The #1 Food To Eat For Hair Health |

The #1 Food To Eat For Hair Health

When it comes to your health, everything is connected. The foods you eat contribute enormously to your overall health as well as to your hair health. If, lately, your strands are looking a little drab, feeling a bit brittle, or shedding more than usual, adjusting your diet may help.

In a nutshell, eating foods that are high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, folic acid, and vitamins can help you achieve your best hair yet. Below, two registered dietitians discuss why nutrition is so important for healthy strands, name their #1 top food for hair health, and share essential diet tips that will keep your locks looking great.

The Role of Nutrition in Hair Health

The food you eat (and don’t eat) is absolutely key to maintaining your overall health — and that includes your hair health, says Amanda Sauceda, RD. “Before diving into specific nutrients, it’s important to ensure your body is getting enough calories. Your body requires energy for hair growth and for the production of hormones required for healthy hair, so make sure basic calorie needs are met.”

For reference, the average adult woman needs roughly 2,000 calories a day, according to the National Library of Medicine. In addition to energy, the nutrients we get through our food also have a direct impact on how healthy our hair is.

“Hair is made from protein, specifically keratin, so it makes sense that we need to eat an adequate amount of protein in our diet to support healthy hair growth,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, a nutrition expert and author of “Everyday Snack Tray.”

Other nutrients needed for healthy hair include zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, and biotin, she says. “These vitamins and minerals are involved in new cell growth, and without them, our hair cannot thrive. Also, studies have shown that when carbohydrates are restricted, hair loss can result.”

The #1 Food for Hair Health

Both Largeman-Roth and Sauceda call out salmon, specifically wild salmon, as the number one best food to eat for hair health. Salmon provides high-quality protein, including marine collagen, omega-3s, and zinc, which are all important nutrients associated with hair health, says Largeman-Roth.

In particular, wild sockeye salmon, most of which comes from Alaska and is guaranteed to be sustainably caught, has the highest vitamin D content of all types of salmon, she says. What’s more, vitamin D deficiency may be associated with hair loss, which is why it’s important to incorporate it into your diet. Try to incorporate two servings per week — and don’t skimp out on eating the skin. It’s packed with collagen, which promotes hair health, Sauceda points out.

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Other Excellent Foods for Hair Health

Obviously, you also need to eat a balanced diet — you can’t just survive on salmon! Both experts named some other great foods to incorporate into your diet to promote luscious locks. Here are some foods to consider.

  • Almonds: Almonds are full of plant protein. They also contain high levels of iron and magnesium, making them a powerhouse for hair health, says Largeman-Roth.
  • Walnuts: Walnuts also are a great vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids, and contain lots of protein, fiber, and magnesium — all of which help to keep your hair in top shape, says Largeman-Roth.
  • Eggs: Eggs are a valuable source of protein, which promotes healthy hair, says Largeman-Roth. “They offer up the gold standard of protein (high biological value with all nine essential amino acids), with 6 grams per egg. Plus, they provide an excellent source of vitamin B12 and biotin, 44 IU of vitamin D, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.”
  • Citrus fruits: Stock your fruit bowl up with oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, and lemons —they’re all full of folic acid, Largeman-Roth says. “Folic acid is necessary for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to cells around the body, including in your scalp.” Sauceda also notes that these fruits are rich in vitamin C, which helps to build collagen and promotes healthy hair.
  • Skin-on chicken: If you don’t like salmon much or can’t access it easily for any reason, you can still achieve super healthy hair. “An alternative to fish to get your collagen is chicken with skin,” says Sauceda. “You could also use the bones of your chicken to make a bone broth for another collagen source.”
  • Legumes: Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are another great source of vegetarian protein, and also contain B vitamins and iron. Sauceda recommends eating them regularly for thriving hair.

Top Foods to Avoid for Healthy Hair

As with any other aspect of your health, there are some foods that are best consumed in moderation. Prioritize anti-inflammatory foods and limit inflammatory foods where possible, says Sauceda. This means not eating too many sweets or ultra-processed foods. “These types of foods are often lacking nutrients and aren’t great for your blood sugar either,” she says.

That said, Sauceda notes you can absolutely still eat your favorite foods that are less nutritionally-dense. But it’s a good idea to be aware of how much of them you’re consuming if your hair health is a concern.

Largeman-Roth also notes that not all fish are created equal when it comes to hair health. “While fish rich in omega-3s are great for hair health, you want to avoid high mercury fish, like swordfish and bigeye tuna. Mercury, a heavy metal, can cause hair loss once it has built up in your body.”

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Lifestyle Factors for Healthy Hair

You also should incorporate healthy lifestyle habits to boost hair health. To start, stay hydrated says Largeman-Roth. “Dry skin leads to dry hair, which can make it brittle and prone to damage. Also, avoid yo-yo dieting, which can lead to hair loss.”

Stress also can be a huge factor in hair health, says Sauceda. “Managing stress, especially sneaky stress, is important for healthy hair. Sneaky stress is that chronic stress you get used to but is still there and can increase cortisol levels, which can influence the hair growth cycle.

Both experts also note that adequate hair care is essential, too, which means limiting heat styling and always using a heat protectant when you do use heat. You may also find it helpful to sleep on a satin pillow and dry your hair in a microfiber towel that’s designed to protect your strands.

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