There's no miracle nutritional cure for age-related pattern baldness – if only. But what you eat can have a major impact on the thickness of your hair, and a poor diet can worsen or even cause hair loss, not to mention dull, brittle tresses with lots of split, frazzled ends. Likewise, a diet packed with hair-friendly goodies can work wonders.
Hair care tips for the over-50s
A diet rich in protein is key if you want thick, luscious locks. "As the main component of your hair is protein, if you don't have enough in your diet it'll have an effect,” says Priya Tew, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.
As a guide, the NHS recommends 50g of protein a day for adults. A fantastic source of all nine essential amino acids (proteins), the average egg contains around 6g of protein, and is packed with the B-complex vitamin biotin, a deficiency of which can cause hair loss.
10 healthy reasons to eat more eggs
Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body. This vitamin is a vital nutrient that helps keep hair hydrated – dry, brittle locks exacerbate hair loss and a diet low in vitamin A can trigger thinning of the tresses.
If you don't think you're getting enough, stock up on sweet potatoes. The orange-fleshed varieties are brimming with beta-carotene, boasting even more of the nutrient than carrots. Liver and other organ meats are the best animal sources of vitamin A.
Learn more about how beta-carotene affects your health
Meeting your daily protein requirements can be challenging, especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Decent sources of protein for vegans include nuts, tofu, lentils and grains like quinoa and teff; vegetarians can add eggs, milk and cheese to the list.
Though there are plenty of meat-free protein sources to choose from, some people still find it tough to get all nine essential amino acids in their day-to-day diet and their hair suffers as a result.
If you're one of these people, think about supplementing with protein powder shakes. Vegetarians can opt for whey protein, while vegans should make a beeline for pea, soy or hemp protein powders.
Alternative sources of protein for non-meat eaters
Vitamin E helps reduce scalp inflammation, supporting hair growth for thicker locks. If your diet is lacking in vitamin E, it's likely to show on your hair. Almonds are some of the best dietary sources of the vitamin.
A handful of these moreish nuts supplies around half your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin E. Almonds also contain high levels of biotin, manganese and copper, all essential for first-class hair health.
10 healthy reasons to eat more nuts
Omega-3 fatty acids nourish the scalp and help dampen down inflammation which may trigger hair loss. Salmon is an excellent source of these beneficial fish oils. Ideally, you want to eat two portions a week to reap the benefits.
If you're not too fond of salmon, sardines, mackerel and fresh tuna are also rich in omega-3s. Vegetarian or vegan? Flax seeds, chia seeds and leafy greens are good non animal-derived sources.
Alternative sources of omega 3 for people who don’t like salmon
Iron deficiency is a significant cause of hair loss, particularly in women, and even a mild deficiency can lead to thinner hair. If you suspect you may be deficient in iron, make an appointment to see your GP for diagnosis and treatment, and to investigate the underlying causes.
You can increase the intake of iron in your diet by eating foods that are rich in the mineral. Protein and vitamin A-packed liver, which many people find more palatable in pâté form, is one of the best dietary sources, as are red meat and shellfish. Non animal-derived sources include lentils, pulses and leafy greens.
How much iron do you need?
Another mineral that supports hair growth and scalp health, selenium is a trace element nutrient with powerful antioxidant properties. A lack of selenium in the diet can make for thinner locks, so it's important to get your RDI.
Brazil nuts are an extremely rich source of the trace mineral, so much so that you have to be careful not to go overboard. Too many Brazil nuts can result in selenium toxicity in the worst case scenario. Just two Brazil nuts a day provide 100% of your RDI, so try not to exceed this amount.
How to achieve thicker, shinier hair
Along with minerals like iron and selenium, zinc is a key micronutrient for healthy hair, and a lack of this element in the body can cause hair loss and a dry, itchy scalp. If you're a fan of seafood, you're in luck. Oysters are particularly rich in the mineral. Half a dozen once a week should more than do the trick.
If you can't stomach oysters, and we wouldn't blame you, red meat and eggs are similarly rich in zinc. Don't eat meat or animal products? Vegans can obtain their RDI from legumes, nuts, seeds, fortified cereals and wholegrains.
Learn more about how zinc can help your health
Vitamin C helps the body produce an amino acid called tyrosine, which strengthens the hair, and some studies have suggested the vitamin may help encourage hair re-growth. Vitamin C also aids iron absorption in the body.
Red peppers are jam-packed with vitamin C, and contain higher levels weight-for-weight than the usual suspects, oranges. Other super-rich sources include papaya and strawberries, as well as dark leafy greens like kale and broccoli.
Eat the rainbow: the colourful foods that boost your health
A good all-rounder, spinach is packed with nutrients your hair loves. For starters, it is bursting with vitamin C to maintain general hair health. The leafy green contains high levels of vitamin E, another essential vitamin of course that supports the hair and helps prevent thinning.
What's more, spinach is a great source of mane-boosting iron and beneficial beta-carotene. As hair-friendly foods go, apart from its negligible protein content, spinach really does tick all the boxes.
Try our delicious spinach recipes