Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that are important for proper brain function and heart health. These fatty acids are also important for strong hair, since about 3% of the hair shaft is made up of them. The membranes of skin cells in the scalp are lipid based, made up of these fatty acids, as are the natural oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated. Besides being rich in omega-3s, salmon is also a good source of protein and vitamin D, both of which are key for having strong hair.
Other options: If you don’t care for salmon, you can also get essential fatty acids from fish like herring, sardines, trout, and mackerel, as well as avocado, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
If you don’t like fish, walnuts are a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, they are in the ALA form rather than the most beneficial EPA and DHA forms. Fish are much better at making the ALA to DHA and EPA conversion than are humans, so eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement is best. However, eating foods like walnuts, flaxseed and chia seed does provide some omega-3s. They're also rich in biotin and vitamin E, which help protect your cells from DNA damage by unstable free radicals bouncing around in your body. Too little biotin can even lead to hair loss. Walnuts also contain the mineral copper, which helps keep your natural hair color rich and lustrous.
Other options: Try using walnut oil in your salad dressing or stir-fry instead of canola or safflower oil.
Oysters are one of the best sources of the mineral zinc, a lack of which can lead to hair loss (even in your eyelashes), as well as a dry, flaky scalp. Three ounces of oysters contain 493% of your daily value! Fortified cereals and whole grain breads also contain some zinc, but oysters contain some protein as well, which is essential for hair growth, as hair is about 97% protein. Without enough protein, your body can't replace the hairs that you naturally shed every day, and without adequate protein the hair you do have would be dry, brittle, or weak.
Other options: Nuts, beef, and eggs are a few other sources of zinc.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which your body manufactures into vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for proper cell function, including skin cells. It functions as an antioxidant as well, so it protects cells from damage, thus slowing the aging process. Since vitamin A is needed for protecting and producing the oils that sustain your scalp, being low on vitamin A can leave you with itchy, irksome dandruff.
Other options: Carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes, pumpkin, and apricots are all good sources of beta-carotene.
Eggs are another good source of protein, as well as the key minerals zinc, selenium, sulfur, and iron. Iron is especially important because of its role in hemoglobin formation in red blood cells. It helps cells carry oxygen to the hair follicles, and too little iron (resulting in anemia) is a major cause of hair loss, particularly in women.
Other options: The heme form of iron is more readily absorbed by the body and is found in animal sources such as chicken, fish, pork, and beef. Oatmeal, kale, spinach, nuts and beets are some plant sources.
Like eggs and meat, spinach contains iron. The iron, beta-carotene, folate, and vitamin C in spinach help keep hair follicles healthy and scalp oils circulating.
Other options: Try other nutrient-rich dark, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and Swiss chard for similar benefits.
These are great plant food source of some of the minerals and protein above mentioned. Legumes are full of protein, iron, zinc, and biotin, making it a great staple for vegetarian and vegans.
Other options: Toss other beans such as soybeans (the young ones are called edamame), black beans or kidney beans into your soup or salad.
8. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is a source of protein, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid -- an ingredient you'll often see on hair care product labels), and vitamin D. Some new research links vitamin D to hair follicle health, although exactly how that works isn't clear. Vitamin B-5 attracts water and is used as a moisturizer and emollient. It is good for skin as well, as it creates a skin barrier, reducing water loss through skin and improving texture and softness.
Other options: Cauliflower, broccoli, meat, and sunflower seeds are also good sources.
Strawberries and blueberries, along with other fruit, are good sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is critical for circulation to the scalp and supports the tiny blood vessels that feed the follicles. Too little C in your diet can lead to hair breakage. Vitamin C functions as and antioxidant, like vitamin A and E, so it helps protect skin cells from damage. It’s also good for the skin in that it plays a part in collagen formation, keeping the skin firm.
Other options: Kiwis, tomatoes, oranges, etc.
Classic protein is what you’re getting here, as well as hair-healthy zinc, iron, and B vitamins to keep your hair strands strong and thick. Because hair is nearly all protein, foods like meat, beans, and nuts are crucial for hair growth and strength.
Other options: Lean cuts of beef are another good source of lean protein.