If you’re starting to notice more hair in your brush, you’re not alone. Although hair loss can be caused by stress or a medical condition or treatment, for about 80 million people who suffer, it’s simply hereditary, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
The good news is that thick, healthy hair is possible with a diet rich in certain foods that are not only good for your hair but for your overall health, too. Try these 8.
Copper, a mineral found in avocado, is one of the best nutrients that fortify both hair and skin.
“Copper builds up the collagen and elastin of the skin that holds the hair follicle,” said Dr. Ellen Marmur, a board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor in the department of dermatology and the department of genetics and genomic research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Copper also helps to balance the hormones so hair grows strong and aids other reactions in the scalp that strengthen lipids in the hair. Other copper-rich foods include shellfish, veal, beef, whole grains, dark leafy green vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and chocolate.
2. Pumpkin seeds
Known as a “co-factor,” the zinc found in pumpkin seeds helps with cellular turnover, cell division and growth that help to form keratin, a protein that makes up hair, Marmur said. Zinc can also preserve hair color and prevent dandruff.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc and versatile— add them to salads, side dishes or enjoy them as a snack. Other sources of zinc include sesame seeds, beef, lamb, oysters, lentils and chickpeas.
“If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, you’re not going to be able to make keratin efficiently,” said Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and co-author of “The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life.”
Lean chicken and fish are protein powerhouses, but if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll need your fill through plant-based sources like soybeans and edamame,which are complete proteins.
“They have all the essential amino acids you need for optimal health,” Ansel said.
4. Whole grain cereal
Whole-grain, iron-fortified breakfast cereal is a great source of iron, as are beef and dark meat chicken. Lentils and cashew nuts are plant-based sources of iron, but be sure to pair them with vitamin-C rich foods like Swiss chard, tomatoes, strawberries or kiwi, which will help you absorb the iron.
“Iron supplies oxygen to your hair follicles so if you don’t get enough, then your hair may begin to thin,” Ansel said.
5. Chia seeds
Healthy hair needs healthy fat. In fact, low-fat diets can make your scalp dry and inflamed and lead to hair loss, Ansel said. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are easy— add them to smoothies, oatmeal, or make chia pudding. Other excellent sources include flaxseed, walnuts and salmon.
With summer right around the corner, clams on the half shell are not only delicious but an excellent source of vitamin B12, which helps in the synthesis of keratin, Ansel said. Other foods rich in vitamin B12 include crab, mussels, sardines, turkey, milk and yogurt. Since vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods, be sure to take a supplement if you’re vegan.
Biotin, a B-vitamin, is showing up in so many new hair products and for good reason. Biotin helps hair grow and keeps the scalp healthy. Look for biotin in nuts, especially almonds, as well as eggs and fortified breads and cereals.
8. Bell peppers
Bell peppers are loaded with vitamin C, which is great for hair growth and protecting skin from toxic free radicals, Marmur said. Cut up red, yellow and green bell peppers and add them to salads, stews, soups and side dishes.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women’s issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.