Many people want strong and healthy hair, especially as they grow older.
Interestingly, your hair grows around 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) per month, and 6 inches (15 cm) per year. How fast it grows depends on factors like age, health, genetics and diet.
Although you can’t change factors like age and genetics, diet is one thing you have control over. In fact, consuming a diet lacking the right nutrients can lead to hair loss.
On the other hand, eating a balanced diet with the right nutrients can help promote hair growth, especially if you’re experiencing hair loss due to poor nutrition.
Here are the 14 best foods you can eat to promote hair growth.
Eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, two nutrients that may promote hair growth.
Eating adequate protein is important for hair growth because hair follicles are made of mostly protein. A lack of protein in the diet has been shown to promote hair loss (1).
Biotin is essential for the production of a hair protein called keratin, which is why biotin supplements are often marketed for hair growth. Research has also shown that consuming more biotin can help improve hair growth in people with a biotin deficiency (2).
However, biotin deficiencies are uncommon if you consume a balanced diet. There is little evidence to show healthy people benefit from consuming more biotin (3).
Eggs are also a great source of zinc, selenium and other hair-healthy nutrients. This makes them one of the best foods to consume for optimal hair health (4).
Summary Eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, which are important for hair health and growth. A deficiency in either of these nutrients has been linked to hair loss.
Berries are loaded with beneficial compounds and vitamins that may promote hair growth.
This includes vitamin C, which has strong antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants can help protect hair follicles against damage from harmful molecules called free radicals. These molecules exist naturally in the body and the environment (5, 6).
For example, 1 cup (144 grams) of strawberries provides an impressive 141% of your daily vitamin C needs (7).
Also, the body uses vitamin C to produce collagen, a protein that helps strengthen hair to prevent it from becoming brittle and breaking (8, 9).
What’s more, vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from the diet. Low iron levels may cause anemia, which has been linked to hair loss (10).
Summary Berries are loaded with compounds like antioxidants and vitamins that may promote hair growth. For example, strawberries are rich in vitamin C, which aids collagen production and iron absorption, two factors that may promote hair growth.
Spinach is a healthy green vegetable that’s loaded with beneficial nutrients like folate, iron, and vitamins A and C, all of which may promote hair growth (11).
Vitamin A helps the skin glands produce sebum. This oily substance helps moisturize the scalp to keep hair healthy (12, 13).
A cup (30 grams) of spinach provides up to 54% of your daily vitamin A needs (11).
Spinach is also a great plant-based source of iron, which is essential for hair growth. Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body to fuel your metabolism and aid growth and repair (14).
What’s more, iron deficiencies have been linked to hair loss (10).
Summary Spinach is loaded with folate, iron, and vitamins A and C, which may promote hair growth. A deficiency in these nutrients may result in hair loss.
4. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel have nutrients that may promote hair growth.
They are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to hair growth.
A study in 120 women found that taking a supplement containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as antioxidants reduced hair loss and increased hair density (15).
Another study found that taking a fish oil supplement significantly reduced hair loss and increased hair growth in women with thinning hair (16).
However, there are only a handful of studies on omega-3 fatty acids and hair growth. More studies are needed before health experts can make any recommendations.
Fatty fish is also a great source of protein, selenium, vitamin D3 and B vitamins, nutrients that may help promote strong and healthy hair (17).
Summary Fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improved hair growth and density. However, there are only a few studies in this area, so more are needed.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene. The body converts this compound into vitamin A, which is linked to good hair health.
A medium sweet potato (about 114 grams) contains enough beta-carotene to provide more than four times your daily vitamin A needs (18).
Research has shown that vitamin A promotes the production of sebum, which helps keep hair healthy.
What’s more, vitamin A could also speed up the rate of hair growth and encourage the growth of thicker hair, all while preventing other hair follicles from regressing (19, 20).
Summary Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, which helps aid sebum production. Additionally, it has other factors that may help speed up the rate of hair growth.
Avocados are delicious, nutritious and a great source of healthy fats.
They are also an excellent source of vitamin E, which may promote hair growth. One medium avocado (about 200 grams) provides 21% of your daily vitamin E needs (21).
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals.
In one study, people with hair loss experienced 34.5% more hair growth after taking a vitamin E supplement for eight months (22).
Vitamin E also protects areas of the skin, like the scalp, from oxidative stress and damage. Damaged skin on the scalp can result in poor hair quality and fewer hair follicles (23, 24).
What’s more, avocados are a great source of essential fatty acids. These fats cannot be produced by the body, but are essential building blocks of your cells. A deficiency in essential fatty acids has been linked to hair loss (25).
Summary Avocados are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that may promote hair growth. Additionally, they are a great source of essential fatty acids, which appear to be crucial for hair growth.
Nuts are tasty, convenient and contain a variety of nutrients that may promote hair growth.
For example, an ounce (28 grams) of almonds provides an impressive 37% of your daily vitamin E needs (26).
What’s more, they also provide a wide variety of B vitamins, zinc and essential fatty acids. A deficiency in any of these nutrients has been linked to hair loss (9).
Nuts have also been linked to a wide variety of other health benefits besides hair growth, including reduced inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease (27).
This makes nuts an excellent and easy addition to your diet.
Summary Nuts are packed with nutrients like vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc and essential fatty acids, all of which may promote hair growth and are linked to many other health benefits.
Seeds deliver a massive amount of nutrients with relatively few calories. Many of these nutrients may also promote hair growth. These include vitamin E, zinc and selenium.
An ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds provides nearly 50% of your daily vitamin E needs, with a wide variety of hair-healthy B vitamins (28).
What’s more, certain seeds like flaxseeds and chia seeds also provide omega-3 fatty acids.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of flaxseeds provides 6,388 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. That’s more omega-3 fatty acids than half a fillet (178 grams) of salmon (16, 29).
However, flaxseeds provide a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is not used by the body as efficiently as the omega-3s found in fatty fish. Nonetheless, it’s a great addition to the diet.
In order to get the widest variety of nutrients, it’s best to consume a mixture of seeds.
Summary Like nuts, seeds are rich in vitamin E and other nutrients that may promote hair growth. Some seeds also contain omega-3s, which have been linked to hair growth.
9. Sweet Peppers
Sweet peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, which may aid hair growth.
In fact, one yellow pepper provides nearly 5.5 times as much vitamin C as an orange (30).
Vitamin C helps promote collagen production, which can help strengthen your hair strands. It’s also a strong antioxidant, which can protect hair strands against oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defense system. It has been linked to hair loss and the graying of hair (5, 6).
What’s more, sweet peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A.
This vitamin may help speed up hair growth while stimulating the production of sebum, which helps keep hair healthy.
Summary Sweet peppers are a rich source of vitamins A and C, two nutrients that help ensure hair stays healthy and that may aid hair growth.
Oysters are one of the best food sources of zinc (31).
Zinc is a mineral that helps support the hair growth and repair cycle (32).
A lack of zinc in the diet may promote telogen effluvium, a common but reversible form of hair loss caused by a lack of nutrients in the diet (33).
Studies have shown that taking a zinc supplement can reverse the effects of hair loss caused by a zinc deficiency (34, 35).
However, taking too much zinc could also promote hair loss. That’s why getting zinc from foods like oysters may be better than taking supplements, since foods provide zinc in small but healthy doses (36).
Summary Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc in the diet. This mineral helps support the hair growth and repair cycle.
Shrimp are popular shellfish rich in many nutrients that have the potential to promote hair growth.
For example, shrimp are a great source of protein, B vitamins, zinc, iron and vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of shrimp provides 38% of your daily vitamin D needs (37).
Interestingly, studies have linked vitamin D3 deficiency to hair loss (38, 39, 40).
Despite being very low in fat, shrimp also provide a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improved hair growth (16, 37).
Summary Shrimp are a great source of protein, B vitamins, zinc, iron and vitamin D, which may aid hair growth. They also provide a small amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans are a great plant-based source of protein, which is essential to hair growth.
Like oysters, beans are a good source of zinc, which aids the hair growth and repair cycle. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of black beans provides 7% of your daily zinc needs (32).
They also provide many other hair-healthy nutrients, including iron, biotin and folate (41).
On top of all these benefits, beans are highly versatile and inexpensive, which makes them an easy addition to the diet.
Summary Beans are a great source of protein, iron, zinc and biotin, which are all essential for optimal hair health. Together, they may aid hair growth.
Studies have shown that compounds in soybeans may promote hair growth. One of these compounds is spermidine, which is abundant in soybeans (42).
For example, a study of 100 healthy people found that a spermidine-based nutritional supplement prolonged a phase of active hair growth called the anagen phase. The longer a hair follicle stays in the anagen phase, the longer it will grow (43).
Test-tube studies have also shown that spermidine promotes human hair growth (44).
However, the research on spermidine and hair growth is fairly new, so more studies are needed before health experts can make recommendations on spermidine intake.
Summary Soybeans are one of the best sources of spermidine, a compound that may prolong the active phase of hair growth.
Meat is a staple in many people’s diet and is rich in nutrients that may aid hair growth.
The protein in meat aids growth and helps repair and strengthen hair follicles. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked sirloin steak provides as much as 29 grams of protein (45).
Red meat, in particular, is rich in a type of iron that’s easy to absorb. This mineral helps the red blood cells deliver oxygen to all cells in the body, including hair follicles (14).
Deficiencies in protein and iron have been linked to hair loss (1, 10).
Summary Meat is a great source of protein, which is essential for healthy, strong hair. Red meat, in particular, is rich in iron, which may aid hair growth.
What you eat can have a huge effect on the health of your hair.
A lack of the right nutrients including vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc, B vitamins, iron, biotin, protein and essential fatty acids may slow down hair growth or even cause hair loss.
Fortunately, correcting a deficiency in any of these nutrients may help treat hair loss and promote the rate of hair growth.
If you think you’re lacking any of these nutrients, try adding some of the above foods to your diet.