Move that shampoo and conditioner aside. The pursuit of luscious, shiny locks starts with fish, beans, bananas, and lentils. Indeed, a healthy diet is as good for the 150,000 hair follicles on your head as it is for your body. “Having a balanced diet, while putting a little extra emphasis on things like protein and iron, gives your hair a boost,” says Neil Sadick, a clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical College.
Protein, for example, is the building block of hair. If you don’t get enough, your mane will grow more slowly, and strands will be weaker. “Pump up the protein,” says registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet. “Include a small dose at each meal and with each snack, and you’ll keep your hair follicles strong.” Safe bets include poultry, lean beef, fish, beans, and nuts.
If you start a hair-healthy diet today, you’ll likely see improvements within six months to a year, depending on how fast your hair grows.
Try these 10 foods for your tresses:
Lean red meat. Too little iron can cause baldness, according to research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic. Treating iron deficiency may help regrow hair. “People who have problems with hair loss or hair growth tend to be iron deficient—especially women,” says dermatologist Paradi Mirmirani, who practices in Vallejo, Calif. Other iron-rich options include turkey, egg yolks, whole grains, dried fruit, and dried beans (soaked and cooked, of course).
Eggs. They’re full of biotin, a B vitamin that promotes hair growth and overall scalp health. A deficiency can cause brittle hair. Other high-biotin foods include peanuts, almonds, wheat bran, salmon, low-fat cheese, and avocados.
Bananas, beer, oats, and raisins. These contain the mineral silica, which is thought to improve hair thickness, Jackson Blatner says. Emphasizing foods rich this mineral helps make hair stronger and more durable. (Though beer contains a good dose of silica, it’s wise to stick to a moderate amount—one drink a day for women and two for men.)