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12 Top Foods for a Healthy, Thick Head of Hair

Hair loss can be an unpleasant experience for many people. Most people want a full, healthy head of hair and dread balding, bald spots, and hair thinning.

Let’s face it, cosmetic health matters. Our skin, nails, and hair are seen by the world and they play a role in our social interactions and how we relate to others.

So you might as well do what you can to promote your natural healthy hair growth. The good news is that you can affect the health of your hair profoundly through nutrition.

What Causes Hair Loss?

We naturally shed some hair on a regular basis but noticeable thinning or balding of head hair is a sign that your hair or hair growing abilities are not functioning healthily.

A variety of factors can contribute to hair loss and baldness. Some of them are:

Stress can be a major factor in hair loss and interestingly, stress specifically affects hair loss in women more than men. Studies have shown that divorces, multiples marriage, smoking, and high-stress levels can contribute to hair loss in women. If you want to keep your hair, lose the stress.

Androgenetic Alopecia - The Main Cause of Hair Loss

Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition by which too much DHT, an especially potent form of testosterone, is made in the scalp. DHT causes the loss of hair by inhibiting hair growth and shortening the hair growth cycle so that more hair is shed than replaced.

This condition is very common because, for instance, 25% of men have some form of balding by age 30 and 65% have some balding by age 60.

Don’t Despair or Give Up

But just because there are genetic factors that play roles in hair loss, doesn’t mean that you should just sit back and think that everything is predetermined. You can promote hair growth and fight hair loss through nutrition.

But just because there are genetic factors that play roles in hair loss, doesn’t mean that you should just sit back and think that everything is predetermined. You can promote hair growth and fight hair loss through nutrition.

After all, genetics are influenced every minute by signals that your cells are getting from the food you eat, the environment you live in, and your lifestyle.

What you eat affects what genes are expressed. And numerous herbs can even help to address hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia by lowering DHT levels

What To Do About Hair Loss

Luckily there are nutritional and lifestyle habits that affect how hair grows. Certain nutrients are needed to ensure healthy hair growth and some herbs can block the production of DHT. Do all that you can naturally to prevent hair loss by:

Eat for a Healthy Head

Nutrition plays a role in all parts of health and hair health is no exception. It is fascinating how deeply vitamins, minerals, and other components of food are involved in hair health, appearance, and growth.

You really can eat to nourish your hair and nutrition plays a big role in cosmetic health. Below is a list of foods that you can eat to make your hair healthier, reduce hair loss, and promote hair growth.

Foods that Fight Hair Loss

1. Wild Alaskan Salmon

Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency is a known risk factor for hair loss and fish oil has been shown in research to substantially reduce hair loss [1]. These long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like EPA and DHA found in seafood play an important role in the healthy structuring of the outermost layer of the skin - the epidermis [2]. Hair digs into the skin and if the skin’s structure is not healthy from fat deficiency, hair falls out more easily [2]. Think of fish fats as keeping your hair attached to your skin!

2. Flax seeds

Similarly to fish, flax provides fat that can be converted by the body into skin-supporting PUFAs [2]. Fat from fish comes already pre-formed as PUFAs but the fat in flax, alpha linolenic acid, can be converted into EPA and DHA.

Flax seeds have a nice amount of magnesium, which researchers believe supports hair health in a variety of ways. Magnesium is essential for protein transformation, cell division, and growth - including hair growth [2].

3. Sardines

Sardines are one of the few good food sources of vitamin D. This “vitamin” is really a hormone and it might not come as a surprise that vitamin D is involved in healthy hair growth since this compound has been shown by the past decade or so of research to play roles in nearly every facet of the body.

Researchers have found that vitamin D plays an “important role” in the rapid-growth cycle of hair follicles [3]. Low vitamin D levels are also associated with hair loss in women and the severity of hair loss increases the lower the vitamin D level measured [4].

Sardines, since they are small and low on the food chain, are relatively free of pollutants that might accumulate in other fish. So sardines are a good clean source of hair-supporting PUFAs as well.

4. Coconut

Coconuts are rich sources of tocotrienols, a group of vitamin E compounds that have been demonstrated to reduce hair loss [5]. Tocotrienols, researchers say, reduce oxidative stress in the scalp, which is a cause of hair loss [5]. In a placebo-controlled trial, it was found that tocotrienols increased the number of hairs by over 34% after 8 months of ingestion [5].

The saturated fat content in coconut oil might also aid in keeping skin healthy and a friendly foundation for hair. Saturated fats help skin produce sebum, which helps to lubricate and water-proof both skin and hair (2).

Coconut oil is also often directly applied to hair and many people use it to nourish their hair. This widespread usage is backed up by clinical evidence, as researchers say the oil penetrates and soaks into the hair “shafts” (6). Loss of protein in the hair is prevented and many people find that they have fuller, healthier hair because of coconut oil (6).

5. Cucumber

Silica is a mineral that is critical for the building of healthy hair. The outer shaft of hair that gives hair its strength and flexibility is rich in silica. And hair that is deficient in silica is more likely to fall out (7). Hair rich is silica also has a healthier and “brighter” appearance (7).

Cucumber is a great source of silica.That's why they are so often recommended for nourishing hair, skin, and nails - because silica plays an important role in the healthy formation of our cosmetic body parts.

A supplement that contains silica was shown to “effectively promotes significant hair growth” in women (8). Another supplement that contains silica also promoted hair growth and reduced hair loss (9).

6. Lentils

Lentils, compared to other legumes, and other foods in general, have lots of iron in them. It's thought that iron is needed for hair synthesis (10). Researchers say this is because iron is involved in “many critical processes within the hair follicle” (10).

Researchers note that iron plays a “certain” role in hair loss and that many women and men with hair loss have lower iron levels than those without hair loss (11). And treatment with iron in a placebo-controlled trial did show that hair loss sufferers benefited (12).

Lentils are also high in folate. This vitamin is responsible for initiating the rebuilding of hair follicles and preventing hair from falling out (13). Folate also plays a role in producing red blood cells that carry oxygen to skin tissues in which hair is built (13).

7. Chlorella

This single-celled algae is added to food by health nuts everywhere. It is comparable to lentils in that it is packed with iron and folate to support hair growth. In fact, algaes like chlorella and spirulina have more iron than legumes like lentils.

8. Broccoli

Broccoli has many health benefits and nutritional attributes. It is known for its protective and detoxifying effects on the body. For instance, it triggers detoxification enzymes in the liver and helps to get rid of pollutants from your system.

Broccoli has substantial folate content which nourishes hair health for the reasons mentioned above and also contains an impressive amount of vitamin c. It contains more vitamin c than some fruit.

Vitamin C is critical for the proper growth of hair and deficiency can be involved in baldness or the growth of abnormal, extra curly hair [2]. If vitamin C is deficient, abnormal amounts of hair proteins ruin the healthy structure of hair [2].

9. Red Bell Peppers

These peppers have a huge amount of vitamin C in them and along with broccoli, they support healthy hair growth because of this. The vitamin C in red peppers and broccoli increases the absorption of nonheme iron from plant foods, assuring that iron absorption is adequate to nourish hair.

10. Spinach

This leafy green has an impressive profile of hair-supporting nutrients. Spinach contains nutrients whose benefits have been explained above. These leaves contain omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, and iron.

You might want to incorporate more steamed spinach into your diet than raw spinach because it is thought that the high oxalate content of uncooked spinach possibly raises the risk of kidney stones. But conservative amounts of raw spinach is probably fine.

11. Green Tea

Green tea is perhaps the healthiest beverage in the world because of its wide-ranging health benefits like improving immune function, preventing cancer, fighting inflammation and oxidative stress, improving mood, and enhancing DNA repair.

This incredible beverage might also help hair grow. In some mice, consumption of green tea polyphenols caused significant hair regrowth where hair had previously been lost [14]. Green tea might help lower DHT production, thereby fighting androgenetic alopecia baldness [15]. And in vitro, green tea administration enhances human hair growth by preventing cell death and stimulating hair cell growth [15].

12. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds are known to inhibit the enzyme that generates the baldness-causing DHT hormone [16]. And in men with androgenetic alopecia, pumpkin seed oil has indeed been shown to increase the number of hairs by about 40% [16]. The placebo-treated group in this study also had hair growth but theirs was only at 10% [16]. Considering that, these results are a good sign of pumpkin seed’s potential effectiveness.

Footnotes:

  1. A 3-Month, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Ability of an Extra-Strength Marine Protein Supplement to Promote Hair Growth and Decrease Shedding in Women with Self-Perceived Thinning Hair. Glynis Ablon. Dermatol Res Pract. 2015; 2015: 841570.
  2. Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Zuzanna Sabina Goluch-Koniuszy. Prz Menopauzalny. 2016 Mar; 15(1): 56–61.
  3. Does D matter? The role of vitamin D in hair disorders and hair follicle cycling. Amor KT, Rashid RM, Mirmirani P. Dermatol Online J. 2010 Feb 15;16(2):3.
  4. Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role? Rasheed H1, Mahgoub D, Hegazy R, El-Komy M, Abdel Hay R, Hamid MA, Hamdy E. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(2):101-107.
  5. Effects of Tocotrienol Supplementation on Hair Growth in Human Volunteers. Lim Ai Beoy, Wong Jia Woei, and Yuen Kah Hay. Trop Life Sci Res. 2010 Dec; 21(2): 91–99.
  6. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Rele AS, Mohile RB. J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-192.
  7. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. Lidiane Advincula de Araújo, Flavia Addor, and Patrícia Maria Berardo Gonçalves Maia Campos. An Bras Dermatol. 2016 May-Jun; 91(3): 331–335.
  8. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. Ablon Glynis, MD, FAAD. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 Nov; 5(11): 28–34.
  9. A 3-Month, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Ability of an Extra-Strength Marine Protein Supplement to Promote Hair Growth and Decrease Shedding in Women with Self-Perceived Thinning Hair. Glynis Ablon. Dermatol Res Pract. 2015; 2015: 841570.
  10. Commentary: Iron deficiency and hair loss: problems with measurement of iron. Elston DM. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Dec;63(6):1077-10782.
  11. Iron plays a certain role in patterned hair loss. Park SY, Na SY, Kim JH, Cho S, Lee JH. J Korean Med Sci. 2013 Jun;28(6):934-938
  12. Nutritional factors and hair loss. Rushton DH. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2002 Jul;27(5):396-404.
  13. Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Zuzanna Sabina Goluch-Koniuszy. Prz Menopauzalny. 2016 Mar; 15(1): 56–61.
  14. The effects of tea polyphenolic compounds on hair loss among rodents. Adeleh Esfandiari and Paul Kelley. J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 Jun; 97(6): 816–818.
  15. Human hair growth enhancement in vitro by green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Kwon OS, Han JH, Yoo HG, Chung JH, Cho KH, Eun HC, Kim KH. Phytomedicine. 2007 Aug;14(7-8):551-5.
  16. Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Young Hye Cho,  Sang Yeoup Lee, Dong Wook Jeong, Eun Jung Choi, Yun Jin Kim, Jeong Gyu Lee, Yu Hyeon Yi, and Hyeong Soo Cha. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014; 2014: 549721.