Protein, for example, is the building block of hair. If you don’t get enough, your mane will grow more slowly, and strands will be weaker. “Pump up the protein,” says registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet. “Include a small dose at each meal and with each snack, and you’ll keep your hair follicles strong.” Safe bets include poultry, lean beef, fish, beans, and nuts.
If you start a hair-healthy diet today, you’ll likely see improvements within six months to a year, depending on how fast your hair grows.
Too little iron can cause baldness, according to research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic. Treating iron deficiency may help regrow hair. “People who have problems with hair loss or hair growth tend to be iron deficient—especially women,” says dermatologist Paradi Mirmirani, who practices in Vallejo, Calif. Other iron-rich options include turkey, egg yolks, whole grains, dried fruit, and dried beans (soaked and cooked, of course).
They’re full of biotin, a B vitamin that promotes hair growth and overall scalp health. A deficiency can cause brittle hair. Other high-biotin foods include peanuts, almonds, wheat bran, salmon, low-fat cheese, and avocados.
These contain the mineral silica, which is thought to improve hair thickness, Jackson Blatner says. Emphasizing foods rich this mineral helps make hair stronger and more durable. (Though beer contains a good dose of silica, it’s wise to stick to a moderate amount—one drink a day for women and two for men.)
Opt for these to get plenty of zinc, a mineral that helps regulate the production of androgens. These are hormones that, in low levels, are associated with hair loss. People with low levels of androgens can also suffer from slow hair growth and dandruff. Adjusting your diet—and emphasizing zinc-rich choices like oysters, along with crab, clams, liver, lean beef, and wheat germ—will help stave off hair loss and keep your mane shiny and healthy.
These are packed with beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, a nourishing agent for your hair and skin. Vitamin A protects against dull hair and dry skin, a leading cause of dandruff. Other smart choices to get glowing hair and skin include carrots, kale, butternut squash, asparagus, and pumpkin.
They’re full of vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron. Getting too little C makes hair dry and weak. The best sources? Broccoli, leafy greens, green peppers, citrus fruit, and strawberries.