There are so many products in the market aimed to improve the look and feel of your hair that you can easily forget that one of the most important things you can do to keep your natural hair healthy is proper nutrition. Eating well and getting key nutrients from your diet is a key factor in ensuring that your hair gets what it needs to grow and get protection from hair breakage or damage. In this article, one of the factors we have highlighted for promoting hair growth in proper health and nutrition. While factors such as age, overall health, genetics, and hormones also affect hair growth, optimal nutrient intake is a key factor. So, checking on your daily diet or what you eat is very essential.
What vitamins and other nutrients does hair need to grow? To grow and flourish, hair, like any other part of the body, requires (i) vitamins such as Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, (ii) minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and magnesium, (iii) Essential Fatty Acids and (iv) Essential Amino Acids.
In this article, we will explore the different groups of essential nutrients that your hair needs to grow, and the types of foods that contain these nutrients.
Vitamins for Natural Hair Growth
Below are 5 Vitamins that are important for natural hair growth.
1. Vitamin A
All tissues including those that makeup hair (which is the fastest growing tissue in the human body) require vitamin A for growth. Vitamin A promotes the production of the oily substance produced by the body called sebum. Sebum is moisturizing to the scalp and helps keep your hair healthy. If you have a vitamin A deficiency in your diet, you are likely to suffer from several problems including hair loss. While it’s vital to get enough vitamin A, too much of it may be dangerous. As we know too much of something is dangerous and Vitamin A is not an exception. Studies indicate that an overdose of vitamin A can also contribute to hair loss.
Sources of Vitamins A: Vitamin A is found in various foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and greens like spinach and kale. These foods are all high in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A. Animal products such as milk, eggs, and yogurt are also a good source of Vitamins A. Cod liver oil is also a very good source of Vitamin A.
2. B Vitamins
There are 8 B vitamins, collectively these are referred to as B complex vitamins. These include:
Thiamine (B1) | Riboflavin (B2) |Niacin (B3) |Pantothenic acid (B5) |Pyridoxine (B6) |Biotin (B7) |Folate (B9) |Cobalamin (B12)
Biotin is one of the best-known vitamins for hair growth. Foods such as lentils are a very good source of biotin. When biotin interacts with cell enzymes, it aids in the production of amino acids compounds that form important proteins.
Biotin deficiency causes hair loss. However, deficiency occurs rarely because it is found naturally in a wide range of foods. B-vitamins helps in creating red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles. These processes are very important for hair growth.
Common sources of biotin include Liver, Egg yolk, yeast, nuts & seeds, Dairy, Salmon, Avocadoes, and Sweet potatoes.
Folic acid makes your hair thicker and shinier. It boosts healthy cell generation and therefore, it stimulates natural hair growth in both men and women. Typically, folic acid is found sufficiently in B-complex vitamins, so if you are already taking this supplement, it is unnecessary to take folic acid separately. Folic acid-rich foods for hair growth include cereals and whole wheat grains. In addition, all the citrus fruits, French beans, broccoli, dried beans, and all leafy green vegetables like spinach contain folic acid. Capsicum and chilies are also rich sources of folic acid.
Niacin is another vitamin in the Vitamin B family that is responsible for nourishing and re-hydrating the scalp and aids the hair follicles to produce stronger strands of hair. The main function of this niacin is to transform carbohydrates into energy, and it also helps to maintain the structure of the blood cells and improve blood circulation, which results in more blood flow to the scalp, as well as more oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles. Niacin also is known as nicotinic acid deficiency, results in dull, brittle hair. So, it’s necessary that you consume an adequate amount of niacin from supplements or through foods. Green peas, chicken breast, tuna, turkey, avocados, mushrooms, and peanut contain Niacin.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to your hair by blocking the growth and causing your hair to age. To add on top of that, your body needs vitamin C to create a protein known as collagen which is an important part of the hair structure. Vitamin C also helps in the absorption of iron, a mineral necessary for hair growth.
Sources of Vitamin C :Citrus fruits like oranges, thyme, kale, strawberries, peppers, and guavas are all good sources of vitamin C.
4. Vitamin D
Research has linked Vitamin D deficiency to alopecia, a technical term for hair loss. Vitamin D aids in creating new follicles which are the tiny pores in the scalp where new hair can grow. Vitamin D is thought to play a role in hair growth. Your body produces vitamin D when it comes into direct contact with the sun’s rays.
Sources of Vitamin D: Fatty fish, cod liver oil, some mushrooms, and fortified foods are great sources of Vitamin D.
5. Vitamin E
Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that prevents oxidative stress. The natural antioxidant effects of Vitamin E promotes hair growth by maintaining a healthy scalp.
The vitamin’s antioxidant properties help reduce the amount of oxidative stress and free radicals that cause the hair follicle cells in a person’s scalp to break down. Some people claim that vitamin E can help replenish shine that the hair loss as a result of damage. Many manufacturers of hair oils and other products add vitamin E to their products to help restore shine and provide extra protection to the hair. Sunflower seeds, spinach, almonds, and avocados are very good sources of vitamin E.
Minerals for natural hair growth
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your cells in your entire body. This makes it a vital mineral for all bodily functions, that includes hair growth. Iron deficiency, which causes anemia, a major cause of hair loss. Anemia is particularly common in women. Your hair follicles receive nourishing oxygen from the iron present in your red blood cells. While the level of iron in your blood may be considered normal, there is still a chance that you may have low ferritin which is the “bank” of iron your body keeps to draw on when it needs it. Low ferritin causes slow or halted hair growth, as well as shedding. Dietary sources of iron include liver, clams, oysters, eggs, red meat, spinach, and lentils.
Zinc is very important for hair tissue growth and repair. It also aids in keeping the oil glands around the follicles working properly. Zinc helps strengthen your hair follicles and prevent hair loss, by binding its proteins. It also plays a role in your oil glands functionality by protecting your hair from dryness and dandruff. You can experience hair loss if you suffer from zinc deficiency and to deal with this deficiency you can take zinc supplements if it is recommended by your medical doctor. However, some studies that indicate supplementing with too much zinc dose can also contribute to hair loss, so it is better to get your zinc from whole foods. Foods high in zinc include spinach, oysters, beef, lentils, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and cereals are some of the great sources of zinc.
Hair is mostly made up of protein. The hardened proteins that make up the hair structure are known as keratin. When your protein stores are low in your body, production of this important building block slows and hair grows slowly and becomes weak.
Chicken, turkey, and fish like tuna, halibut and tilapia are great examples of foods rich in protein to include in your everyday diet.
Iodine is a micronutrient that plays a major role in not only the growth of your hair but also the growth and development of all the organs and tissues in your body. The functioning of your thyroid has a significant effect on your hair. The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce the thyroxine and triiodothyronine that dictate the rate of growth, thickness, texture, and color of your hair. Consequently, any thyroid disorder caused by an iodine deficiency can lead to dry and rough hair. In fact, iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of hair loss among women. Iodine has anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties that fight any infections that could be developing around your hair follicles and causing hair fall. Iodine fights a variety of hair problems like dryness, hair fall, and premature greying. It also plays a role in strengthening your hair from the roots and making it thicker.
Sources of Iodine include Seaweed, Cod, Dairy products, Iodized salt, Shrimp, Tuna, Eggs, Prunes, and Lima beans.
Manganese is essential for the production of natural antioxidant enzymes. The enzyme created helps in protecting the hair against free radical damage that promotes thinning. Manganese intake must be carefully watched, as too much of it can affect your body’s ability to absorb iron. Foods that are rich in manganese include egg yolks, leafy green vegetables, nuts, spinach, and whole grains.
Silica is an important mineral that counters shedding and also helps in making hair look revitalized. It does this by dealing with hormonal imbalance. If you want more silica in your body, you need to include bananas, bread, raisins, carrots, and brown rice in your diet.
Taking calcium helps with the absorption of iron. To have beautiful hair, there needs to be a sufficient amount of iron in our body. As iron is a key nutrient that is stored in different parts of our body; it can be found in hair follicles. Many women are also more inclined to be inflicted with iron deficiency during menstruation. Increasing calcium intake together with a diet that’s rich in Vitamin C and D can boost iron absorption. Dietary sources of Calcium include: Dairy products, seafood, leafy greens and legumes
Sulfur is one of the building blocks of hair, with very good reason. As we have already known our hair is comprised of a durable protein called keratin, which is high in sulfur content. Sulfur is required for proteins to maintain their shape, which contributes directly to the overall health, strength, and elasticity of your hair. Some studies indicate that sulfur has positive effects on hair growth. The life cycle of your hair consists of three phases that is, growing, resting, and shedding. Sulfur has been confirmed to lengthen the growing phase of your hair. A longer growing phase means longer hair if there is delayed shedding and resting phase. Finally, sulfur also has been linked to treating, relieving, and decreasing the incidences of psoriasis, dandruff, eczema, and folliculitis. If you’re interested in increasing your sulfur intake, chow down on these foods such as fish, high-quality beef, eggs, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, legumes, garlic kale, onions, and wheat germ.
Essential Fatty Acids for hair growth
Omega-3 Fatty acids
Omega-3 is found in the cell membranes the scalp, and in the natural oil (sebum) that your scalp produces. Getting enough of these essential fatty acids can help prevent dry scalp and help your hair grow and shine. You can get these fatty acids from fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil.
While your hair is made primarily of protein, it is also made of water which plays a key role in maintaining moisture to avoid dryness and breakage. Whilst turning to a leave-in conditioner or other hydrating products to soften strands is important, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day. Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables helps hydrate your hair as well.
Are hair supplements good for you?
Food is the best source of the nutrients that your hair needs. However, if you fail to get enough in your diet, supplements can assist. Supplements work best in individuals who are already deficient. Always consult your doctor to determine whether you need to supplement.
Apart from aging, illness, and genetics, malnutrition is one of the most common causes of hair loss. It is important to note that eating a healthy diet, even one designed to support hair growth, may not address genetic or systemic problems but it helps prevent hair damage. Following a healthy, well-balanced diet can help people maintain optimum levels of hair growth and replacement.
I hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions or comments, leave them in the comment box below.