Biotin, aka vitamin B-7, has been getting a lot of love in the health and beauty spheres of late — and for good reason. As an essential nutrient, biotin is an important building block and active compound in several different bodily functions. Biotin is also often called vitamin H, the “H” coming from the German words haar and haut (meaning hair and skin), and it’s become a popular way for people to support the growth of healthy hair and nails.
Read on to learn more about how biotin helps support hair growth and how you can get more biotin into your diet with a wide variety of delicious and nutritious foods.
Why Is Biotin Important?
Biotin serves a lot of different functions in our bodies. Not only does it support eye, skin, hair, brain and liver function, but it’s also important for a variety of metabolic functions that convert our food into energy. Biotin is also involved in communication between cells and gene regulation. Biotin can be found in a number of foods naturally but can also be taken as an easy daily supplement.
How Biotin Supports Hair Health
“Biotin helps with metabolism. This vitamin is needed to make glucose which gives your body energy. It also is responsible for making amino acids. These compounds help to build protein. Protein is needed for healthy hair, skin, and nails. That is why biotin is often recommended for hair growth,” said Jeanette Kimszal, registered dietary nutritionist and founder of Root Nutrition & Education.
Biotin helps your body produce a protein called keratin. When it comes to your hair, nails and skin, keratin is an essential building block. While we know biotin can help our bodies produce the keratin we need for healthy hair, there still hasn’t been a lot of research measuring the precise impacts that biotin has on hair growth.
Two similar studies, done in 2012 and 2015, have suggested that women who used a marine protein supplement that contained biotin reported increased hair growth over either 90- or 180-day periods. The women who were taking biotin also demonstrated less hair shedding. Another study from 2016 looking at women who were experiencing hair loss showed that 38% of participants had a biotin deficiency. It should be pointed out, however, that biotin deficiency is rare.
9 Vegan Foods That Are Good Sources Of Biotin
So how do we ensure that our intake of biotin is on point?
The good news is that we can meet our basic needs for biotin through a healthy balanced diet, and foods with biotin are not hard to find. The National Institutes of Health recommends that, for most adults, 30mcg (micrograms) of biotin daily is an adequate intake.
Plenty of natural sources of biotin are available. Here are nine of the top biotin-rich vegan foods that will help you get all the vitamin B-7 you need.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. They also offer 2.4mcg of biotin (8% of the AI) in every ½ cup cooked serving. Bonus: Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, which promotes the health of your scalp and hair. Beta-carotene gets turned into vitamin A on demand and helps stimulate your scalp to produce sebum at the base of your hair follicles, which helps hair look shiny and soft.
Mushrooms are amazing for so many reasons. Not only are they chock-full of vitamins and minerals ( and a good source of biotin), but they also help promote health by supporting the microbiome in our gut. One cup of chopped fresh button mushrooms can provide you with 5.6mcg (19% of the AI) of biotin.
Aside from animal protein, nutritional yeast packs the biggest punch for your biotin buck from natural food sources. You might know nutritional yeast as a staple in vegan cooking, where it’s often used as a seasoning to add a nutty, cheesy and savory flavor to food. But it’s also full of protein, B vitamins and trace minerals. Two tablespoons can contain up to 21mcg (20% of the AI) of biotin.
Legumes like peas, beans and lentils are an important part of any healthy diet. As a whole, legumes are low-calorie, high-fiber and high-protein foods that are low on the glycemic scale. They also offer up solid amounts of biotin. In particular, legumes like roasted peanuts can offer up about 5mcg (17% of AI) of biotin per half-cup, while soybeans contain a whopping 19.3mcg (64% of AI) in a ½ cup serving of whole beans.
Nuts and seeds are two more staples for eating well, providing healthy unsaturated fats, protein and fiber along with vitamins and minerals. Roasted almonds are a good source of biotin, containing 1.5mcg (5% of AI) per quarter-cup serving.
You don't need a road trip to eat a few sunflower seeds. A quarter-cup of roasted sunflower seeds yields about 2.6 mcg of biotin (9% of the AI).
Filled with fiber, potassium, B vitamins and more, bananas are also a good source of biotin. A half-cup of banana contains approximately 0.2 mcg of biotin.
Avocados of all varieties are filled with nutrients such as fiber, vitamin A and C, niacin, folate, biotin and healthy fats. A serving of 100 grams of avocado will contain anywhere from 3.2 to 10 mcg of biotin.
Adding broccoli to your diet means adding fiber, Vitamin A and C, calcium and yes, a bit of biotin too. If you add a half-cup of broccoli to your meal, you can expected around 0.4 mcg of biotin. It's not a whole lot so pile on that broccoli or consider adding a biotin supplement to your daily routine.
Is It Possible To Get Too Much Biotin?
Here's more good news: If you take a biotin supplement, it's water-soluble. “This means that when people consume too much, the body naturally disposes of the vitamin through its natural waste system,” explained Morgyn Clair, a registered dietary nutritionist with Sprint Kitchen.
The bottom line: “With many vitamins, toxicity is possible. However, research showst hat biotin has not caused any problems at maximum levels,” added Ms. Kimszal.
What Else Should I Eat To Grow Healthy Hair?
The best way to support healthy hair growth through diet is variety and balance. Eating foods that are a variety of colors and shapes is one easy way to ensure you’re achieving diversity in vitamin and mineral intake.
“Aside from biotin, vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, zinc and iron can help with hair growth. Vitamin E protects the hair from oxidative stress and promotes hair development. Eating enough protein is also essential for hair development,” explains Dr. Linda Khoshaba, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.
Biotin for Healthy Hair
The pillars for healthy hair also happen to be the pillars for a healthy body on the whole. Eat a balanced diet, manage stress and take care of yourself as best you can.
“Stress often depletes the body of nutrients," said Kimszal. "Biotin is one nutrient that is depleted during stress. If someone has a busy life or [is] constantly under stress, they may be at risk for a biotin deficiency. Certain medications can also prevent nutrients from being absorbed. Stress has also been linked to hair loss."
We all live busy lives and have to face stress on the regular. If you know your diet isn’t as great as it should be, you can always consider adding dietary supplements like GRO Biotin Gummies for Hair or GRO+ Advanced Gummies with CBD to the mix to promote hair health.
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