As a clinical nutritionist, I focus on health from the inside out. When I have a patient struggling with dry, brittle, dull or thinning hair, the first thing we examine is diet. Nutritional deficiencies can be incredibly damaging to your hair health. Correcting deficiencies through diet, or supplementation, if indicated, is crucial. Unfortunately, if you’re highly deficient, it may take up to six months to see your hair bounce back. That’s why prevention is the best intervention.
Here are five nutrients that play a critical role in hair health. Plus, what supplements you really should be using to encourage thicker, fuller hair.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is incredibly important for your hair. Vitamin A stimulates the production and activity of your white blood cells, which regulate cell growth and division. Your hair is one of the fastest-growing tissues in your body. Research also shows that vitamin A can speed up the rate of hair growth and encourage thicker hair.
Vitamin A also supports sebum, an oily substance that moisturizes the scalp and helps keep your hair healthy.
Foods rich in beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) include spinach, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, pumpkin and kale.
Pro Tip: Since vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, try to eat these foods with a source of healthy fat like avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, or some nuts and seeds.
Biotin is part of the B-vitamin family and is well-known as a nutrient that can help your hair grow longer and stronger. One of the most beneficial roles biotin plays is supporting the infrastructure of keratin. Up to 95% of your hair strand is made from the protein keratin. Biotin also helps with energy and the metabolism of amino acids (the building blocks of protein).
Many foods are rich in biotin, and most people can meet their needs through their diet.
My favorite vegan source of biotin is nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast has the highest concentration of biotin out of all the non-animal sources. Other foods rich in biotin include legumes, nuts and seeds, bananas, cauliflower and mushrooms.
GRO Biotin Gummies for Hair are also a good way to help get your daily value of hair-healthy biotin and other vitamins and minerals. In addition to biotin, each gummy contains zinc, which helps to boost and maintain scalp health. The gummies also contain folic acid and vitamins B-5, 6 and 12, which help support your body’s production of collagen and keratin, and vitamins A, C, E to help neutralize free radicals that can cause damage to your hair follicles.
Pro Tip: Heat can reduce biotin efficacy, so try to choose raw or minimally cooked dishes for the best absorption.
Vitamin C plays several essential roles when it comes to hair health.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps your body protect itself against free radical damage. Free radicals can damage proteins, weakening hair before it even emerges from your scalp. Vitamin C is also needed for your body to synthesize collagen, an essential part of your hair structure. Vitamin C can increase the amount of iron (also necessary for hair health) you absorb. Vitamin C uniquely supports non-heme iron (mainly found in plant sources) and stores it in a more useable form.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning your body is unable to store it long term. Fortunately, vitamin C is easily found in many foods. Citrus fruits are commonly thought to be the best sources of vitamin C, but many vegetables are equally rich sources. Consider rotating spinach, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnip greens, tomatoes, berries, mango and papaya into your meal plan too.
Pro Tip: Quick heating methods such as stir-frying are best if you’re going to cook vitamin C-rich foods. As a water-soluble vitamin, some of the value can be lost in long cook times or with very high heat.
Did you know that vitamin D is actually not a vitamin? Instead, it’s a hormone produced in the skin in response to sunlight. Nonetheless, it plays a critical role in your hair health.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that up to 75% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. And research suggests that a lack of vitamin D in your body can lead to hair loss. When the body doesn’t have enough vitamin D, the keratinocytes (cells that produce keratin) are unable to facilitate new hair growth. There is also a link between chronically low vitamin D levels and alopecia.
Curious about your vitamin D levels? Ask your doctor for a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. This simple blood test can give you an accurate look into your specific levels.
Vitamin E is a super-vitamin for your hair’s health. It plays several significant roles that support your #hairgoals.
Vitamin E, like vitamin C, is helpful for its antioxidant properties in the body. Additionally, vitamin E can prevent hair loss, improve hair growth for people who have experienced hair loss, and reduce oxidative stress in the scalp, allowing your hair to grow stronger and healthier.
Vitamin E also supports increased blood flow in your body. Increased blood supply has been shown to encourage more hair growth by delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles in mouse studies.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means your body can effectively store it for use later. Some of the best food sources of vitamin E include nuts and seeds, extra- virgin olive oil and avocado.
To support a healthy gut microbiome, GRO WELL Hair Boost Supplement Powder + Probiotic is a good choice due to its 50 billion CFU Probiotic Blend. It also contains a host of vegan, hair-friendly nutrients.
Pro Tip: Vitamin E deficiency is rare, but you need a healthy gut to absorb it properly. If you have a fat-malabsorption disorder, talk to your doctor about your unique situation.
The Final Word
If you’re concerned that you may be deficient in any of these nutrients, talk to your doctor or qualified nutrition professional. Having a care team that is dedicated to your health and wellness goals is the best first step. A healthy, diverse diet can keep your hair strong, shiny and beautiful — and your care team can help tailor that diet to your unique life.
About Erica Zellner
Erica Zellner holds a Masters of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health and a post-graduate certificate in Global Health Management. Erica additionally holds the prestigious designation of Certified Nutrition Specialist through the American Nutrition Association and is a Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. Erica has been featured in various outlets including The New York Times, Women’s Health, and HuffPost. As a Clinical Nutritionist, Erica's focus is on wellness in every aspect of a person's life: mind, body, and spirit. Her goal is to empower individuals to take full control of each of these facets in healthful and fulfilling ways.
More From VEGAMOUR
- 5 Things to Avoid If You Have Thinning Hair
- The Best Vegan Foods for Hair Growth
- 3 Ways Nutrition Impacts Your Hair
- 4 Nutrition Choices Showing Up in Your Hair