I am a licensed Naturopathic Doctor registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.



Just like the rest of the body, hair needs nutrients and minerals for healthy growth.  The hair follicle replicates and creates new cells really quickly. In order to ensure that all the steps go smoothly, it needs essential nutrients and minerals.  In this post, I will discuss 5 nutrients the hair needs to grow beautifully and strongly! I’ll also discuss who is at risk of being deficient and food sources of the nutrients!


The nutrients


Iron is used by the hair follicle to grow a new hair strand. The genes that regulate how well hair follicles grow require iron. Little to no iron will mean that the gene is turned off, resulting in resting follicles.  Iron is also required for an important enzyme – ribonucleotide reductase – which is used in many chemical reactions that happen within the hair follicle. Because the hair follicle needs iron in multiple steps of hair growth, it becomes vulnerable when iron levels are particularly low.  Many research articles and studies have identified how low iron levels are associated with stress-induced hair loss and diffuse hair loss has been corrected with testing and supplementation.

Who is at risk of deficiency?

There are certain factors that may make someone more susceptible or prone to become deficient in iron. Menstruating women are at higher risk due to blood loss during menses. Individuals who are vegan and vegetarians are also at high risk of iron deficiency as non-meat sources of iron are not as available as meat sources. Malabsorption disorders like celiac disease, low stomach acid, and certain medications can also create an environment for low iron absorption.

How do you know if you are deficient?

Get tested. A complete blood count which analyzes how much red blood cells and hemoglobin is present along with the size and weight of the red blood cells which give us important information about how iron is being carried within the blood cells. A full Iron panel, with ferritin and transferrin saturation will give insight on how much iron is stored and how much is being transferred throughout the body.  This is essential, especially to determine how much supplementation is required.

Food sources of Iron
Vegetarian Sources

Animal Sources

  • Spinach
  • Prune Juice
  • Dates
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Lima Beans
  • Split Peas
  • Ground beef
  • Beef liver
  • Beef kidney
  • Calf liver
  • Clams
  • Lake Trout

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is required for collagen synthesis & iron absorption. Vitamin C along other essential amino acids are the building blocks for collagen, a structural protein that gives the skin and hair it’s strength. Vitamin C is also needed in the gut to help absorb iron.

Humans are naturally deficient in L-gulonolactone oxidase – the enzyme needed for vitamin C synthesis – so it is important that enough vitamin C is obtained from the diet.

Who is at risk of deficiency?

People who do not consume a diet rich in vitamin C are most likely to be deficient.

How do you know if you are deficient?

Vitamin C status can be assessed via blood work. Another way to assess for vitamin C deficiency is by determining if signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency are present.

Common signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency are:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Gingivitis
  • Rash
  • Impaired wound healing
Food sources of Vitamin C

Foods rich in Vitamin C

  • Bell peppers
  • Parsley
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Cherries
  • Guava
  • Kiw
  • Papaya
  • Oranges

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be obtained from food or the sun. It plays an important role in immune health, bone strength, cardiovascular health and hair health. Vitamin D receptors are located in hair follicles and this nutrient is essential for helping the follicle begin the anagen phase of hair growth. The research on vitamin D deficiency and alopecia areata is quite robust, indicating that individuals with this form of hair loss are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. While research in other forms of hair loss, like female-pattern hair loss and stress induced hair loss is still lacking, it is still an essential nutrient for other systems and should be considered for achieving optimal health.

Who is at risk of deficiency?

Some groups of people might be more prone to vitamin D deficiency. Individuals at risk of Vitamin D deficiency are:

  • People aged 65 and over
  • Those with limited sun exposure, especially those living in Northern altitudes
  • Those with dark skin,
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease or bowel conditions that cause poor fat absorption.
How do you know if you are deficient?

Get tested. This is the easiest and most effective way of determining vitamin D levels. By knowing exactly what vitamin D levels are, it will be easier to determine what dose of supplementation is required to achieve optimal levels. Over supplementation can lead to vitamin D toxicity which can be dangerous.

Food sources of Vitamin D
Foods rich in Vitamin D
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Sardine
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Cod liver oil


Hair is made up of protein, specifically keratin. The keratin inside the hair shaft provides hair with elasticity. The keratin located in the outer layer provides hair with protection and acts as a shield. Therefore, it is important to provide the body with the building blocks to ensure enough keratin for hair growth and hair strength. Lack of these building blocks can result in brittle hair and hair loss.

Cysteine is an essential amino acid and is required for keratin synthesis. Another essential amino acid contributing to hair strength is L-lysine which is responsible for hair shape and volume. This amino acid also influences iron which is also needed for hair health.

Who is at risk of deficiency?

Individuals who do not eat a variety of foods are at risk of being deficient in the essential amino acids needed for hair growth.

How do you know if you are deficient?

There is truly no good blood marker that identifies protein deficiency. A thorough diet analysis would give insight on dietary intake. Vegetarians and vegans are not at risk of protein deficiency but they are at risk of not obtaining all the essential amino acids. Therefore, these individuals will need to eat variety of plant-based foods and pairing specific kinds of plant-based protein sources to ensure all essential amino acids are being consumed.

Protein deficiency can manifest in many different, however, here are long term effects of protein deficiency:

  • Muscle loss
  • Unexplained hunger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Easily fractured or broken bones
  • Thinning hair, brittle nails and skin problems
  • Fatigue,
  • Compromised immune system
  • Slower metabolism
Food sources of Protein
Foods rich in Protein
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Pork Chops
  • Tuna
  • Beef
  • Hemp seeds
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  •  Lentils
  • Black beans


There you have it, five nutrients for healthy hair! I hope you found this informative and helpful.

For more help with supporting your hair health, achieving a balanced lifestyle/diet, or general health guidance, please feel free to contact Dr. Filza Swalah, ND today! 


  1. Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017;7(1):1-10. Published 2017 Jan 31. doi:10.5826/dpc.0701a01
  2. Amor KT, Rashid RM, Mirmirani P. Does D matter? The role of vitamin D in hair disorders and hair follicle cycling. Dermatol Online J. 2010 Feb 15;16(2):3. PMID: 20178699.
  3. Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019;9(1):51-70. doi:10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6
  4. Banihashemi M, Nahidi Y, Meibodi NT, Jarahi L, Dolatkhah M. Serum Vitamin D3 Level in Patients with Female Pattern Hair Loss. Int J Trichology. 2016;8(3):116-120. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.188965
  5. Goluch-Koniuszy ZS. Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Prz Menopauzalny. 2016;15(1):56-61. doi:10.5114/pm.2016.58776

All rights reserved. Dr. Filza Swalah, ND does not endorse or have professional affiliation with any discussed supplement or lab companies. All material provided is for general education and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to assist in diagnosing to treating a medical condition.

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