Are you paying attention to how much zinc you’re getting in your diet? Sure, you might reach for a zinc supplement if you start sneezing during cold season – but that’s probably about it.
In general, zinc is overlooked when it comes to key supplements. But zinc, although not as talked about as much as other nutrients, plays a key role in overall health. It provides many health benefits for many of our body’s systems. It’s also essential if you’re looking to boost hair growth. What Is It? Zinc is a trace element. This means it’s a chemical that only occurs in very small amounts. And it’s actually a metal. This small-but-mighty metal is essential for the health of the …
- Skeletal System
- Gastrointestinal System
- Immune System
- Reproductive System
- Central Nervous System1
What Is Zinc’s Role in Hair Growth?
Hair growth is a complicated process, but it’s becoming more clear that zinc plays a vital role. In 2013, scientists made an interesting discovery about zinc’s relationship to hair loss. Researchers found those suffering with hair loss often have a zinc deficiency. Does this mean a zinc deficiency causes hair loss? No. But there does seem to be a correlation.2 Other studies support the idea that zinc may help slow down hair loss and stimulate hair recovery and growth. One study showed that 62 percent of hair loss sufferers experienced visible hair growth after addressing their zinc deficiencies with zinc supplements. Pretty encouraging, right?3,4
The Hair Growth Cycle
To understand hair growth – and how zinc plays a role – it’s important to understand the hair growth cycle. There are three phases in this cycle: 1. The Anagen Phase: This is the growth phase of a strand of hair, and it lasts 3-5 years on average. 2. The Catagen Phase: This brief phase lasts only about two weeks. It is a transition phase, “hair follicle regression.” Hair strands detach from the hair bulb. The hair follicle goes dormant, preparing to shed the hair. 3.The Telogen Phase: This is the resting phase. The hair is released from the follicle and is shed from the scalp. After this phase, the anagen phase begins with a new hair, and the cycle starts all over again.
Zinc and the Hair Growth Cycle
Scientists are still studying all the intricacies of zinc’s role in the hair growth cycle. But it’s evident that zinc-related enzymes have the potential to help regulate the hair growth cycle.5 First of all, zinc appears to be a powerful inhibitor of hair follicle regression. It stops hair follicles from reaching the catagen phase. This phase precedes the telogen phase – when hair falls out.6 By inhibiting hair follicle regression, zinc may prolong the hair’s growth phase. This allows hair to grow longer. It also keeps too much hair from falling out at once. This condition, known as “telogen effluvium,” can happen after periods of illness or stress. Zinc also appears to help speed up hair follicle recovery. So, after you have lost hair, zinc may speed up the amount of time it takes for a new hair to grow in.7
Getting More Zinc
A zinc supplement is an easy way to replenish your body‘s supply. Zinc is easily absorbed by the body – for a time. Zinc absorption actually decreases as your body gets used to the supplements. Luckily, zinc is plentiful in a variety of foods. Here are a few foods that are high in zinc:
At 111 percent of the recommended daily allowance, oysters are the best-known food source for zinc. Other shellfish high in zinc include clams, lobster, mussels, and crab.
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you’re more likely to have a zinc deficiency. That’s because meat, including, lamb, beef, pork, turkey, and chicken, is one of the best sources of zinc. Just three ounces of beef can provide you with 47 percent of your zinc intake for the day. Likewise, a pork chop will provide you with 19 percent of your zinc allowance; chicken comes in at 16 percent.8 The amino acids in meat also help with zinc absorption. This can help ensure that the element is getting to your cells. Of course, moderation is important. Consuming high quantities of meat, especially beef and pork, can affect cholesterol and fat levels. So, it’s best to look for lean cuts.
A serving of pumpkin seeds (about 3.5 ounces) contains a whopping 69 percent of your daily zinc value. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of protein. Adequate protein intake is essential to hair growth. But don’t throw pumpkin seeds in the oven to toast after carving that jack-o-lantern. This could deplete the zinc content. Instead, rinse and eat them raw. You can throw them on a salad, add them to soup, or even put them in a sandwich.
When’s the last time you picked up some wheat germ at the store? Never? Well, make a trip to your local health food store and stock up. Wheat germ is high in zinc, offering 16 milligrams per serving. Wheat germ is an easy food to start incorporating into your diet if you’re struggling with a zinc deficiency. Sprinkle it on your oatmeal or add it to your yogurt instead of granola. You can also use it as a replacement for bread crumbs in recipes.
Fortified breakfast cereals may contain up to 25 percent of the daily value for zinc. These cereals are usually whole grain, multigrain, or bran, and they are a good source of zinc. Look for cereals that are low in sugar. Too much sugar can inhibit proper zinc absorption.
One serving of sesame seeds contains over 50 percent of your daily value of zinc intake. So, how do you eat more sesame seeds? You can start with tahini, which is made from sesame seeds. Tahini makes for a great salad dressing base. You can also make (or buy) hummus with tahini, and use it as a delicious vegetable dip. Bonus: the chickpeas in hummus are also a great source of zinc!
Many nuts are rich in zinc. Cashews, though, are the frontrunners. One 3.5 ounce serving of cashews provides 11 percent of your daily zinc value. But don’t leave behind almonds, peanuts, and walnuts! They’re also good sources of zinc. And all these nuts are wonderful sources of vegetarian-friendly protein. Sprinkle nuts on salads, or keep them in your car as a handy snack.
Mushroom fans, rejoice! One cup of mushrooms provides 9 percent of your daily value of zinc. Order the chicken Marsala the next time you hit up your favorite Italian restaurant! Mushrooms are great when added to salads, soups, or sauteed with other vegetables.
Speaking of vegetables, spinach is also a good source of zinc. It provides approximately 9 percent of your daily value of zinc per serving. That’s about one cup of cooked spinach. Eat it sauteed, add it to your sandwich, make a salad, or include it in a smoothie!
Zinc is an important player when it comes to hair growth. Are you concerned about hair loss, or do you have a zinc deficiency? Make sure you’re incorporating plenty of these foods high in zinc into your diet. A few words of precaution if you’re going to take supplements: 1. Consult your doctor before starting if you have any concerns. 2. Zinc supplements can be hard on the stomach; make sure to take them with food.
Want more healthy hair advice? Keep reading on the Juvetress blog:
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870206/ 8. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#h2