We respect a person’s choice not to eat meat or other animal products, but the fact remains that vegetarian and vegan diets affect hair growth. Not everybody’s, mind you – much depends on genetic predisposition. Some people have such good hair genes that no matter what they do, their hair doesn’t seem to suffer.
However, taken as a percentage, we see far more vegetarians and vegans in our clinics with hair-thinning problems than any other group. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, it’s likely you take vitamin and mineral supplements. In many cases this is important as deficiencies of calcium, iron, zinc and vitamins D, B12 and B6 are common. However, you need to be careful to take the right combinations and also not to take too much of any supplement.
Too much vitamin A, for example, can cause hair loss. Blood tests will tell you how much iron, zinc or B12 you need to take so that you take the correct amount.
Vegans and vegetarians need to be particularly aware of the food that they eat in order to ingest adequate proteins for hair cell renewal and bodily nourishment. Hair is made of protein, and proteins provide energy needed to sustain tissue growth. Not just for your hair tissue, but for essential tissues such as your heart, liver and lungs, which your body will always prioritize. This means that if you don’t eat enough protein, your hair will be the first thing to suffer.
Proteins consist of amino acids – some of which are ‘essential’, while others are ‘non-essential’. Essential amino acids are most plentiful in animal proteins and more easily absorbed this way. They include argimine, histinide, isoleucine, leucine, L-lysine, methionine, phenylalamine, threonine, tyrptophen and valine. While proteins are also found in certain grains and vegetables, a huge quantity of them needs to be ingested in order to absorb enough amino acids to produce the required energy for hair growth. This is particularly true with teenagers.
The following are some examples of the best plant-based sources of protein to include in your diet.
Best plant-based sources of protein:
- Tofu and soy products, such as edamame and tofu burgers
- Tempeh Beans
- Peanut butter
If you are a vegetarian, and can tolerate lactose, you should also eat cheese and milk for extra protein. However, fish and eggs are the best sources of protein if your vegetarian diet allows them.
Good iron and ferritin (stored iron) levels are essential to the growth and health of hair. Red meats are the best sources of iron, but neither vegetarian nor vegan diets allow them. The following are examples of the best plant-based sources of iron. However, it’s important to note that iron from plants isn’t easily absorbed, so you may still need to take an iron supplement.
Best plant-based sources of Iron:
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach, okra, kale and broccoli
- Fruits such as dried apricots, prunes and figs
- Prune juice
- Dark treacle or molasses
- Cereals fortified with iron