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Thinning Hair? Health Experts Say You May Be Missing This One Essential Nutrient In Your Diet

If you’re noticing more and more strands falling out and want to find the cause, many hair health experts suggest analyzing your diet first and foremost. While hair loss for many of us is inevitable with age, a diet devoid of enough protein can lead to thinner locks and weaker braids in general.

We checked in with experts to learn more about the importance of a protein-filled diet for healthy hair, and how much is necessary to consume daily if stronger, shiner locks are your goal. Read on for tips, suggestions and insight from Jean Will, hair expert and co-founder of NiaWigs Inc., Ghanima Abdullah, hair expert and cosmetologist at The Right Hairstyles and Lisa Richards, registered nutritionist and creator of The Candida Diet.

How Protein Supports Healthier Hair

One of the main nutrients that affects our hair health the most is protein, Will explains. “Proteins assist our body’s tissue cells, including the tissues that make up our hair, to grow. The significance of this is that without protein, our hair will break and become stiff,” she says. Protein deficiency can cause hair loss in some circumstances, Will adds, as protein is needed for keratin synthesis. Keratin, she says, is a “unique protein found in our hair, keeps our hair healthy and helps our bodies get the nutrients they need to maintain healthy hair.”

As protein makes up the entire structure of the hair, a protein deficiency can cause hair loss, she warns. “Some people consume a crash diet that depletes their protein stores, which can lead to a lack of nutrients and hair loss.” Will stresses that hair is an “extremely delicate component of our bodies, so if it were to become damaged and weak, the likelihood of hair loss would be high.”

Richards agrees, and says that strong hair is healthy hair, and is heavily impacted by the nutrients we take in throughout our lives. “As we grow older it can be more difficult to keep our hair strong as our nutrient needs and intake change.” Thankfully, Richards points out that there are many you can integrate into your regular diet to help assist you in your strong hair goals. “Chances are, they are foods you already enjoy, you just may not eat very intentionally or often,” she notes.

Protein-Rich Foods To Include In Your Diet

If you are creating a well-balanced diet and want to target hair health specifically, Richards says that eggs and dairy are loaded with essential nutrients known to prevent and even reverse hair loss. “Biotin, B12, protein, zinc, and omega-6 are all vital to the hair growth process,” she says, and they can be found in these foods. Biotin, in particular, Richards adds, is “connected with reversing as well as slowing hair loss.” Other foods rich in biotin include “seeds and nuts, fish, and sweet potatoes,” Richards lists. These may be “more ideal options” for those wanting to follow an “anti-inflammatory or allergen free diet, which eggs and dairy would not fit into,” Richards acknowledges.

Abdullah concurs, and explains that eating protein-rich foods really does help keratin synthesis. “Keratin is the protein that makes up most of your hair and nails, so getting more of it in your system will help keep them strong despite your age,” she reiterates. “Keratin, built from the amino acids in collagen, is the primary protein in hair, so collagen can give your body the building blocks it needs to produce more hair.” Protein-rich foods that she suggests include “yogurt, meats like chicken and beef, vegetables and nuts.”

How Much Protein Is Needed For Your Braids?

Will explains that “one gram of protein for every pound of body weight is a good protein target.” A person typically needs at least “45 grams of protein each day to have healthy hair,” she adds, and says that “everything depends on your body weight and diet strategy.” She concludes that a decent source of protein includes “an egg, cheese, salmon, or lean meat.” To prevent hair loss, another pro tip is to “stay away from products that contain too many chemicals,” and ultimately, to have healthy hair, “combine a decent protein-rich diet with regular exercise.”