Your diet plays a key role in many aspects of your wellbeing, from your cardiovascular health to your body composition, physical strength and even your appearance.
It also plays a surprisingly large role in the growth of your hair. Just like eating the right food can keep you lean, healthy and fit, the right diet can help to stimulate hair growth and keep your hair thick, strong and healthy as you get older.
A diverse variety of foods all have an impact on hair growth, from leafy vegetables like spinach to seafood, red meat, beans, nuts and others.
While eating these foods won’t reverse hair loss caused by male pattern baldness, the nutrients they contain act as building blocks for your hair, supplying your body with the resources it needs to keep your hair in optimal condition.
Below, we’ve explained how diet can fit into your hair care routine to stimulate growth and keep your hair healthy. We’ve also listed 15+ foods that you can incorporate into your diet for optimal health and hair growth.
While there’s no evidence that your diet has any effect on hair loss from male pattern baldness (an issue that’s caused by a combination of your genetics and the hormone DHT), some foods contain nutrients that play a part in helping to create and maintain your hair.
We’ve listed 15+ of these foods below, along with more information on the specific hair-friendly vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that each food contains.
Eggs are rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are important for optimal hair growth and general wellbeing.
One of the biggest benefits of eggs is that they’re a rich source of dietary protein. Protein plays a major role not just in the growth of your hair, but also in the growth of your skin, nails, muscles and other tissue in your body.
Eggs are also rich in biotin -- a B vitamin that plays an essential role in promoting the growth of your hair. As we’ve talked about in our full guide to biotin and hair growth, research shows that people deficient in biotin often experience hair shedding and thinning.
One important point to note is that raw eggs also contain avidin -- a glycoprotein that can bind to biotin and stop it from being absorbed in your gastrointestinal tract. Luckily, avadin is denatured by cooking eggs, making it easy to prevent it from interfering in biotin absorption.
Beyond biotin and protein, eggs are also a great source of zinc, iron, calcium, choline and other nutrients that help to keep you fit and healthy.
While there’s been debate about the effects of the cholesterol in eggs on heart health, research shows that eating eggs in moderation isn’t associated with an increased risk of heart disease in otherwise healthy people.
Salmon, mackerel and other fatty fish have long been associated with heart health. They’re also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that have been linked to improved hair health and growth.
The Office of Dietary Supplements lists salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines and other cold water fish with a high fat content as natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Although few studies are available, some research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may help to stimulate hair growth and act against hair loss.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that women who used an omega-3, omega-6 and antioxidant supplement saw improvements in hair density over the course of six months.
Omega-3 fatty acids also have numerous other potential health benefits, including lowering your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain forms of cancer and preventing a range of skin issues associated with omega-3 deficiency.
Beyond omega-3 fatty acids, fatty, cold water fish like salmon are also a great source of dietary protein and hair-friendly vitamins such as biotin.
Avocados are widely known as a source of heart-friendly fats. They’re also rich in nutrients that may contribute to hair growth, including important C and E vitamins that provide protection from oxidative stress.
Important nutrients contained in avocados include folate, magnesium, potassium, niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamins C, E and K.
Of these, niacin is particularly interesting for its potential effects on hair growth. Some research, including a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, has found that niacin might be able to increase hair fullness in people with pattern hair loss.
However, it’s worth noting that this was a pilot study to examine the topical application of two different niacin derivatives — tetradecyl nicotinate and octyl nicotinate — and their effects on hair fullness in women with alopecia.
Avocados can also improve your body’s absorption of other fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E and K. Many of these, including vitamins A, D and E, are linked to healthy hair growth.
Spinach is often referred to as a superfood due to the significant amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients it contains.
While Popeye may not be the best spokesperson for spinach’s hair-related benefits (he wears that sailor’s hat for a reason, you know), spinach is full of important nutrients that may promote hair growth.
One of these is iron, which plays a key role in transporting nutrients through your blood to your hair and other parts of your body. Spinach is rich in iron, with around 2.7mg of iron, or one third of the recommended intake for adult men, found in a single 100 gram serving of spinach.
Although the iron in spinach isn’t absorbed as well as other sources of iron, spinach is also rich in vitamin C, which can improve non-heme iron absorption.
A 2013 study carried out in South Korea found that both men and women with pattern hair loss often have lower iron levels than their peers, suggesting that iron intake may have an effect on hair growth, depending upon age and other hormonal factors.
Lean cuts of red meat, such as beef and lamb, are rich in protein and iron that allow your body to transport nutrients and grow healthy hair.
As we mentioned earlier, your hair is primarily made up of a protein called keratin. When your diet doesn’t contain a sufficient amount of protein, your hair can go into a resting state, leading to shedding, thinning and noticeable hair loss.
Generally, this happens when people go on crash diets or other states of malnutrition where they significantly reduce protein intake.
Red meat is rich in protein. For example, 100 grams of broiled beef tenderloin with any excess fat trimmed away contains 29 grams of protein, or more than a third of the recommended daily intake for a 180lb man.
High-protein, lean cuts of beef include eye and top round, chuck shoulder, sirloin, flank, tri-tip, T-bone and tenderloin. Other cuts of beef also contain lots of protein, but may have a higher saturated fat content.
Like spinach, red meat is also rich in iron, making it an important part of your diet for avoiding iron deficiency hair loss.
Almonds and other nuts are rich in nutrients that may promote hair growth, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, biotin and vitamin E.
A ¼ cup serving of almonds contains 1.5 micrograms of biotin, or approximately five percent of your recommended daily intake. Almonds are also rich in vitamin E, which may have specific benefits for preventing hair loss and promoting hair growth.
One small study (21 participants) found that supplementation with tocotrienols, which are part of the vitamin E family, produced a significant increase in hair count over a period of eight months. The researchers noted that this may be due to their antioxidant effect.
Almonds and other nuts are also great sources of healthy fats and protein, both of which are important for optimal hair health.
A one-cup serving of sliced almonds contains 19.5 grams of protein. Pistachios, brazil nuts and other common types of nuts are also high in protein, containing approximately 18 grams to 25+ grams per cup.
Beyond potentially improving your hair growth, research shows that many nuts help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
For example, one study found that snacking on almonds reduced coronary heart disease risk factors in people with high cholesterol. Research has also shown that other nuts have heart health benefits, making them worth prioritizing in your diet.
Like nuts, beans are an excellent non-animal source of protein, as well as other nutrients that may play a role in stimulating and supporting hair growth.
Beans are rich in iron, making them a great addition to your diet if you’re concerned about hair loss caused by iron deficiency. A one-cup serving of white beans contains 8 milligrams of iron, or approximately 44 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Similarly, a one-cup serving of canned kidney beans contains 4 milligrams of iron, or around 22 percent of your daily intake.
Beans are also rich in zinc, an essential trace element that fuels your immune system, cellular growth and important bodily processes such as wound healing.
Hair loss is a well-known symptom of zinc deficiency. Although zinc deficiency is less common in the United States than in developing countries, research shows that many adults, particularly older adults, have a zinc intake below the recommended level.
While white beans and kidney beans are both good additions to your diet, soybeans may offer unique advantages for hair growth.
Soybeans are rich in a polyamine compound called spermidine, which may provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects.
Research has found that spermidine may stimulate hair growth. For example, a study published in PLOS One in 2011 found that spermidine prolonged the growth phase of the hair growth cycle and promoted hair shaft elongation in human hair follicles.
It’s important to note that this research was performed on hair follicles in a sterile, controlled lab setting, not on human participants.
A different study from 2017 looked at the effects of a spermidine on hair growth in healthy men and women. This study found that spermidine prolonged the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle in the participants, meaning it may be beneficial for treating hair loss.
In addition to their spermidine content, soybeans are also a great source of protein. A one-cup of soybeans contains 33.2 grams of protein, or almost half of the minimum recommended daily intake for a 180lb man.
Like beans and nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and other popular seeds are all great sources of hair-friendly nutrients such as selenium and zinc.
For example, a one-ounce serving of dried pumpkin seeds contains 2.2 milligrams of zinc, or 20 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Many seeds also contain vitamins that may help with hair growth. For example, sunflower seeds contain 76 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E per ounce, making them one of the best natural sources of this important antioxidant.
As we mentioned above when discussing almonds and other nuts, tocotrienols -- chemicals that are in the vitamin E family -- have been linked to increases in hair count in scientific research.
Lots of seeds are also excellent sources of protein. For example, sunflower seeds contain 20.78 grams of protein per 100 grams. Similarly, pumpkin seeds contain an impressive 30.3 grams of protein per 100-gram serving.
Oysters are a fantastic source of zinc, making them ideal for maintaining healthy zinc levels and avoiding hair loss due to zinc deficiency.
A three-ounce serving of fried oysters contains 74 milligrams of zinc, or 673 percent of the daily recommended intake. In fact, oysters have the highest amount of zinc per serving of any food type.
In addition to zinc, oysters are rich in other nutrients. They’re rich in selenium, which is linked to healthy hair pigmentation. Oysters also contain iron, vitamin V12 and vitamin D, all of which are linked to the promotion of optimal blood flow or certain aspects of hair growth.
Berries are rich in vitamin C, which plays a major role in the process of synthesizing collagen for your skin, nails and hair.
While we don’t yet know if collagen improves hair health, there are theories that collagen might help to prevent hair thinning and slow down the process of hair graying.
Beyond its effects on collagen synthesis, the vitamin C in berries plays a role in iron absorption, helping to prevent hair loss caused by iron deficiency.
Most berries contain large amounts of vitamin C, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Strawberries are especially high in vitamin C, with 49 milligrams, or 54 percent of the daily value, per ½ cup serving.
Sweet potatoes contain large amounts of beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that gives the flesh of sweet potatoes its orange color.
Beta-carotene is what’s known as a provitamin -- a carotenoid that’s converted into vitamin A by your body. Beta-carotene is a key source of vitamin A. In fact, along with other carotenoids, it’s responsible for about 50 percent of the average person’s recommended vitamin A intake.
Research suggests that vitamin A derivatives, such as retinoids, may play a role in the growth of your skin and hair. However, there’s little research on the effects of dietary beta-carotene intake on hair health.
As we discussed in our guide to hair growth vitamins, consuming a healthy amount of vitamin A is important for optimal hair growth. However, consuming excessive amounts of vitamin A could end up having a negative effect on your hair growth.
Luckily, since sweet potatoes and other beta-carotene rich foods (such as pumpkin, spinach and kale) are filling, healthy and relatively low in calories, overeating this type of food isn’t much of a risk.
If you’re starting to lose your hair, making changes to your diet can give your body the nutrients it needs for healthy hair growth.
However, eating a hair-healthy diet doesn’t always mean that you’ll stop losing hair. Hair loss is a complex, multifaceted issue that can be caused by hormonal factors, your genetics, your diet and even certain diseases and medical conditions.
Most of the time, hair loss is the result of male pattern baldness -- a form of hair loss caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors.
If you’ve noticed signs of hair loss and think that male pattern baldness is the reason, your best bet is to use FDA-approved, science-based medication, either on its own or in combination with a diet that promotes hair growth.
The following medications are proven to treat hair loss and promote hair growth in men:
In addition to medication, other products can help to stimulate hair growth and protect your hair from damage:
If you’re losing your hair due to male pattern baldness, adjusting your diet isn’t likely to stop you from shedding.
However, eating more hair-friendly foods offers a range of benefits. In combination with a real, science-based treatment for male pattern baldness, the foods listed above may help to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to fuel healthy, sustainable hair growth.
Better yet, many of them offer additional health benefits, from better cardiovascular health to a stronger immune system, reduced inflammation and more.