Q&A Resource: Question #1
I've recently made the transition to veganism but I haven't been paying much attention to my nutrition. I've begun to notice some hair loss and I'm starting to feel a little concerned. Any advice?
Poor diet can certainly have an effect on the condition of your hair and skin, and nutritional deficiencies are a common cause of hair loss. If your hair loss is caused by a nutrient deficiency, a simple blood test could help pinpoint the exact nutrient(s) you're lacking, so it's a good idea to start by visiting your doctor. Hair loss can have other causes too, such as a thyroid condition, a side effect of some medications, or another more serious medical condition. Some medications can lead to temporary or permanent hair loss. Medications used for birth control, acne, blood pressure, diabetes, hormone therapy, and steroids can all contribute to hair loss.
If your hair loss is caused by a nutrient deficiency, you can begin to fix the issue by looking at your diet or considering supplementation.
If you've paid a visit to your doctor to rule out the possibility of a medical condition your next step is to take a look at your diet.
Poor nutrition and inadequate calorie consumption are huge factors in overall hair health - it is so important that you're eating enough. Make sure that you're consuming enough calories to fuel your body and your daily activities. If you're eating enough, you'll be at a much lower risk for specific nutrient deficiencies.
If fueling your body properly is something you struggle with, try adding more high fat, calorie dense foods to your diet. Dark chocolate, avocado, peanut butter, almond butter, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, ground flax seed, coconut oil, and olive oil are all great foods to boost overall calorie consumption.
A vegan diet that supports healthy hair growth contains a wide variety of plant-based foods from every food group. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, non-gmo soy (like tofu, edamame, and soy milk), nuts and seeds. Eating this way will ensure that you're consuming enough protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, all which are essential to healthy hair.
For more information on nutrition, visit our resource, Nutrition and the Vegan Diet.
If you often feel as though your diet is lacking, you may want to consider supplementation.
Healthy Hair Smoothie Bowl Recipe #1
Raspberry Mango Smoothie Bowl
- 1 cup soy milk
- 1 cup frozen mango
- 1 cup frozen raspberries
- ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup granola
- ⅓ cup fresh berries
- 1 tablespoon raw pumpkin seeds
16g protein | 142% RDI vitamin C | 45% RDI iron | 16% RDI zinc
If you're aren't very good about keeping your nutrition balanced, I would suggest finding a good multi-vitamin. A multi-vitamin can provide that extra feeling of insurance that you won't be missing any nutrients. I use this one, made specifically for vegans:
This vegan multi-vitamin is really affordable at about $0.23 per day. They also have specialized versions for children, women, and men. Veglife has lots of other single nutrient vegan supplements too. I buy mine from The Better Health Store.
Looking for vegan multi-vitamins can be a little difficult as you have to watch out for sneaky ingredients like gelatin, Vitamin D3 (you want D2, sourced from plants), as well as certain varieties of vitamin A and calcium. This is why I like to choose a specifically vegan multi-vitamin, they're usually made with the nutritional needs of vegans in mind and are guaranteed to contain no animal products! DEVA Vegan Multivitamins are another popular choice among vegans, they have a basic once a day tablet (Deva Vegan Vitamins Daily Multivitamin & Mineral Supplement) and a tiny tablet version if you dislike taking vitamins (like me!). (Deva - Vegan Tiny Tablets Multivitamin Mineral Supplement)
Healthy Hair Smoothie Bowl Recipe #2
Dark Chocolate, PB & Banana Smoothie Bowl
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
- 1 ripe banana, frozen
- 1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
- ½ tablespoon cocoa
- ½ cup granola
- ½ banana, sliced
- 1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips, roughly chopped
- a drizzle of natural peanut butter
13g protein | 25% RDI vitamin C | 23% RDI iron | 16% RDI zinc
Specific nutrients that play a big role in hair health include protein, iron, zinc, and biotin. Biotin deficiencies are rare but can have a devastating effect on your hair.
Iron and protein are the most common deficiencies that contribute to hair loss. One thing to keep in mind about iron is that even if you're technically eating enough of the mineral (according to your RDI), your body may not be metabolizing it well enough to prevent a deficiency.
There are many ways that you can affect the way your body absorbs iron:
- Cook in stainless steel or cast-iron cookware
- Consume iron containing foods with vitamin C containing foods
- Eat sprouted grains and seeds (buy sprouted grain breads over regular whole wheat/whole grain)
- Soak dried beans before cooking
- Choose roasted nuts over raw nuts
- Choose fermented foods (miso, soy/coconut/almond yogurts, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, kimchi)
Don't rely on leafy greens like spinach for iron. While they are high in iron, they're also high in oxalates which inhibits iron absorption. This can be helped by consuming foods rich in vitamin C alongside of iron rich foods.
Here's a list of foods high in different nutrients important to healthy hair (iron, zinc, vitamin c, protein, and healthy fats.) Try to incorporate more of them into your diet whenever possible.
Foods High in Healthy Hair Nutrients
- nuts & nut butters
- swiss chard
- pumpkin seeds
- fortified cereals and oats
- dark chocolate and cocoa
- non-gmo tofu
- dried apricots
- sunflower seeds
- wheat germ
- soy milk
- vegan protein powders
One of the best ways to pack a whole bunch of these foods into one meal is through smoothies and smoothie bowls. You can adjust the ingredients and toppings to your preferences and load up on all the nutrients that are essential to strong, shiny, healthy hair. Remember that good nutrition works slowly from the inside out, the results of a consistent healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference in the condition of your hair, as well as your overall health and well-being.