Ever heard the term "Garbage in, garbage out?" Well curlies, despite the fact that a mystery meat McRib here and there isn't going to send you into an ashy malnutritious spiral, the phrase still holds very true as far as nutrition and your hair.
Although it's very possible to have too much of a good thing when it comes to monitoring what you consume, it's no surprise that with so much emphasis put on eating right for beautiful hair, people have been experimenting just as much with the ingredients in their diet as they have with ingredients in their hair products. And one of the most controversial inclusion concerns as far as healthful meals has been with meat.
So, let's bottom line it. Does eating meat affect hair growth?
The quick answer to this question is yes; but, as with all nutrition concerns, it's more complicated than a yes or no answer. Meat is high in protein which is one of the most essential nutrients needed for healthy hair. Your hair is literally made up of a protein after all, even if keratin is a considerably less appetizing one. Hair growth is one of many bodily functions directly impacted by how much protein you can absorb so it's easy to see why there is so much emphasis put on including it in a complete diet. According to Lisa Caddy, a certified trichologist with Philip Kingsley, a top expert in hair and scalp health from London, eating meat is about more than just the protein. Red meat in particular is essential because it is rich in sources of a substance called ferritin. This stored iron compound helps the body to produce hair cell proteins. "If you have a [ferritin] deficiency, the growth of hair cells can be badly affected … vegans, vegetarians, and those who choose not to eat red meats are most susceptible. This is especially true of menstruating women," says Caddy, who also asserts that ferritin deficiency is often the most common cause of hair loss in women.
Should vegetarians be concerned?
If you're a newly minted vegetarian or vegan, you might be pretty concerned right about now. But as your fellow herbivores can tell you, there's no need! While meat is an important, and readily available source of protein, it's hardly the only one! Beef, poultry, and seafood have the highest protein concentration, but other sources for this essential nutrient include vegetarian-friendly options like beans, lentils, peanut butter, almonds, edamame, and more. As long as your cooking (or ordering) techniques are up to par, you don't have to sacrifice flavor or hair-healthy nutrient load if you're keeping the animal kingdom off of your menu.
Of course that raises the question: Are certain proteins better than others?
When it comes to your overall health, it has been suggested that lean proteins such as salmon and chicken breast are healthier than red meat varieties like steak. And of course, cutting other food types from your diet in favor of all meat, all the time might lead to overconsumption of animal fats, and circulatory issues that will definitely halt hair growth. Then again, the ferritin content we mentioned is higher in red meats...so what's the answer? As with every aspect of health, balance is the key.
It would be incorrect to say meat is the only thing that affects hair growth, there are other elements as well, such as vitamin D and iron which both help scalp circulation and properly caring for the scalp to encourage follicle health, that also play a role in hair growth.