If you have been noticing that your hairline has been receding for a while now, or you have more hair in the brush than usual, incorporating more wholesome, plant-based foods into your diet can help promote hair growth and stronger, healthier hair from the follicle up.
“The link between healthy hair and our diet is stronger than we often realize and by making a few changes hair loss prevention and even reversal can be achieved. Foods to integrate into our diet are rich in vital nutrients like biotin, zinc, and protein,” says Trista K. Best, MPH, RD at Balance One. “These foods also have additional benefits when added to the diet like reducing cholesterol from their fiber content and balancing blood pressure because of their potassium.”
To find out what foods to focus on, we tapped nutritionists for their top picks. We don’t know about you, but we’re definitely adding all of the below to our next order. Join us.
Foods that promote hair growth and slow down hair loss
1. Sweet Potatoes
Our favorite lazy dinner side has long been a baked sweet potato with a smidge of mustard or dollop of plant-based butter, even though everyone who eats said masterpiece seems to think making it requires five-star culinary schools and tools beyond an oven and a piece of tinfoil. Now, we have a feeling we’re going to be eating this low-effort dish with even more frequency:
“One food in particular that meets all of [the criteria I discussed above] is sweet potatoes. This root vegetable is versatile, tasty, inexpensive, and packs a ton of health benefits,” notes Best. “Because of its versatility you can easily use it as the base of any meal in traditional baked form or as a base of baked fries,” she offers, adding that sweet potatoes also make a welcome, filling ingredient to any vegan stew.
2. Beans and lentils
“Why do these nutrient-dense foods work wonders for hair growth? It’s all in the protein. “Insufficient protein intake can sometimes result in reduced hair growth and even hair loss. Enjoying a balanced diet and including protein-rich foods like beans and lentils can help grow healthy, strong hair,” shares the Desi~licious RD Shahzadi Devje, MS, noting that protein are the building block of your hair follicles.
“Not to mention, [such protein-rich foods] can also help reduce damage and dryness. Keep in mind that too much protein, known as protein overload, is equally damaging as too little for your hair. Excessive amounts of dietary protein may add extra weight to your hair, compromise the moisture balance, and result in brittle hair that is prone to breakage.”
3. Hemp seeds
This suggestion from Bansari Acharya, MA, RD couldn’t have come at a better time as we’ve been on a bit of a kick with adding hemp seeds to our green protein powder smoothie as of late.
“Hemp seeds are an extremely nutritionally dense food item that can promote hair growth. They contain essential nutrients in it such as omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked to promoting hair growth by reducing the inflammation in the hair follicle.” says Acharya. “In addition, hemp seeds are an excellent source of protein (just two tablespoons contain a whopping 10 grams of protein) and are one of the few vegan foods that contain all essential amino acids which make them a complete protein.” Like Devje stressed above, Acharya emphasizes how crucial getting adequate protein is for hair growth.
Add hemp seeds to smoothies for a nutty flavor boost, or sprinkle them over your oatmeal or dairy-free yogurt.
Who knew that Popeye’s favorite was such a winner in the hair growth department? “Spinach is another nutritious vegan food that is great for hair growth. It is a rich source of nutrients vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and iron. All of these nutrients, especially iron, are needed in the healthy growth of hair follicles,” comments Acharya, noting that the most health effective way to reap all of the green’s nutrients is by eating it raw in salads, smoothies, and the like.
Pumpkin is good for so much more than just that pumpkin-chocolate marble cake when sweets cravings arise. Pumpkin is a boon for encouraging hair growth thanks to its ample amounts of vitamin A. “Pumpkins, a rich vitamin A source, can prevent deficiency symptoms, leading to hair loss. Besides being a requirement for hair growth, vitamin A also aids your skin glands to produce sebum, an oily substance that moisturizes your scalp to keep your hair healthy,” explains Devje.
Personally, we could totally eat canned pumpkin straight with a spoon, but while it’s still available, pick up some fresh pumpkins to roast in the oven with spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and ground ginger for a nourishing side dish. Or cube up some cooked pumpkin and mix it into your favorite stir fry recipe.
6. Vitamin D-rich foods such as mushrooms and fortified plant-based milk
“One vitamin that consistently has been shown to help with hair loss is Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D has been associated with alopecia areata (sudden hair loss) and premature gray hair and loss,” shares Jackie Elnahar RD, Esq., founder of TelaDietitian, a tele-nutrition platform that is now part of Teladoc Health.
“Although the exact mechanism is not known, Vitamin D can help stimulate the hair follicle to grow. Supplementation of Vitamin D has been shown to improve hair loss and can be a safe recommendation under a physician’s supervision.” Most naturally occurring sources of vitamin D hail from animal products, but for plant-based options with vitamin D, Elnahar recommends adding fortified almond or coconut milks to your diet, or eating mushrooms such as Portobello, maitake, morel, chanterelle, oyster, and shiitake, which all contain natural levels of vitamin D that gets activated when they are exposed to sunlight.
7. Nuts for Zinc, Selenium and Magnesium
Nuts are high in protein and zinc, which helps your body grow strong hair. The best nuts to add to your diet include walnuts, which are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and biotin, and Brazil nuts, which are high in selenium as well as almonds, which are high in magnesium and other nutrients that promote healthy hair growth. Almonds provide help your follicles produce stronger hair strands, and lead to less hair breakage or loss, studies say. The latest research on growing stronger healthier hair backs a plant-based diet with plenty of oils from nuts, so dig in.