For many people, their hair is one of the most defining features of their identity.
As we grow older, hair care becomes more of an important – whether to remedy against dull or greying hair, or to protect against hair loss.
As we grow, so does our hair. In fact, our hair is in varying degrees of its growth cycle at any one given time from Anagen – which is where your hair is growing around 1cm per month, to Catagen where it stops before reaching the final Telogen and Exogen phase where your hair falls out.
Various environmental factors can contribute to an increased shedding of hair prematurely, including stress or poor diet.
Poor Diet = Hair Loss
Hair is made of a protein called Keratin.
This keratin is formed by amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which is sourced from the foods that we eat.
And as our hair relies on a supply of oxygen, vitamins and minerals for its growth cycle, we need to ensure our diets have enough iron which increase red blood cell counts – maximising the amount of minerals your cells can take.
So while there are plenty of other factors which we do not have control over – such as genetics and environmental factors, we do control the food we eat. And our diets play a significant role in the health and development of our hair.
A diet which lacks sufficient protein, amino acids and other vitamins and minerals can show by affecting hair volume and growth. Traditionally, this could be tough for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet as most have a nutritionally incomplete intake.
So if you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet and concerned about hair loss, we break down the best Vegetarian and Vegan friendly foods which can help promote a fuller head and natural hair growth.
As our hair is primarily made up of a protein called Keratin, it makes sense for us to increase our protein intake.
Some plant-based sources of protein include:
- Tofu and Soy
Being plant based, most of these foods have other natural nutrients including Iron and Vitamins which can contribute to the growth of hair.
Lentils contain nearly 9grams of protein per 100grams boiled, but also contain folate, iron and potassium which can help assist with blood flow. By also switching to vegan or vegetarian sources of protein, you consume less unhealthy cholesterol which can increase blood pressure and reduce the blood flow to your scalp.
Biotin Rich Foods
While there is a mixed signal to whether biotin is helpful for the growth of hair in itself, Biotin plays an important part in your body’s ability to convert carbohydrates into energy.
Some believe biotin is said to improve your body’s keratin structure
Some Biotin rich foods suitable for vegetarians and vegans include:
- Peanuts – one handful contains 26.0mcg Biotin
- Avocados – one avocado contains approx. 2-6mcg of Biotin
- Cauliflower – raw cauliflower contains approx. 17mcg of biotin
- Spinach – one serving of chopped spinach can contain approx. 7mcg of Biotin
Spinach and Dark Leafy Vegetables
Spinach is a source of Iron and loaded with nutrients including Vitamin A and C, which are all linked to promoting hair growth.
Iron contributes to increased haemoglobin (which is a protein found in red blood cells), and through this oxygen is carried through our body for the growth and repair of cells, including supplying the nutrients (protein and vitamins) necessary for the growth of our hair.
Avocados contain healthy fats, which in modern day diets (such as Ketosis) are great for keeping your body healthy, lean and metabolism functioning well.
Avocados also contain Vitamin E, which contain antioxidant that may help reduce the amount of free radicals and oxidative stress which can affect your hair growth.
Increased intake of Vitamin E can also help increase blood flow, and when combined with increased Iron – can ensure a greater, more volumized supply of nutrients to your scalp [ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC199257/]
Chickpeas, Lentils and Beans
Pulses are filled with a great plant-based source of protein.
100 grams of kidney beans contains nearly 9g of protein and contains Iron, which is important for the growth of hair.
Lentils contain similar amounts of protein per 100 grams when boiled
Pulses contain additional nutrients including folate, iron, potassium and vitamins which help contribute to improved blood flow and provide the essential nutrients to your hairs, helping them grow stronger.
Cacao is a super-food which contains ample naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
While cacao is known to be a good source of natural protein, it can also help lower blood-pressure by improving nitric-oxide levels in the blood, which can help stimulate blood flow and flow of nutrients around your body – up to your scalp.
Cacao also contains anandamide, which is a Sanskrit word translated into “joy, bliss and delight”.
As stress is a contributor to hair loss, consuming cacao and taking the benefits of anandamide may help reduce stress, particularly the stress of beginning a new diet if you’re not already following a vegan/vegetarian first-approach.
Seeds such as Pumpkin Seeds, or Fenugreek Seeds, are frequently used as super foods to supplements ones diet as they contain a host of valuable nutrients.
These can include Vitamin E, zinc and Iron.
Flaxseeds and Chia seeds also provide plant-based omega-3 fatty acids which is crucial for vegetarian and vegan diets which would otherwise not obtain the benefits from oily fish.
Omegas have anti-inflammatory properties which can open up hair follicles and promote hair growth, while nourishing your scalp preventing dryness which may inhibit new growth.
If you’ve worried about what a vegetarian or vegan diet can do to your hair, you can begin to ease some of your concerns.
Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet does not mean sacrificing on your hair health.
Your diet plays an important role (outside of genetics and environment) in contributing to hair growth and by understanding the key elements of improving blood circulation to your scalp and feeding your body with essential minerals and nutrients such as Protein, Iron, Vitamin A, C and E, your hair can continue to grow and flourish while providing you the benefits of a vegan diet.