With the meteoric rise in popularity of the vegan diet over the last few years, there has been a lot of debate about whether it contributes to hair loss or not.
We already know with any diet that too much weight loss too quickly can trigger hair loss and any new diet will be a shock to the body as it adjusts to the new regime and learns to do without certain foods it was previously used to.
But in my view accusations of vitamin deficiency are somewhat disingenuous. Yes, there can be vitamin deficiency in a poorly-managed vegan (or vegetarian) diet, but the whole population is suffering from vitamin deficiency when you consider that we have lost an estimated 40% of the vitamins from our food since WWII, owing to pesticides, veterinary products and intensive farming methods, including artificial breeding. We also insist on eating all our foods all year round even when it is technically out of season, or has travelled halfway across the world, which means fewer vitamins and nutrients. Consequently we are seeing more hair loss generally across society and starting younger and younger in both genders.
So yes, we need to be careful to supplement Iron, Biotin and Vitamin B12 in particular when not eating meat or dairy, but we probably need to supplement and eat wisely in any case.
Towards this end, boosting consumption of the following foods is essential:
Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium, a mineral linked to scalp health. Selenium helps the scalp resist infection and keeps dandruff at bay. Walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans are rich in zinc which keeps hair from shedding. Walnuts also contain vitamin E and biotin.
2. Whole Grains
Grains are rich in zinc, iron, and B vitamins. Grains like whole brown rice and oats or the grain-like quinoa are a good source of some healthy protein and carbohydrates. Protein is mainly what hair is made of and carbohydrates fuel all the many functions of the body, including hair growth. Grains are also a good source of biotin.
3. Orange coloured vegetables
Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene. The body transforms this phytonutrient into vitamin A which is essential for scalp health. Sweet potatoes are another great way to get vitamin A along with some good complex carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes are also great!
4. Dark green vegetables
Dark greens supply plenty of beta-carotene and vitamin C. These two vitamins are important to scalp health and the production of sebum, the natural oily conditioner secreted by our hair follicles. Turnip greens, spinach, and broccoli are a few of the best greens for these nutrients along with iron.
5. Beans, Legumes, and Lentils
Protein is the building block of healthy hair. Lean protein from beans and lentils will aid hair growth while also supplying a good amount of iron, zinc, and biotin. Iron deficiencies can result in balding and biotin is crucial to strong, thick hair and nails.
Pumpkin, sesame, flax, and chia seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These good fats keep hair and scalp from becoming dry and dull, for vibrant shine and less brittle hair.
7. Coconut Oil
A great source of healthy fat for shiny healthy hair is coconut oil which also reduces inflammation and aids circulation. It is one of the foods that work well internally and topically. You can use it directly on hair as well, to condition, repair, re-hydrate, and strengthen your hair.
Creamy avocados are rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin B5. Vitamin B5 helps prevent graying. They can also be used directly on hair. Can be topped with yeast extract, lemon juice or french dressing if too bland to eat on their own.
Bananas are a good source of healthy carbohydrates to fuel hair growth and vitamin B6. A deficiency in this B vitamin results in thinning hair. B6 aids in the absorption of nutrients and the production of red blood cells needed to nurture hair follicles. Bananas often find themselves in external hair treatments too.
Berries are rich in antioxidants which protect cells from damage that ages them. Antioxidants can help keep hair healthy, keep grey at bay longer, and prevent premature thinning. Many berries are rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that the body uses to create collagen, an important connective tissue used in bones, skin, and hair.
Finally cutting down your sugar and carbs intake is recommended.