Building a Healthy Hair Diet – Vegan Edition
As I perused the natural hair blogs when I first went natural, I found a common theme. A healthy life equates to healthy hair. Becoming conscious of the food I was consuming was definitely an important part of my story of growing long and healthy hair.
Healthy hair is dependent on good blood circulation, which depends on good nutrition. God knew what he was doing when he made us. He made sure that all nutrients we consume go to all our essential tissues first, like organs and muscles before it gets to vanity items like our hair and nails. Our hair is the last to get nutrients, so any lack of nutrients can cause hair loss.
At any given time, about 90% of our hair is in the growing phase, which lasts approximately 2 to 3 years. At the end of that time, hairs enter a resting phase that lasts about 3 months before they are shed and replaced by new hair. If you don’t get enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet, a disproportionate number of hairs may go into the resting phase.
Like any other part of the body or component of health, hair needs a variety of nutrients to grow and be healthy, like protein, iron, B vitamins, biotin, vitamin c, beta carotene, zinc, and magnesium.
Hair is comprised of mostly protein, which means your hair needs protein to grow. Also, eating too little protein can turn your hair gray. Most carnivores think it’s hard for vegans and vegetarians to get protein but any meatless eater knows that protein abounds in more than just animal sources.
Best Vegan Sources of Protein: Beans, peas, lentils, tofu, quinoa, nuts and nut butter, chickpeas, tempeh, soybeans (edamame), dark leafy greens, seeds (hemp, chia, sesame, sunflower, and poppy), seitan, non-dairy milk, cocoa powder
Iron helps deliver blood to the body’s cells, which oxygenates your scalp for good hair growth and circulation. Many say that the best source of iron comes from animal protein but you can certainly get it from plenty of plant-based options. The problem with iron from non-animal sources is that the body absorbs it less efficiently. Vitamin C improves the body’s ability to absorb plant based iron, so vegetarians and vegans should eat iron-rich foods and foods rich in vitamin C at the same meal. If you don’t feel you’re getting enough iron, you can always consult with your doctor to see if an iron supplement is best for you.
Best Vegan Sources of Iron: lentils, dark leafy greens, whole grains, Tofu, tempeh, soybeans (edamame), lentils, starchy beans (such as black, white, navy, pinto, garbanzo, kidney), black-eyed peas, spinach, seaweed, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale, broccoli, fortified cereals, soybeans, pumpkin seeds
Vitamin C helps plant based iron enter the red blood cells to carry oxygen to hair follicles. Vitamin C is also used to form collagen, a structural fiber that helps our bodies hold everything together. Hair follicles, blood vessels, and skin all require collagen to stay healthy for optimal growth. On the head, even minor vitamin C deficiencies can lead to dry, brittle hair that breaks easily.
Best Vegan Sources of Vitamin C: Guava, bell peppers (all colors), oranges and orange juice, grapefruit and grapefruit juice, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, lemons and lemon juice, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cabbage (all varieties), mangoes, white potatoes, mustard greens, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, snow peas, clementine’s, rutabagas, turnip greens, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, tangerines, okra, lychees, summer squash, persimmons, acerola cherries
B Vitamins: Folate, B6, B12
These vitamins help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to all body cells, including those of the scalp and follicles. Without enough B vitamins, these cells can starve, causing shedding, slow growth, or weak hair.
Best Vegan Sources of Vitamin B6: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), potatoes (white and sweet), oats, bananas, pistachio nuts, lentils, tomato paste, barley, rice (brown, wild), peppers, winter squash (acorn, butternut), broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, peanuts and nut butters, tofu, apricots, watermelon, avocadoes, strawberries, whole grain bread
Best Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12: soy milk, veggie burgers
BEST Vegan Sources FOR FOLATE: Lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, oats, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens, green peas, artichokes, okra, beets, parsnips, broccoli, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oranges and orange juice, Brussels sprouts, papaya, seaweed, berries (boysenberries, blackberries, strawberries), starchy beans (such as black, navy, pinto, garbanzo, and kidney), cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, corn, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, Asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, Kale, swiss chard, mushrooms, turnips, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, nutritional yeast
Best Vegan Sources of B complex: Cantaloupe, papaya, raisins, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, herbs, kelp, danaelion, buckwheat, turnip, celery, collard greens, kale, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, snap beans, peas, cabbage
Biotin is a B vitamin essential for hair growth and overall scalp health. People ask me about biotin for hair health all the time. Biotin supplements will only work on your hair, if you have a biotin deficiency. Because our bodies make their own biotin in the intestines, and it is plentiful in many common foods, deficiency are rare.
Best Vegan Sources of Biotin: nuts and nut butters, wheat bran, whole wheat bread, cauliflower, avocadoes, raspberries
Beta carotene in foods is converted to vitamin A in the body, and vitamin A is necessary for all cell growth, including hair cells. A deficiency can lead to dry, dull, lifeless hair, and dry skin, which can flake off into dandruff.
Best Vegan Sources of Beta Carotene: Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, butternut squash, turnip greens, pumpkin, mustard greens, cantaloupe, red peppers, apricots, Chinese cabbage, spinach, lettuce (romaine, green leaf, red leaf), collard greens, Swiss chard, watercress, grapefruit, watermelon, cherries, mangos, tomatoes, guava, asparagus, red cabbage, Dried Apricots, Dandelion Greens
Zinc boosts tissue growth and regulates hormones which keeps your scalp and hair healthy. It also helps maintain production of oil-secreting glands on the scalp that help your hair grow. Low levels of zinc can cause hair loss, slow growth, and dandruff. The amount you get from eating foods rich in zinc is plenty to keep your tresses gorgeous, so there is usually no need for a supplement.
Best Vegan Sources of Zinc: wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, starchy beans (such as black, navy, pinto, garbanzo, kidney), lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans (edamame), lima beans, pine nuts, cashews, nuts and nut butter, sunflower seeds, pecans, Chickpeas, figs
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions—hair growth included. But research shows that 68 percent of U.S. adults (not just vegans and vegetarians) don’t get enough of the essential nutrient, contributing to increased inflammation in the body and hair loss.
Best Vegan Sources of Magnesium: Almonds, spinach, cashews, lentils, brown rice, peas, banana, figs
Hair is a great marker of overall health and good nutrition assures the best possible environment for hair growth and strength. When I started going vegan, I kept a journal/Excel sheet of everything I was eating. This help me get a good indication of what areas of my diet I was deficient in.
Remember, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” If you consume too much of any of the aforementioned nutrients it can have the opposite effect of what you’re striving for. Also, if you begin a hair healthy diet today, don’t expect results overnight. Hair growth rates vary between about 1⁄4″ and 1 1⁄4″ per month depending on age, gender, and other lifestyle factors. On average, a person can expect to have about 6 inches of new growth every year, so it will take about that long to notice the effects of your nutritional changes.