If you're not getting the luxurious va-va-voom! effect you see in TV commercials, you may be looking for ways to increase the thickness of your hair. For the most part, hair thickness is determined by genetics, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, as well as the thickness of your hair follicles and the number of follicles on your scalp.
That said, food can play a role in improving the thickness and overall heath of your hair, says Shani Francis, MD, MBA, medical director and chief wellness officer of Ashira Dermatology. Omega-3 fatty acids are the most important nutrient for hair health and have been shown to improve hair thickness, or density, she says.
While large, rigorous trials are lacking, these are the foods to consider — and the nutrients they contain — if you're looking to thicken the appearance of your hair.
Add Legumes to Your Diet
Legumes contain biotin, a B-complex vitamin necessary for improving the strength of hair and making it grow more quickly, according to Dr. Francis. While humans rarely have severe biotin deficiencies, diets lacking in the vitamin result in thinning hair and hair loss.
Legumes are also good sources of protein and iron, which are also essential in promoting hair growth, Dr. Francis says.
Increase your biotin intake by adding black beans, chickpeas or lentils to soups, salads and chili.
Salmon contains protein and omega-3 fatty acids, essential nutrients for healthy hair that encourage hair growth and thickness. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids and protein can lead to thin, brittle hair or hair loss.
A 3-ounce cooked portion of wild Atlantic salmon contains almost 22 grams of protein and roughly 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, according to the USDA.
Munch on Carrots
Thick hair requires a healthy scalp for continued growth, Dr. Francis says. Carrots contain beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which she considers to be the "workhorse of dermatology." Vitamin A can also help produce sebum, oily secretions in your scalp that can encourage healthy hair growth.
Eat raw carrots as a snack or add shredded carrots to your salad to get more beta-carotene on a daily basis.
It's hard to go wrong with a handful of nuts for a snack or sprinkled on top of a salad. Nuts are good sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and some varieties are particularly rich in vitamin E. A quarter-cup serving of almonds, for example, provides almost 7 grams of vitamin E, according to the USDA.
An easy way to add a little extra nutrition from nuts is to drizzle salads with nut oils, including walnut, an excellent source of vitamin E.
Don't Ignore Dairy Products
Dairy products offer many of the critical nutrients needed to support hair growth and thickness, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. A deficiency in calcium has been associated with hair loss, especially in postmenopausal women, according to a March 2016 report published in Menopause Review.
Add dairy products to your diet by drinking milk or eating cheese and yogurt. Even the occasional dish of calcium-packed ice cream may help promote healthier hair.
Have Some Peanut Butter
One half of everyone's favorite lunch is packed with nutrients for healthy hair, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids — specifically alpha linoleic acid — and zinc. While zinc won't necessarily make your hair grow, it can help keep your hair healthy and prevent hair loss, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. The way it works isn't entirely clear, but experts think it could be related to its role in cell division, protein synthesis and the development of hair follicles, according to a January 2017 paper published in Dermatology Practical & Conceptual.
Add peanut butter to celery sticks, apple slices or whole-grain bread for a healthful snack that may ward off hair loss.
Read more: 8 Peanut Butter Breakfasts FTW
Is This an Emergency?
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Biotin"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Is Hair Texture Determined by Genetics?"
- National Institutes of Health: "Biotin"
- Biochimica et Biophysica Acta: "Endogenous Retinoids in the Hair Follicle and Sebaceous Gland"
- USDA: "Nuts, Almonds"
- Menopause Review: "Nutrition of Women with Hair Loss Problem During the Period of Menopause"
- International Food Information Council Education: "4 Nutrients to Eat for Better Skin and Hair"
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: "Effect of a Nutritional Supplement on Hair Loss in Women"
- Dermatology Practical and Conceptual: "Diet and Hair Loss: Effects of Nutrient Deficiency and Supplement Use"
- USDA: "Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked, dry heat"
- Harvard Medical School: Listing of Vitamins
- The Tech Museum: Understanding Genetics