Everyone loses hair each day, so there’s no need to freak out every time a few follicles trickle out. Hair is continuously growing, but, in turn, some strands reach their “old-age” and come out. Genetics, however, means some guys have fewer strands growing in to replace them. By the age of 35, two-thirds of American men will experience some level of hair loss, according to the American Hair Loss Association. But have no fear—nutritional deficiencies can contribute to increased hair loss by weakening hair shafts that cause breakage and slow re-growth of new hairs. This can potentially be reversed with the right diet. Len Glassman, a certified health nutritionist, trainer and owner of the Personal Best Training Center, offers up the necessary nutrients that will keep the hairs on your head there longer.
An adequate intake of vitamin A is key to helping promote the growth and health of cells and tissues throughout the body, including the hair and scalp. Vitamin A gets delivered to our bodies in two ways: from plant and animal sources. Hair healthy plant sources include red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables like carrots as well as some dark green leafy vegetables. Some heavy-hitter animal sources for vitamin A include liver, fish oil, eggs and fortified milk.
All three of these B vitamins are essential to the normal formation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to tissues in the body, including the hair. Healthy and strong hair relies on a constant supply of blood and oxygen. A deficiency of these B vitamins is like cutting off the blood supply to your hair, leading to increased hair loss, damaged hair and slow re-growth. Best sources of vitamin B6 and B12 are protein-rich foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs, pork and soybeans. Your best bet for sources of folic acid are leafy vegetables, orange juice, avocado, beets, broccoli, wheat germ and some fortified cereals.
Vitamin C is essential to producing collagen, a connective tissue that gives structure by holding tissues in the body together, such as the tissue in hair. The human body is not able to store vitamin C for long periods of time, so don’t try to load up on it in an effort to make up for lost time; instead, make sure you eat plenty of foods containing vitamin C every day. The best sources of vitamin C are found in plant sources like oranges, berries, melons, peppers, dark green leafy vegetables and tomatoes.
Dandruff and hair loss are both conditions associated with a zinc deficiency. Zinc is a mineral that promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair. Zinc also functions in the maintenance of the oil-secreting glands attached to our hair follicles. Good sources of zinc include foods of animal origin, including seafood, poultry, mussels, shrimp and oysters. Eggs and milk also supply zinc but in smaller amounts. Whole-grain products, nuts, seeds and legumes contain zinc, but in a form that is less absorbable by the body.
Hair is primarily made of protein, so it makes sense to eat protein-rich foods if you’re trying to maintain healthy growth. Without adequate protein intake, the body cannot efficiently make new hair to replace the hair that has shed. However, eating a steak every day isn’t going to help you. High-fat diets result in increased testosterone levels, which have been linked to hair loss—so steaks are not among the foods that prevent hair loss. Stick to leaner proteins such as fish (which has a myriad of health benefits beyond just maintaining your hair), chicken, soy products, low-fat cheese, eggs, almonds, beans and yogurt.
Proper hydration is a key factor in healthy hair and in promoting good health. Every cell and every system in the body uses water to function properly, so don’t just wash your hair in it, drink lots of it. Other conditions that may contribute to poor nutrition and cause hair loss as a side effect include eating disorders such as anorexia. Anorexia can cause severe malnutrition and cause a high proportion of hair follicles to stop their growth cycle. Rapid weight loss is another reason for accelerated hair loss. Dropping weight too quickly and/or participating in a fad diet that is not nutritionally sound can cause imbalances in the body and result in increased hair loss.