We get most of the nutrients our bodies need from the food we eat. So when your diet doesn't include meat, it also doesn't include certain nutrients that can be difficult or impossible to get from other sources. This can make a huge impact on how you feel day-to-day, affecting everything from energy levels to immunity. And according to Jessica Cho, MD, an integrative medicine doctor and hair restoration specialist, not eating meat can also impact hair growth.
"Hair nutrients like iron, biotin, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and selenium, are mainly sourced from meat thus it will be prudent to consider hair nutrients from plant sources when you don't eat meat," says Dr. Cho. This might mean your hair doesn't grow as fast as it used to, and can also lead to thinning and excessive shedding.
If you don't eat meat, Dr. Cho says that "supplementing more nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils is helpful to incorporate important hair nutrients into your diet." The idea that vegetarians and vegans can't meet their daily nutrient needs (especially for protein) is a common, yet harmful misconception in our society. It's perfectly possible to get what you need but does require a bit more research and legwork on the back end.
If you want a bit of help on the hair health end, Dr. Cho recommends leaning on supplements. A great option is the new Nutrafol Women's Vegan ($79), which was made with vegan-friendly ingredients and also has additional nutrients to support those who don't eat meat.
"Nutrafol didn’t just remove non-vegan ingredients, but rather leveraged the latest studies and scientific advancements to identify scientifically backed nutrient-rich extracts to naturally optimize the body to support its own collagen production and balance the underlying root causes of hair thinning for plant-based diets," says Briana Diorio, PhD, director of education at Nutrafol. "We removed the marine collagen and keratin and swapped them for Moldavian dragonhead, a botanical shown to naturally support the body in its own collagen production, and pea sprouts, an ingredient clinically shown to improve hair growth."
Plus, the brand optimized the formula for absorption.
"Absorption can be complex sometimes. Factors such as microbiome imbalances, damage to the gut lining, food allergies, anti-nutrients [Editors note: These are ingredients that decrease nutrient absorption], and low stomach acid can all impact overall digestion and nutrient absorption," says Dr. Diorio. "Nutrafol Hair Growth Nutraceuticals use standardized ingredients, which consistently contain the same phyto-actives in every serving, as well as ingredients that have enhanced bioavailability, such as our liposomal vitamin C and methyl B12, that are more easily recognized and used by the body."
While Dr. Cho can't speak to the efficacy of this specific supplement, she does note that supplements can be a really reliable way of filling dietary nutrient gaps. "Taking hair nutrients through supplements will serve you more reliable, consistent, more bio-available, absorbable forms of hair nutrients than eating them through food as much of nutrients can be lost in the process of handling, cooking, and storing the food," says Dr. Cho.
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