Everybody wants more luscious, healthier hair. Maybe you suffer from dry hair, dandruff, oily/greasy hair, or even hair loss!
There are many factors that can affect your hair growth such as genetics, hormonal changes, medical conditions and even stress! However, the diet also plays an essential role in hair health (1).
How is this possible? Well, the hair follicle sits internally in the skin, while the hair itself is located externally. Just like when you go to water your garden, it’s the roots and nutrients in the soil that help to keep that garden healthy!
In this blog we’ll talk about what nutrients and foods you should be eating in your diet to support healthy hair and how hemp seeds can help!
Protein is a macronutrient, meaning we need it in large amounts as it has an important role in growth and repair in the body
In fact, your hair is made up mostly of a protein called keratin (around 85-90%). Cysteine and methionine are important amino acids (building blocks of protein) required for production of hair keratin, while protein deficiency has been found to result in hair loss, and weak and brittle hair (2).
Image sourced from www.mdpi.com
Good sources of protein include animal products, such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products. However, you can also get plenty of protein in plant-based foods such as legumes (beans, peas, lentils etc), soy products, whole-grains (oats, rice, barley), nuts and seeds.
Average protein requirements are around 1gm/kg bodyweight a day. This requirement may be higher if you live an active lifestyle anywhere between 1.6g/kg (active) – 2.2g/kg (bodybuilder) of bodyweight (3).
One of the unique factors about hemp seeds is that they contain all 9 essential amino acids that can’t be made by the body that is unique for a plant-based product. Hemp seed protein also contains a whopping 42g of protein per 100g (more than half of the average RDI for protein).
So when you consume large amounts of hemp seed protein you can be confident that you are getting enough amino acids to support healthy hair.
Essential Fatty acids
Essential fatty acids include both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that are required in the diet as they cannot be made in the body. Essential fatty acids have important roles in regulating inflammation, brain health, and even hair health! Essential fatty acids are an important part of the horny layer in the skin and a deficiency of these fats can result in hair loss (4).
Omega 3 fatty acids can mainly be found in oily fish, flax seeds, walnuts and of course hemp seeds! Omega 6 fatty acids are also found in hemp seeds and are required for the proper growth of hair, however overconsumption of omega 6 can result in increased inflammation and potential hair loss. That’s why it’s important to consume foods like Hemp seed oil to help balance your omega 3 to omega 6 ratio.
One study found that a supplement containing omega 3, omega 6, and antioxidants helped reduce hair loss in females over a six-month period. Furthermore, hemp seeds also contain GLA that has been reported to have a role in hair health (5, 6).
Zinc is an essential mineral that is used for over 300 different functions in the body that includes growth, development, immune function and collagen synthesis. Zinc is also important for regulating hair follicles and the healthy growth of hair (7, 8).
Zinc deficiency has shown to suppress hair growth that can lead to thinning and brittle hair. While, studies indicate that supplementing with zinc can help to reduce hair loss caused by zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency can sometimes occur in plant-based diets due to exclusion of meat (9, 10).
Good animal-based sources of dietary zinc include lean meats, chicken, eggs and oysters. Plant based sources include legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds.
The good news is that hemp seeds contain 7mg of zinc per 100g that is just under the recommended daily intake for females (RDI 8mg/day) and half of the RDI for males (14mg/day).
Iron is an important mineral in the body that is mainly responsible for the production of red blood cells to help transport oxygen around the body. Iron also has an important role in hair growth. This may be due to iron’s role in cell replication in the body, that helps support the growth of hair (11).
Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency and is known to play a role in hair loss. Iron deficiency is particularly common in menstruating females due to loss of blood during menstruation. Vegans and vegetarians are also at higher risk for iron deficiency as requirements for dietary iron are 1.8 times higher than that of meat eaters. The reason why is that the type of iron found in plants (non-haem iron) is less absorbable (12).
Iron is found in large amounts in animal-based products such as red meat, however can also be found in a plant-based foods that include lentils, beans, tofu, green leafy vegetables and hemp seeds.
In fact, hemp seeds contain an impressive 14mg of iron per 100g that meets the RDI for both males and females, making getting enough iron in your diet easier if you’re on a plant-based diet. If you want to learn more about getting enough iron a plant-based diet, click here.
Vitamin A is responsible for growth in the body by helping to produce and regenerate cells. Vitamin A also helps to produce an oily substance in the skin called sebum that can help to moisturise the scalp and maintain healthy hair. While deficiency of vitamin A is not common in western cultures, it has been indicated in hair loss (13, 14).
Vitamin A is found in animal products such as meat, dairy products and eggs, while sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrot, capsicum, spinach and kale are good sources of beta-carotene that is then converted into vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect against free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause oxidative stress that can lead to increased inflammation, and the increased ageing of hair.
Vitamin C has an important role in creating the hair shaft and may also have a role in hair loss. Vitamin C is also an important factor for collagen production that is part of the structure of hair (15).
Foods that contain high amounts of vitamin C include broccoli, capsicums, citrus fruits, spinach, kale, and kiwi fruit.
Vitamin E is also a potent antioxidant that is involved in reducing oxidative stress.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare, however can result in dry skin and may also be involved in hair loss.
While there isn’t a whole lot of research for vitamin E and hair loss, there is one study that found a 34.5% increase in hair growth after vitamin E supplementation for 8 months (16).
Vitamin E can be found in foods that includes sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, avocados, and hemp seeds!
Despite being called a vitamin, Vitamin D is in fact a steroid hormone and is produced from cholesterol when you are exposed to the sun. Only small amounts of vitamin D can be found in food (around 5-10%), so it’s important we get adequate UV exposure from the sun. Vitamin D has a role in hair follicle cycling and a deficiency has been linked to hair loss (17, 18).
To help prevent vitamin D deficiency it’s best to try to get adequate UVB exposure from the sun. If you live in areas with minimal sunlight you may need to supplement. Speak to your doctor about getting tested for vitamin D deficiency.
There are also some simple lifestyle changes you can make that may also improve the health of hair such as reducing alcohol intake and managing stress through guided meditation (try headspace, smiling mind or calm).
So, what's the bottom line?
Eating a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do to improve your hair health.
Aim to eat as large diversity of bright coloured fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and foods that contain protein, essential fatty acids, zinc and iron. Hemp seeds are a great way to boost these nutrients in a plant-based diet. Avoid toxins where possible and live a healthy and happy life!
If you have any questions or need support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above.