Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 4/7/2022
Growing long, strong and healthy hair might seem simple — just be patient and let it reach your desired length. But behind the scenes, a variety of complex processes are involved in your hair growth, all of which require a steady supply of essential nutrients.
When your body is deprived of these nutrients, it’s easy for your hair to become thin, brittle and lacking in strength. On the other hand, a healthy supply of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your hair needs can keep your hair looking and feeling its best throughout the year.
The most effective way to supply your hair with these nutrients is by eating a balanced diet that prioritizes foods that promote healthy hair.
Below, we’ve shared 12 of the best foods for healthy hair, from seafood and other lean sources of protein to fruits, vegetables and spices. For each food, we’ve covered the role it plays in the hair growth process and explained why it’s so important in a hair-friendly diet.
Eating for healthier hair isn’t that difficult. In fact, from lean protein sources to fresh vegetables, many of the best foods for healthy, thick hair are the same foods that are good for your general health and wellbeing.
Try adding one, two or several of the foods for hair growth, health and general wellbeing below to your daily diet.
Salmon, sardines and other fatty fish have long been promoted for their healthy benefits, mostly due to their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids and seafood are linked to improvements in heart health, including reduced levels of triglycerides — a type of waxy fat that can build up in your blood.
Some research also suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fish may play a role in promoting hair growth.
For example, one study found that women who used an omega-3 and omega-6 supplement for six months showed improvements in anagen hairs (hairs in the growth phase of the hair growth cycle) and reductions in telogen (resting) hairs, as well as increased overall hair growth.
Salmon and other types of fatty fish are also rich in vitamin D — an essential vitamin that plays a major role in various signaling pathways related to hair growth and the differentiation of your hair follicles.
If adding salmon to your diet isn’t convenient (or is cost-prohibitive), another great way to take in extra omega-3 fatty acids is by adding a fish oil supplement to your daily routine.
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, including several that may help with hair growth.
More specifically, spinach is extremely rich in folate — a B vitamin that’s involved in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, as well as the metabolism of amino acids.
Although research on folate and hair loss is limited, some studies have found a link between low folate levels and certain forms of hair loss. For example, a study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology found that people with alopecia areata hair loss often had low folate levels.
Our guide to folic acid and hair growth goes into more detail about the potential role folate might play in healthy, long-term hair growth.
In addition to its high levels of folate, spinach is also full of iron and other nutrients that can help with hair growth and general wellbeing, making it one of the best vegetables to keep in your diet for a healthy scalp and body.
Greek yogurt is rich in protein, healthy fats and vitamins that can improve almost every aspect of your overall well-being, including your scalp and hair health.
To be more precise, Greek yogurt is an excellent source of vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid — a vital nutrient that’s involved in fatty acid synthesis and degradation, as well as numerous other anabolic and catabolic processes within your body.
Although studies on vitamin B5 and hair growth are very limited, some research suggests that it’s involved in hair follicle cell division, regulating the function of the sebum glands (the glands that produce oil in your scalp) and protecting against early hair graying.
As an excellent source of protein, Greek yogurt also supplies your body with the nutrients that are required to produce new cells, including for your hair. Try adding Greek yogurt to your diet as a healthy snack, or as part of a balanced, high-protein breakfast.
While we’re on the subject of great breakfast foods, it would be difficult not to mention the hair value of fortified cereals and grains.
Fortified foods are — as their name suggests — foods that have been fortified with extra iron to improve their nutritional profile. You can usually find extra iron in breakfast cereals, grains and pasta available in your local supermarket.
Iron deficiency anemia is especially common in women, particularly teenage girls, women with heavy periods and pregnant women. In addition to affecting your hair, it can cause potentially serious health issues such as weakness, lack of energy and a less effective immune system.
As well as fortified cereals, grains and pasta, you can find iron in lean meats, seafood, poultry and beans, including white beans, kidney beans and lentils. Many nuts and dried fruits, such as raising, are also great natural sources of iron.
For optimal wellbeing, it’s best to take in a combination of iron from animal proteins (which are largely full of heme iron) and non-animal sources, which contain nonheme iron.
Whether you like it baked into a cinnamon roll or mixed into your coffee, cinnamon is a versatile and tasty spice that may also offer benefits for your health, including that of your hair.
Although research findings on cinnamon’s health benefits are mixed, some studies suggest that cinnamon may help to promote healthy blood circulation by bringing blood from the center of the body towards the skin.
This may help to supply your hair follicles with the essential nutrients required for sustained hair growth and general hair health.
Avocados have long been promoted as a health food due to their large amounts of unsaturated fats, which may help to improve blood cholesterol. They’re also rich in other nutrients that are involved in hair growth, such as vitamin C and folate.
Vitamin C plays a key role in iron absorption, making it an important vitamin for preventing iron deficiency hair loss. However, there’s currently no scientific research that links vitamin C with female hair loss or hair shedding.
Avocados also contain significant amounts of vitamin E — a vitamin with antioxidant properties that provides protection against free-radical damage. Low levels of vitamin E are associated with certain forms of hair loss, including alopecia areata.
When it comes to vitamin C, few dietary sources are as packed with this powerful antioxidant as guava, orange and other fresh fruits.
As we mentioned above, vitamin C plays a major role in iron absorption, making it important for preventing iron deficiency hair loss. Many tropical fruits are also rich in folates, which may help to prevent certain types of hair loss.
Eggs are packed with protein, healthy fats and other nutrients that are important for your health and wellbeing. In fact, eggs have been identified in research as a highly cost-effective source of proteins, iron, choline, riboflavin and vitamins A and B12.
Many of the nutrients found in eggs are important for stimulating hair growth and preventing hair loss.
For example, maintaining a steady intake of protein is important for preventing forms of hair loss such as telogen effluvium. Eggs are rich in protein, with proteins equally distributed across the white and yolk.
The iron in eggs also helps to protect against iron deficiency anemia — a potential cause of hair loss. Finally, eggs are an excellent source of biotin (vitamin B7). Research suggests that biotin deficiency can contribute to thinning of your hair and certain skin issues.
Consuming enough protein is essential for keeping your entire body healthy, and your hair is no exception. Low protein intake is linked to several types of hair shedding that can leave your hair looking thin and lacking in coverage.
Poultry, lean cuts of red meat and seafood are all excellent sources of dietary protein that help to prevent protein deficiency-related hair shedding.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and other bright-colored vegetables are great sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that’s used to create vitamin A.
Vitamin A is involved in several essential processes within your body, including the maintenance of your heart, lungs, kidneys and other internal organs and the growth and differentiation of your cells.
Although vitamin A is important for cell growth, some research suggests that taking in too much vitamin A may actually have negative effects on hair growth.
For an optimal balance of healthy cell growth and thick, strong hair, try to opt for natural sources of beta-carotene such as those listed above over vitamin A supplements.
Oysters, crab, lobster and other types of seafood are all fantastic sources of zinc — an essential mineral that’s involved in immune system function, protein synthesis, proper wound healing and the actions of more than 100 different enzymes within your body.
Although there’s no direct link between zinc consumption and hair growth, research shows that people affected by some forms of hair loss are often low in zinc.
For example, research has found that people with androgenetic alopecia — including men and women with pattern hair loss — had lower average serum zinc levels than people with healthy hair growth.
Nuts are packed with key nutrients that can improve your general health and help you to avoid thin, brittle hair.
For example, almonds are rich in vitamin E, with a one-ounce serving providing almost half of your recommended daily intake. One study has linked tocotrienols — natural chemicals in the vitamin E family — to increased hair growth in people suffering from hair loss.
Nuts are also convenient sources of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. Deficiencies in some of these nutrients may contribute to certain forms of hair loss and shedding.
A healthy, balanced diet can help to promote hair growth and provide your hair follicles with the nutrients they need to grow to their fullest. However, eating healthy food won’t necessarily stop you from losing hair throughout your life.
A variety of factors can play a role in hair loss, from your hormonal health and genetics to your levels of stress and overall health.
For example, female pattern hair loss — the most common type of permanent hair loss that can affect women — occurs because of a mix of hormonal and genetic factors. Currently, there’s no research that suggests that your diet has much of an impact on this type of hair loss.
In short, there’s more to promoting hair growth and preventing hair loss than just eating the right types of food.
Our guide to female hair loss goes into more detail about why female hair loss occurs and your options for dealing with it.
From fresh vegetables to lean and healthy protein sources, designing your daily diet around the nutritional building blocks of hair growth is a great way to maintain thick, lustrous hair.
Beyond helping you grow thicker hair, a balanced diet also helps to promote your overall health and wellbeing, letting you feel better and enjoy life to the fullest.
This way, you’ll be able to target hair loss from every possible angle, from your diet to the scalp and follicle level.
Interested in learning more about maintaining healthy hair? Our list of ways to thicken your hair shares proven tips that you can use to prevent shedding, avoid dull hair and keep your hair in a healthy growth state throughout the year.