not to mention, the starchy vegetable supports gut health, acting as a prebiotic, by being a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber.
"Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, which is necessary for a healthy thyroid, which is important in hair health," says St. Surin-Lord. "Seaweed also causes proliferation of the dermal papilla cells and helps to reduce 5-alpha reductase, which is an enzyme in the hair follicle that causes hairs to miniaturize, leading to hair loss." The next time you're packing a work lunch, throw in a pack of seaweed chips.
Petruk G, Del Giudice R, Rigano MM, Monti DM. Antioxidants from plants protect against skin photoaging. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018;2018:1454936. doi:10.1155/2018/1454936