Hair loss can be the effect of various conditions, from stress to hormonal changes to nutritional deficiencies and more. If a nutrition issue is at play, what may you need more of? Experts share what to consider adding to your meals and snacks in order to get more nutrients that prevent hair loss into your diet.
7 nutrients that help prevent hair loss
On today’s list of fun facts you may not have been expecting, hair is basically protein. “Our hair is primarily made up of a protein called keratin,” says Brea Lofton, RD, a registered dietitian with Lumen.
So, more protein leads to healthier, stronger, more resilient hair. “Protein is vital for hair health because it provides the structural basis for the formation and maintenance of hair,” she explains.
In other words, time to brainstorm some meal prep ideas that include protein-rich foods and snacks But how much do you need? “The recommended amount of protein per day can be individualized, so it can be beneficial to consult with a health-care professional or registered dietitian who can provide you with valuable insight on a suitable protein intake that is right for you,” Lofton says.
Looks like vitamin A supports more than just your vision and immune system! “Vitamin A is partly made up of retinal, which may support healthy hair growth; may help with hair loss; promote healthier, stronger hair; and can have an influence on your hair cycle as a whole,” says Morgana Colombo, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and advisor for HYAESTIC, a science-based collection of advanced skin-care products.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, people assigned female at birth (AFAB) need 700 micrograms and people assigned men at birth (AMAB) need 900 micrograms. To get you there, Dr. Colombo encourages eating sweet potatoes, butternut squash, red peppers, carrots, spinach, kale, salmon, tuna, cheese, eggs, mangoes, grapefruit, watermelon, or papayas.
It turns out this herbal favorite is one of your hair’s favorites, too! In fact, it helps reduce two out of three culprits behind hair loss, according to William Gaunitz, FWTS, certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology.
“Green tea has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce inflammation that could lead to scalp problems, including dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis,” he explains. “It helps boost the immune system to fight off microbials and reduces the impact of DHT on the hair follicles, minimizing the effects of male and female pattern hair loss.”
He recommends drinking green tea daily. Bring out the kettle!
Yep, according to Lofton, iron deficiency is a common cause of hair loss. “Iron is essential for hair health as it helps deliver oxygen to hair follicles and promotes the growth and repair of hair cells,” she explains.
To get more iron into your diet, incorporate foods like lean red meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, and fortified cereals, she says. And that’s not all she encourages. “Also, by pairing iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C, such as from citrus fruits, berries, and broccoli, you can enhance iron absorption and prevent potential hair loss.”
As with any nutrients to help prevent hair loss, the amount you need will range, but the National Institutes of Health says adults AFAB need 18 milligrams on average and adults AMAB need eight milligrams on average.
Dr. Colombo says this vitamin “may help with cell turnover and may help with regrowth.”
To get the recommended 600 international units daily (for people between ages one and 70, at least), she says considering foods like cow milk, salmon, eggs, mushrooms, orange juice, and yogurt.
Another fun fact, according to Gaunitz: Gut health directly influences hair loss. He adds that antibiotics, consuming foods you’re allergic to, and certain medications can compromise that.
“This can be reduced or eliminated by consuming foods that are high in probiotics and prebiotics, including fermented foods, like kimchi and sauerkraut, as well as raw milk, [kefir], and Icelandic yogurt,” he says. On average, adults need up to 20 billion CFUs of probiotics a day, so that amount may be the ticket!
They're important for more than just mood! “Due to omega-3 fatty acids’s anti-inflammatory properties, they play a role in nourishing hair follicles,” Lofton says. Further, they help maintain scalp health, support the production of sebum (a substance that keeps the hair and scalp moisturized), and more, she adds.
For some omega-3 friendly foods, you’ll want to turn to fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, and olive oil, according to Lofton.
“A typical recommendation for omega-3 fat intake is 1.1 grams per day for women and 1.6 grams per day for men,” she adds, saying three ounces of Atlantic mackerel will cover about 93 percent of what people AFAB need and slightly over 60 percent of what people AMAB need, for example.
But again, she emphasizes that what each person needs each day will vary based on their medications, age, medical history, and more, so working with a nutrition expert or health-care pro will help you ensure you’re getting the proper amount of nutrients for your needs.
- VanBuren, Christine A, and Helen B Everts. “Vitamin A in Skin and Hair: An Update.” Nutrients vol. 14,14 2952. 19 Jul. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14142952
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