What to eat for healthy hair

Just like skin, the condition of your hair is an outward sign of inside health. The cells that make up each strand of hair require a regular supply of key nutrients.

A woman looking in a mirror and brushing her hair

Eat the correct balance of the following nutrients including protein, vitamins and minerals to supply hair with all that it needs to remain shiny, lustrous and strong...


As hair is made of protein, ensuring you have enough protein in your diet is crucial for making hair strong and healthy. If you are not consuming enough protein in your diet, your hair is likely to become dry, brittle and weak. Extremely low protein diets may result in restricted hair growth and even hair loss. Choose chicken, turkey, fish, dairy products and eggs as excellent sources of protein along with vegetarian sources such as legumes and nuts.

Eggs on a table


Iron is an especially important mineral for hair and too little iron is a major cause of hair loss. The hair follicle and root are fed by a nutrient rich blood supply. When iron levels (serum ferritin) fall below a certain point, you may experience anaemia. This disrupts the nutrient supply to the follicle, affecting the hair growth cycle and may result in shedding. Animal products such as red meat, chicken and fish provide iron with a high bioavailability, meaning the iron is readily available to the body. Vegetarians can raise their iron stores by including lentils, spinach and other leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and salad greens.
More about iron-rich diets
Iron-rich vegetarian recipes

Vitamin C

Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron so foods high in vitamin C are good to eat in conjunction with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant so is used readily by the body. The best sources are blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruits, oranges, papaya, strawberries and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen which strengthens the capillaries that supply the hair shafts.

Fresh blueberries


Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats our body cannot make itself, and therefore must be obtained through our diet. Omega-3s are found in the cells that line the scalp and also provide the oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated. Include oily fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, trout and mackerel and plant sources like avocado, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is needed by the body to make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance created by our hairs sebaceous glands and provides a natural conditioner for a healthy scalp. Without sebum we may experience an itchy scalp and dry hair. Include animal products and orange/yellow coloured vegetables which are high in beta-carotene (which makes vitamin A) such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes on a table

Zinc and selenium

Scalp protection involves other important minerals, notably zinc and selenium. A lack of zinc can lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp. Fortified cereals and wholegrains are a good source of zinc along with oysters, beef and eggs.

Vitamin E

The sun can damage our hair just like it can damage our skin so ensure you eat foods rich in vitamin E to provide protection for your hair. Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, providing zinc and selenium as well as vitamin E so try to include them as part of a balanced diet.

Almonds in a bowl


Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin. Too little biotin can cause brittle hair and may lead to hair loss. Include biotin rich foods such as wholegrains, liver, egg yolk, soy flour and yeast.

Natural treatments

Make your own hair mask for a deep, nourishing treatment every two weeks. Whisk an egg yolk and mix with half a mashed avocado and a spoonful of honey. Massage onto damp, clean hair and leave for 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Recipe suggestions...

An overall balanced diet is necessary for a healthy scalp and healthy hair. Try out some of the following tasty recipes to support your locks.

Legumes like kidney beans and lentils are sources of protein, iron, biotin and zinc:
Jerk chicken curry with beans
Pepper lime salmon with black-eyed beans
Basic lentils
Spinach, sweet potato & lentil dhal

Nuts are rich in zinc and selenium:
Spiced cauliflower with chickpeas, herbs & pine nuts
Baked aubergine stuffed with roast pumpkin, feta & walnuts with minted courgettes
Fig & walnut slice
Tropical treat

Beef is a brilliant source of protein and iron:
Chilli beef shepherd's pie
Thai beef stir-fry

Don't forget orange vegetables and dark leafy greens!
Pumpkin & parsnip cassoulet
Stir-fried curly kale with chilli & garlic
Orange, carrot & mint soup
Sweet potato & chicken curry

Boost your omega-3 with these fishy favourites:
Spicy salmon & lentils
Griddled tuna with bean & tomato salad
Warm mackerel & beetroot salad
Smoked mackerel, orange & couscous salad
Sardines with chickpeas, lemon & parsley

The hair cycle...

Each hair is attached to the scalp via a follicle. There are between 100,000 and 350,000 hair follicles on the human scalp. Each follicle grows its hair for an average of 1000 days (three years) and then rests for a period of around 100 days (three months) before being shed and a new hair begins to grow. This pattern of active growth followed by the resting period varies significantly from person to person and is influenced by age, diet and our state of health.

Close up of braided hair

What is hair made of?

Hair is primarily made of a protein called keratin that also makes nails and forms the outer protective layer of skin. Each hair consists of three layers:

1. The cuticle - the outer layer, thin and colourless. It acts as the protective layer.
2. The cortex which contains melanin, which is responsible for hair colour.
3. The medulla, the innermost layer which reflects light.

Did you know...
...Whether your hair is straight or curly depends on the shape of the cortex. On average, blondes have more hair and redheads have the least.

Through thick and thin...

The length of hair that you are able to grow is controlled by the duration of the growing phase, which varies between individuals. We all lose some hair naturally each day when we brush, comb or wash it and as long as new hairs are being produced at the same rate as those falling out, there will be no difference in hair volume. However if the rate of shedding exceeds production the net result is hair loss or thinning.

A variety of factors can alter the normal hair growth cycle and cause temporary or permanent hair loss including medication, chemotherapy, exposure to chemicals and toxins such as nicotine, hormonal factors, thyroid disease, stress or nutritional factors.

Hair loss

We shed hair every day as part of our body's natural process. Hair loss can happen at any time of life for any number of reasons. When hair loss becomes a concern, it is important to determine the cause before seeking out the appropriate treatment.

Potential non-dietary factors for hair loss include:

  • Age influences hair strength. As we grow older, there is a tendency for our hair fibres to become finer and shorter and we may experience hair loss or greying. It is normal for women to experience changes to their hair post pregnancy and as they enter the menopause.
  • Genetic hair loss is the most common hair loss problem affecting men and women. The onset is usually during the mid to late 20s and is often unavoidable. Women experiencing baldness may want to consult a trained medical professional.
  • Repeatedly losing and regaining weight can take its toll on your hair, causing it to become brittle and lacking lustre. Crash diets are often short in essential vitamins and minerals and over long periods of time this type of dieting will reflect in your hair.
  • Hormonal imbalances including thyroid dysfunction can produce significant changes to hair growth and quality. Thyroid function can only be assessed by blood test. If you are experiencing considerable hair loss, please consult your GP.

A note on alopecia areata (AA)...

This condition can result in total loss of hair from the head and sometimes loss of body hair also, although most sufferers develop a few isolated patches of hair loss, which may correct themselves without any treatment. Since the cause is unknown, treatment is hard. Talk to your GP if you are concerned about hair loss.

This article was last reviewed on 4 July 2019 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

Jo Lewin is a registered nutritionist (RNutr) with the Association for Nutrition with a specialism in public health. Follow her on Twitter @nutri_jo.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
Mohammed Abid
29th Oct, 2015
Using curry leafs in coconut and applying on the scalp threes a week for 2 hours. Which also gives you a great result in hair. depilatory cream
9th May, 2015
yes Omega-3 acids,vitamin c will improve hair growth they really work,bathing with natural lemon water also works better or we can use egg before head bath i found this on http://www.howtogetridoftips4u.com/
30th Mar, 2015
This is a really good article! I never knew that eggs and peanuts can contribute to a healthier hair. Maybe I should eat more of them but I just hate eating peanuts. Anyways, you can visit and buy instagram likes. Tell me if you really like to improve your Instagram and i can help you.
26th Mar, 2015
I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well. Thanks for sharing this information. And I’ll love to read your next post too. http://www.hairtransplantclinicdubai.com
13th Jan, 2015
Healthy hair comes from healthy life style so eat healthy before spend on expensive hair products, i'll be better and cheaper =)
25th Nov, 2014
All natural foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruits and eggs are rich in Vitamins for healthy hair growth and they help to protect from hair loss as well as sun damage too. Due to lack of these nutrients, we face hormonal imbalance & inefficiency of diet and we face hair falling difficulties. It is common in most the of persons across the globe even it leads to complete baldness also.To overcome balding issues, people choose treatment. Check here more: http://olivacosmeticsurgery.com/blog/hair-loss-alopecia-reasons-in-men-and-women/
22nd Nov, 2014
All natural foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruits and eggs are rich in Vitamins for healthy hair growth and they help to protect from hair loss as well as sun damage too. Due to lack of these nutrients, we face hormonal imbalance & inefficiency of diet and we face hair falling difficulties. It is common in most the of persons across the globe even it leads to complete baldness also.To overcome balding issues, people choose treatment. Check here more: http://olivacosmeticsurgery.com/blog/hair-loss-alopecia-reasons-in-men-and-women/
19th Sep, 2014
Everything is important protien and iron , but perfect ratio should be there for proper care . Some products provide that perfect ratio , checkout the one here http://www.naturalbraid.com/
16th Jun, 2014
Tips which is provided for the natural hair growth along with the protein and diet food blog author had made an great effort to share about the hair growth information. http://hairrestorationlondon.co.uk/
16th Sep, 2013
This is very informative and much appreciated from my favourite recipe website. Thanks GoodFood.


Be the first to ask a question about this recipe...Unsure about the cooking time or want to swap an ingredient? Ask us your questions and we’ll try and help you as soon as possible. Or if you want to offer a solution to another user’s question, feel free to get involved...
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.