Whitney and I speak at a variety of events, workshops and conferences about fitness, nutrition and hair care. During our nutrition presentation, we are often asked two questions repeatedly:
- Are there certain foods or vitamins that will help grow my hair?
- How do you (vegetarians) eat enough protein?
Although, I have answered this questions before (here and here), it has been awhile. There are also tons of popular diets such as raw-vegan and paleo which can make it hard to find healthy sources of protein that also aid in hair growth.
Here is my official guide for some of the best protein sources for Optimal hair growth to suit all dietary needs.
Healthy Protein Sources for Optimal Hair Growth for Every Dietary Need (From Paleo to Raw Vegan)
Paleo – Buffalo/Bison
3 ounces – 20 grams of protein
What is the Paleo diet? The Paleo diet is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed. It consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.
Benefits of Bison for the Body: Move over ground beef, there is a new sheriff in beef town. Bison is 25-75% lower in fat, naturally leaner, slightly sweeter and richer than beef, making it a perfect choice for those paleo fans. Ounce for ounce buffalo meat contains 69% more iron than beef and slightly more protein. Unlike beef, it is illegal to add growth hormones to to buffalo; thus, you can rest assure buffalo is also antibiotic-free and grass fed. Check out this great recipe for bison chili.
Benefits of Bison for Hair Growth: Bison is full of protein and iron, which can boost hair growth.
Pescatarian – Salmon and Tuna
3 ounces = 17 – 20 grams of protein
What is a Pescatarian? Pescatarians abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish. In lamens terms, it’s a vegetarian who eats fish.
Benefits of Salmon and Tuna for the Body: I could go on and on about the benefits of salmon but instead you can click here to read more. Always choose wild, fresh salmon instead of farm raised or packaged salmon for the best taste nutritional value. Here is a quick healthy, low-fat and low-carb recipe for salmon.
Tuna is another great option because it’s low in fat and high in protein. Both canned and fresh tuna are great choices.
Benefits of Salmon and Tuna for Hair Growth: With it’s high omega fatty acid ratio, protein, B-12 vitamins and iron, salmon is nature’s hair vitamin. Tuna also contains a significant amount of fatty acids, vitamins and iron which also aid in hair growth.
Kosher – Sole
3 ounces = 16 grams of protein
Benefits of Sole for the Body: Sole is a mild fish and similar to flounder. It is an approved Kosher fish and can be a great alternative to those who often eat Lox. Sole is a great choice because it’s a low calorie fish. 3 ounces of sole is 77 calories and virtually fat-free. Sole also is one of few fish with a low mercury count. Here is a quick and easy 10 minute sole recipe
Benefits of Sole for Hair Growth: White fish, like Sole, are rich in B vitamins. Most nail and skin vitamins are mostly comprised of a variety of B vitamins.
Soy-Free – Seitan
3 ounces = 20 grams of protein
Benefits of Seitan for the Body: Seitan is basically “beef” for vegetarians and it’s soy-free. It’s low in fat and calories, high in protein and amino acids and also boosts heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat. It is pretty easy to cook. Check out our recipe for Seitan tacos. (Note: Seitan is not gluten free. See below for my alternative)
Benefits of Seitan for Hair Growth: With a surplus of amino acids and protein, seitan will help strengthen your hair as well as keeping you fit and trim.
Gluten Free – Amaranth
1 cup = 28 grams of protein
Benefits of Amaranth for the Body: Packed with minerals such as iron and magnesium, amaranth is an awesome super food. It’s also a great choice for those looking to lower their carbohydrate intake. It’s a great alternative to flour. Check out my mini cherry chocolate chip cookies recipe. You can even use Amaranth as a replacement for oatmeal. Amaranth is a great alternative to flour those eating a gluten and soy-free diet.
Benefits of Amaranth for Hair Growth: The combination of healthy, fatty omegas, a large amount of minerals and loads of nutrients make amaranth a great healthy hair booster.
Vegetarian – Greek Yogurt
1 cup = 17 grams of protein
Benefits of Greek Yogurt for the Body: Greek Yogurt is a great low-cal, low-fat and high-protein option for vegetarians. One cup of Oikos Yogurt contains almost 20 grams of protein, which is more than certain animal meats and beans. Without going into details, be sure to choose your Greek yogart carefully. A lot of them on the market are full of additives, sugar and sodium. Oikos and Fage are two of my favorite brands.
Can you also opt for plain Greek yogurt and add your own flavors, sugar substitute and fresh fruit.
Benefits of Greek Yogurt for Hair Growth: Greek yogurt is rich in protein which is an essential nutrient to grow your hair and nails. It also can be used on your hair as a conditioner. Check out this quick and easy Greek yogurt hair mask for shiny, moisturized locks.
Sporty Afros’ Ayurvedic Yogurt Conditioner
- 1 teaspoon of Sporty Afros ayurvedic oil
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- Directions: Mix the ingredients in a bowl and apply it to dry hair. Leave mix on hair for five minutes and then rinse with cold water. Use once to twice a week for optimal results.
Ovo-Vegetarian – Chickpeas
1 cup = 15 grams of protein
What is an Ovo-Vegetarian? An Ovo-Vegetarians eat only eggs and plant foods. They do not eat any dairy (milk and cheese), meat, poultry or fish. Simply put, Ovo-Vegetarians are dairy-free vegetarians.
Benefits of Chickpeas for the Body: Chickpeas are full of protein and can be used to make delicious soups, dishes and snacks like hummus. With almost 20 grams of protein and 150% of your daily fiber needs in one serving, you can easily swap a piece of chicken for a cup of chick peas. Here are tons of fabulous chickpea recipes from one of our favorite sites Oh She Glows.
Benefits of Chickpeas for Hair Growth: Got grey hair? Eat more chickpeas. Chickpeas are full of protein and manganese. Manganese helps prevent your hair from changing pigmentation (gray hair.)
1 cup = 30 grams of protein
Example: Pan-glazed Orange Tempeh
What is a Lacto-Vegetarian? In contrast to Ovo, lacto-vegetarians eat dairy foods and plant foods but they don’t eat eggs, meat, poultry or fish. In short, they are vegetarians who simply don’t eat eggs but enjoy dairy (hence the word lacto).
Benefits of Tempeh for the Body: Tempeh contains a large amount of minerals (iron, coper, zinc), vitamins, fiber as well as anti-infection nutrients and it’s much easier to digest than animal meats. Check out a few yummy, healthy tempeh recipes.
Benefits of Tempeh for Hair Growth: With the large amount of minerals and vitamins such as B12, tempeh offers a variety of essential hair growth nutrients.
Vegan – Hemp Seeds
5 Tablespoons = 15 grams of protein
Benefits of Hemp Seeds for the Body: Hemp seeds are full of omega fatty acids, vitamins and are considered a complete protein (like animal meats) because they contains all 20 amino acids. Sprinkle a few teaspoons on a salad or add them into a smoothie for an easy protein booster.
Benefits of Hemp Seeds for Hair Growth: A omega fatty acid deficiency can lead to dry scalp. Hemp seeds are a great option for those who do not consume fish as hemp seeds contain a significant amount of omega fatty acids.
Raw Vegans – Leafy Green Veggies
2-3 large heads = 14-18 grams of protein
What is a raw vegan? A raw vegan does not eat any cooked food and relies primary on fruit, vegetables and nuts.
Benefits of Leafy Green Vegetables for the Body: Two – three large heads/bunches of dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach or dandelion supply anywhere from 14-20 grams of protein. Try consuming a large salad for one meal a day like in the saladjam or #30dayVeg challenge or add leafy greens to a smoothie. Here are a few salads and juice recipes to get you started. Choose from these dark green vegetables to get the most protein and nutrients.
- Kale: A 100-calorie serving of kale contains 11 g protein
- Spinach: Spinach is another high-protein leafy vegetable. It contains 5 grams protein in every 1 cup serving
- Romaine: This lettuce is 17 percent protein with 7.7 grams per head. Romaine lettuce is considered a complete protein which means that it has all eight essential amino acids. Also, romaine is nutrient dense since it contains more vitamin C then an orange, almost as much calcium as a glass of milk and up to 20 ounces water in one head
Benefits of Leafy Green Vegetable for Hair Growth: Dark green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin A and C. Both these vitamins help in the formation of sebum. Sebum helps condition and moisturize your skin and scalp.
I think that covers everyone. If not, let me know below in the comments section and I will try to update the article and/or answer your questions.
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