Delay The Gray: Best And Worst Foods For Your Hair

By the time people turn 50, about 50% of women and 85% of men will have lost hair. If you want to delay this fate, you’ll want to focus on your diet. Yes, diet. In 2018, researchers concluded that a Western-style diet impairs both our skin and hair.

When it comes to hair, low-fat and more produce doesn’t cut it. Some foods that people warn against, including red meat and eggs, help your hair grow faster and stronger. Some foods that people praise–such as vitamin A supplements–can harm your hair if you eat too much. Delay your gray hair by learning the best and worst things to eat.

BEST: Eggs, The Hair-Growth Stimulation Agent

Hair sits in one egg yolk.
Loretta Felli/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Loretta Felli/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2018, a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food reported that egg yolk stimulates hair growth in mice. Why? According to the study, egg yolks prompt vascular endothelial growth– a phenomenon that researchers call a “hair-growth stimulation agent.” In other words, eggs create more proteins that aid hair growth.

One egg provides 11% of your daily vitamin D, which also thickens your hair over time. Research in Stem Cells Translational Medicine noted that vitamin D creates follicles where new strands of hair can grow. While some people apply egg yolks directly to their heads, eating cooked eggs works just as well.

WORST: Juice Cleanses Don’t Help

Woman drinks a green homemade juice
Twitter/@Rhitrition
Twitter/@Rhitrition

If a juice cleanse recipe asserts that it promotes healthy hair, don’t believe it. Often, juice cleanses cause hair loss. “When juicing was all the rage, my clinics were booked solid,” trichologist Anabel Kingsley told the Daily Mail. She added that juices often don’t contain enough nutrients to sustain hair.

The most important nutrient for hair is protein, which juice cleanses consistently lack. Dr. Kingsley says that when the body lacks nutrients, hair is the first organ to go since it’s not vital to the body. Save yourself from this pain by eating enough protein.

BEST: Avoid Gray Streaks With Rosemary

Woman smiles in a field of blooming rosemary bushes.
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Unsplash/@christianfer

Whether you eat rosemary or apply it as an oil, it all helps your hair grow. A 2013 study in Phytotherapy Research found that rosemary oil regrew hair in mice. Two years later, another study in Europe PMC reports that an oil mixture including rosemary rapidly increased hair growth over six months.

The University of Maryland Medical Center discloses that rosemary has been used in folk remedies to delay graying and stimulate hair growth for centuries. Its anti-bacterial abilities unclog hair follicles and inhibit hair loss. You can add some more rosemary to your cooking or look for hair products with the oil in it.

WORST: Diet Soda And Other Artificial Sweeteners

Coca Cola Zero and Coca Cola Diet can boxes are stacked in a store
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

While zero-calorie sodas might aid your weight, they don’t help your hair. Many diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame. The FDA claims that Aspartame–also found in Equal and Nutrasweet–causes hair loss and thinning in people.

Researchers believe that phentolamine, the product that produces the sweet flavor, breaks down in the body to create a toxin. In short, the compound breaks down to become formaldehyde, which pushes hair into the telogen resting phase when locks fall out. Avoid products with artificial sweeteners if you want to prevent hair loss.

BEST: Avocados Provide Much-Needed Healthy Fats

Woman has avocado smeared throughout her hair.
Pinterest/Jennie’s Facials
Pinterest/Jennie’s Facials

Avocados are stuffed with “healthy fats,” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that provide helpful fatty acids. “Essential fatty acids are really important,” states Apple Bodemer, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Washington. “People who are on really, really low-fat diets [have] hair breaking and hair falling out.”

Avocados also provide antioxidants like vitamin E that guard your hair against free radicals. This prevents hair damage that would otherwise cause your locks to grey early on. Some hair products contain avocado oil, but it’s better to eat these fruits for their healthy fat content.

BEST: Keep Your Hair Youthful With Tangerines

Woman holds tangerines that are slightly larger than golf balls.
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Twitter/@thetangerinemag

One tangerine supplies about 23 mg of vitamin C, which is essential for hair growth. Nutritionist Frida Harju-Westman told PureWow that vitamin C helps the body build collagen, the protein that creates hair. The more collagen your body produces, the faster your hair grows.

Tangerines also contain vitamin B12, which Dr. Harju-Westman says “can help slow the graying process.” Hairs grey when they lack substantial vitamins, so the more nutrients you consume, the longer your hair will remain youthful. It might be time to buy a bag full of tangerines!

BEST AND WORST: Vitamin A

Elderly woman pours vitamin pills into her hand
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Vitamin A is good for your hair, right? It is, but many people take this too far by overdosing. Research in the 2003 issue of Veterinary and Human Toxicology indicates that too much vitamin A causes hair loss. Too little vitamin A prompts hair loss also.

Certain retinoid drugs, such as Accutane, and supplements can overdose you on vitamin A. To receive a healthy dose of this vitamin, consume it through food rather than supplements or diet medicine. Red, yellow, and orange vegetables (such as carrots and peppers) are great sources of vitamin A.

BEST: Shiitake Mushrooms Are More Than Enough

A chef slices a shiitake mushroom
Gabe Souza/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gabe Souza/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Shiitake mushrooms nourish your hair with their high amounts of copper. A study in Dermatologic Clinics connected cooper malnourishment to unhealthy hair. One cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms yields 145% of your daily recommended copper. That’s everything you need for strong hair in one serving.

Earlier research in Biological Trace Element Research reported that copper prevents premature graying. So one serving of mushrooms can block future hair damage and early gray streaks. Common mushrooms, Maitake, Honshimeji, and Matsutake mushrooms also supply high amounts of copper for your hair.

WORST: Stop The Sugar!

Sugar cubes form a tower against a pink background.
Unsplash/@picoftasty
Unsplash/@picoftasty

Hair is made from protein, so protein absorption is essential for healthy locks. Unfortunately, sugar interrupts the body’s ability to fully absorb protein, according to a study in BMC Nutrition. Researchers discovered that drinking soda with a meal made participants feel less full as well.

Dr. Apple Bodemer, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Washington, told Today that sugar’s inflammatory properties are to blame. The inflammation binds hair follicles, which leads to strands falling out. “High sugar diets are coming more into play [with hair health],” Bodemer said.

BEST: Save Your Head With Salmon

Person cuts salmon to eat at dinner.
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Chantal CASANOVA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, and mackerel, provide much-needed omega-3 fatty acids. During a 2015 study, women who took fish oil supplements experienced thicker hair and less hair loss. Omega-3’s increase hair density in those with thinning hair, according to study in Dermatology Research and Practice.

“Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory,” explains Dr. Carolyn Jacob of EatThis.com. “They can help if you have inflammation that’s causing hair shedding.” If you’re not struggling with hair loss, fatty fish can still keep your locks full and shiny, according to Certified Nutritionist Joseph Debé.

BEST: Almonds Provide A Much-Needed Vitamin

Five almonds are illuminated by soft light on a kitchen table.
Unsplash/@valentinsalija
Unsplash/@valentinsalija

Almonds contain a plethora of nutrients that promote hair health, with the main one being vitamin E. During an eight-month trial published in Tropical Life Sciences Research, scientists discovered that taking 100 mg of vitamin E every day increased hair growth by 34%. One ounce of almonds offers 35% of your daily recommended vitamin E.

It’s no wonder why shampoos and conditioners frequently contain almond oil. But a topical won’t prevent your hair from falling out, which is what almond’s high magnesium content does. For stronger, faster-growing hair, enjoy a snack of almonds or almond butter.

WORST: This Favorite Dries You Out

ingredients to make beer
Christian Charisius/dpa (Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images
Christian Charisius/dpa (Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images

To put it bluntly, alcohol dehydrates you. Your hair requires moisture, so frequently drinking alcohol dries out your hair and skin. From a science perspective, alcohol prevents your body from absorbing zinc. According to a 2017 review, several studies have linked high alcohol consumption to low zinc.

Zinc is important because low-zinc diets contribute to hair loss, according to Dermatology Practical & Conceptual. Most people over 60 receive less than the daily recommendation of zinc. If you cut back on the alcohol, your skin and hair will thank you.

BEST: Berry Nice Blueberries

Woman drops blueberries into a white bowl.
Unsplash/@benmosesofin
Unsplash/@benmosesofin

In the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, one study revealed that oxidative stress harms your hair. Oxidative stress impacts hair fibers on your scalp, which causes it to age more quickly. Fortunately, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and vegetables.

According to a 2002 study in The British Journal of Nutrition, people only need half a cup of blueberries to decrease oxidative stress significantly. That same amount offers 7.2 mg of vitamin C, which is essential to growing hair. Next time you make pancakes, throw some blueberries in.

WORST: Swordfish Is A Mercury Trap

A swordfish steak and a fork sit on a dinner plate.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Some fish, such as salmon and shrimp, provide hair with healthy fatty acids. Others have a high amount of mercury that damage our hair. In Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers connected high amounts of mercury to hair damage. High-mercury fish include swordfish, mackerel, and certain types of tuna.

As a general rule, the larger the fish is, the higher levels of mercury it contains. Swordfish poses the greatest risk for hair health of all. But other fatty and oily fish, such as shrimp, crab, most tuna, and clams, encourage healthy hair growth.

BEST: Guava And Its Leaves

A plate of sliced guava sits out in the rain.
Unsplash/@junkanoo_media
Unsplash/@junkanoo_media

Guava leaves are edible, and they’re rich in B vitamins that support hair health. Research in the Archives of Dermatological Research indicated that vitamin B6 in guava leaves prevented hair loss in mice. Guava also contains B2, which causes B6 to work. You can steep guava leaves as a tea.

If you prefer the fruit over the leaves, it can still help. A 2016 study revealed that guava, when added to a liquid concentration, significantly decreased hair loss in subjects. The vitamins in guava metabolize fat and protein, which strengthens the hair at its root.

WORST: Avoid Anything Fried

A man eats a
JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images
JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images

Fatty, fried foods contain hydrogenated oils that may cause people to lose hair. Researchers explain that fat and hydrogenated oils combine to increase our body’s DHT levels, a hormone that causes hair loss. In particular, the oils suppress fatty acids need to grow healthy hair.

Oddly enough, research in Biomaterials indicates that McDonald’s fried ingredients may prevent hair loss. So far, this study has only shown up in mice, but it indicates that not all fried food can be bad. We still don’t recommend a diet full of McDonald’s, though.

BEST: Beans And Legumes

A bowl of mulicolored beans sits on a windowsill.
Unsplash/@mili_vigerova
Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images

Beans and legumes provide a plant-based source of protein, which is essential to grow thick hair. According to Dr. Robert Glatter, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, iron contributes to hair health. Iron carries oxygen through your body, which repairs cells that renew and fortify your hair.

Legumes also contain folic acid, an ingredient that aids hair growth similar to B vitamins. One study from 2017 links the lack of folic acid and B vitamins to premature baldness. You can enjoy beans with a variety of dishes, so you might as well eat some for healthier hair.

BEST: Get More Than Enough Zinc From Oysters

Woman eats oysters during a competition at the Whitstable Oyster Festival
Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images
Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images

While some types of fish harm your hair, oysters give you all the hair-healthy nutrients you need. Six oysters supply 30 mg of zinc–over double your daily requirement. Zinc is crucial for hair growth, as studies have linked zinc deficiency to hair loss. With oysters, you don’t have to worry about high mercury content.

A scientific review in Dermatology Research and Practice recommends consuming 5 mg of zinc per kilogram of bodyweight if you want to grow your hair out. Just a few oysters will provide enough zinc for many adults to grow their hair naturally.

WORST: Too Much Salt

Man holds salt over a floor full of salt in Indonesia.
Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Salty foods may taste great, but they’re not great for your hair. Just as hair can become damaged from saltwater, it can fall out from too much salt. According to trichologist Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, hair maintains its elasticity and strength through moisture. If you’re dehydrated, your hair will suffer.

In addition, high levels of salt can prevent important nutrients from entering your hair follicles. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends eating no more than 2,300 mg of salt a day, or 1,500 for those over 50. Your hair will thank you for it.

BEST: Eat Red Meat For The Sake Of Your Hair

red meat is good for your hair
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In recent years, many people have demonized red meat as unhealthy. But protein is crucial for long-term hair growth, and red meat helps more than most other protein sources. Trichologist Lisa Caddy explains that red meat contains ferritin, an iron that helps the body produce hair cells.

“If you have a [ferritin] deficiency, the growth of hair cells can be badly affected,” Dr. Caddy told the South China Morning Post. She elaborates that the risk of ferritin deficiency is especially high with menstruating women, so don’t be afraid to enjoy some red meat.