Published July 19, 2021
Hair can be hard work. It’s always doing its own thing – not staying in one place, flickering in response to every passing breeze, having its own little party on the top of your head. At the same time, it’s easy to take it for granted, to assume it will always be healthy, always keep on growing. But illness or a less than ideal diet can take the shine right out of your hair.
LIke the skin, hair is an organ but one we rarely recognise as such. Thick and healthy hair requires a plentiful supply of the right vitamins and other nutrients. Age also plays a role in hair loss, as do hormones and genetics, but nutrition is the key to lustrous locks.
Let’s take a look at some of the top vitamins for hair growth and thickness. In alphabetical order, they are:
Like many other vitamins, vitamin A is not in fact a single substance but a group of closely related organic compounds which play a vital role in healthy vision, a balanced immune system, and crucially for our topic today, the growth of cells. That includes hair, which grows more quickly than any other tissue in the body. In addition, vitamin A is used in the production of a natural moisturiser called sebum which contributes to healthy hair.
A number of vegetables are rich in a nutrient called beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A. These include spinach, kale, pumpkins and carrots. Vitamin A itself can be sourced from diary foods like eggs, yoghurt and milk.
The nutrients collectively known as vitamin B help to fuel every cell in our bodies and are also used to produce the red blood cells that carry oxygen through our veins and arteries. This, of course, includes our scalp and hair follicles. Research has also linked a deficiency in the B vitamin biotin to hair loss. Foods rich in vitamin B include:
- Dark green vegetables
- Whole grain bread
Many people associate vitamin C with the warding off of colds, and while doctors may quibble with its efficacy in that regard, there is little doubt that it plays an important role in the maintenance of general health. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, helping to minimise the cell damage caused by the metabolization of oxygen.
The body also makes use of vitamin C to absorb iron – which in turn helps our hair to grow. It is also used to make the protein collagen, which is a basic building block of hair itself.
To ensure you get plenty of vitamin C in your diet, eat citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. Strawberries also contain a good level of vitamin C.
Vitamin D is used by the body to absorb a number of minerals during the digestion process. It also plays an important role in bone health. It is one of the only vitamins which the human body can produce itself – in the epidermis (upper layers of the skin) – following exposure to sunlight.
Studies suggest vitamin D helps the growth of hair follicles. The best dietary source of vitamin D is fatty fish and some species of mushroom.
Vitamin E is also a potent antioxidant which promotes cell health and skin growth. According to a 2010 study, taking vitamin E supplements over an eight month period boosted hair growth in subjects by more than 34 per cent.
Good dietary sources of vitamin E include spinach, avocados, and sunflower seeds.
Of course, eating a balanced diet rich in the right nutrients is easier said than done. A visit to your local health food shop or supermarket will reveal a wide variety of multi- or single vitamin supplements to top up your meals and ensure an optimal intake.
Written by Bev Walton
Food Writer and Nutritionist, dietician
A chef of over 35 years with experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for both magazines, websites and ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics and work with restaurants and organisations within the healthcare profession. I am also able to take high quality photographs of recipes created. No writing task is too great, and whilst I specialise in the above, I am able to write about any topic you throw at me. Member of the Guild of food writers.