In most cases, hair loss is due to age, genes or changes in hormone levels. But what you eat can affect how healthy your hair is, especially if you're not getting enough of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, biotin and vitamin E.
Seeds are a small-but-mighty source of nutrition that can promote health in many areas, including the health of your hair. They're versatile enough to add to just about anything — salads, oatmeal, yogurt, trail mix — and easy even to eat by the handful on the go.
Oils from seeds, like flaxseed oil, can also provide these important nutrients. And the fat in seed oil can help your body better absorb certain vitamins, like A and E, that keep your hair strong.
Vitamin A is the "workhorse of dermatology," says Shani Francis, MD, MBA, medical director and chief wellness officer of Ashira Dermatology. It can help keep your scalp healthy, and a healthy scalp means healthy hair, she says. Vitamin E's a powerful antioxidant used in many dermatology products to promote healthy skin and hair.
Add Ground Flaxseed to Food
Often ground and sprinkled in oatmeal, in salads or smoothies, flaxseed is an excellent source of omega-3s and fiber. It's also a good source of vitamin E. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial when it comes to hair health and growth, Dr. Francis says, and may improve hair density, according to a March 2015 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Flaxseed also has about 2 grams of protein per tablespoon, according to the USDA. And because hair is primarily made of protein, getting enough in your diet may help ward off thinning, too.
Go for Pumpkin Seeds
Roast these fall favorites for a nutrition-packed, delicious snack that'll do your hair some good. Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which is thought to prevent hair loss, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation, possibly because of its association with protein synthesis, cell growth and hair follicle development, says a January 2017 paper published in Dermatology Practical & Conceptual.
With pumpkin seeds, you'll also get a good helping of magnesium, which is also involved in protein synthesis, and iron. While iron's role in hair health isn't entirely understood, women dealing with hair loss are commonly found to be deficient in the mineral, according to a March 2019 review published in Dermatology and Therapy.
Snack on Sunflower Seeds
Although tiny in size, sunflower seeds are one of the best sources of the beloved antioxidant vitamin E, which may help protect hair from environmental toxins, Dr. Francis says. Like flax, sunflower seeds are also high in those density-promoting omega-3 fatty acids.
Sunflower seeds go great sprinkled on salads or in a homemade trail mix for a healthy on-the-go snack.
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "4 Nutrients to Eat for Better Skin and Hair"
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: "Effect of a Nutritional Supplement on Hair Loss in Women"
- USDA: Flaxseed
- National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium"
- Dermatology Practical & Conceptual: "Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use"
- Dermatology and Therapy: "The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review"