Hair loss, slow regrowth, and excessive shedding are more common than you might think—and not just in men. Some estimates show that almost 65 percent of men and 80 percent of women experience noticeable loss of hair by the age of 60. The good news: Nutrients that nourish the scalp and follicles can prevent thinning and hair loss and may promote new hair growth. Try these seven foods—and stop the shedding.
Are rich in protein, critical for hair follicle health. Certain amino acids act as precursors to keratin, the primary protein in hair, and a lack of protein in the diet has been linked with hair loss, as well as brittleness and fragility. Eggs are also high in biotin, a type of B vitamin that keeps scalp and follicles healthy and may improve hair growth.
Recipe tips: Whip eggs with garlic powder and a small amount of gluten-free flour, and cook in a waffle iron; serve poached eggs on a bed of grilled bitter greens; combine eggs, onions, black beans, and cheese, bake in muffin tins, and serve with salsa.
Is an excellent source of iron, essential for proper hair growth. Iron is involved in many critical processes within the hair follicle, and deficiencies have been linked with hair loss. Spinach is also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps the body absorb iron from the diet and also plays a role in the production of collagen, necessary for strengthening hair and preventing breakage and thinning.
Recipe tips: Toss baby spinach leaves with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, and radicchio; cook spinach and onions in coconut milk and vegetable broth, and purée for a simple, creamy soup; finely chop spinach and add to mac ’n’ cheese.
3. Sea Vegetables
Are loaded with iodine, a mineral that's important for thyroid health, and even small deficiencies can lead to problems. Hair follicles are directly influenced by thyroid hormones, and impaired thyroid hormone production has been linked with thinning hair and hair loss. Sea vegetables are also good sources of zinc, calcium, and other nutrients that protect hair follicles and keep the scalp healthy. Because too much iodine is harmful, foods are the best source. Soak most sea vegetables (except nori) in warm water before using, then drain well.
Recipe tips: Glaze salmon fillets with teriyaki sauce, wrap in nori, and bake until tender; toss cooked quinoa with red peppers, scallion, sautéed mushrooms, and arame; cook lima beans, leeks, and carrots in broth until tender, then stir in miso and hijiki.
4. Sunflower Seeds
Are an excellent source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects scalp and follicle health and can prevent hair loss. In one study, people with hair loss showed significant hair growth after supplementing with vitamin E. Sunflower seeds are also rich in fatty acids that enhance follicle proliferation and survival, which supports and promotes hair growth.
Recipe tips: Process sunflower seeds, mushrooms, onions, and spices in a food processor, form into patties and cook as burgers; combine sunflower seeds, almonds, coconut oil, cumin, and garlic powder and bake until lightly browned; toss sunflower seeds with shredded Brussels sprouts, red onions, dried cherries, and honey-yogurt dressing.
Are loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that protect the scalp and follicles from the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress has been linked to both hair loss and graying, and studies show that antioxidants can protect the scalp and may promote hair growth. Interestingly, some research suggests that getting polyphenols from the diet is a better solution than supplements, since high concentrations can potentiate oxidative stress. And dried plums (prunes) are also very high in iron.
Recipe tips: Pit and halve whole plums, toss with honey and cinnamon, and bake until tender; chop plums and toss with kale, arugula, goat cheese, and walnuts; grind pitted prunes with almonds, sunflower seeds, and cashews in a food processor and form into balls.
6. Nutritional Yeast
Made from deactivated yeast grown on molasses or another food source, is rich in B vitamins, especially B, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. B vitamins are necessary for healthy hair, and deficiencies have been linked with certain kinds of hair loss. They also protect against stress, which has been shown to disrupt the natural growth cycle of hair follicles, increase shedding, and contribute to hair loss.
Recipe tips: Sprinkle hot popcorn with nutritional yeast, oregano, and garlic powder; purée cashew butter, water, and nutritional yeast for a “cheesy” sauce; toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, nutritional yeast, and rosemary, and bake until tender.
Try our Turkey & Mushroom Ragu-Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe, made with nutritional yeast.
Are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep the scalp and follicles healthy. Studies show that omega-3 fats may reduce hair loss, increase hair density, and promote hair growth. In one study, 62 percent of women who took omega-3 fatty acids combined with antioxidants showed increased hair density and thickness. Sardines are also high in protein, zinc, and other nutrients important for hair health.
Recipe tips: Combine sardine fillets, black olives, fennel, and leeks, and bake until vegetables are tender; mix sardines with red onions, cilantro, mayo, and lime, and serve in halved and pitted avocados; toss sardines with cooked penne pasta, roasted red peppers, garlic, parsley, and olive oil.
Try our Plum & Chicken Stir-Fry recipe
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