If you’re looking for the next best thing to thicken, strengthen, and boost your hair’s overall health, you don’t have to take supplements or invest in expensive chemical-filled creams.

Instead, invest in some education about keratin!

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Keratin “is a family of naturally-occurring fibrous structural proteins found in your hair, skin, and nails.” On top of that, keratin functions as a repair aid, which means it may be able to both protect your skin and boost your skin’s ability to heal!

Alright, you’re interested, so how do you make sure you’re producing enough keratin? While you can spring for expensive supplements, creams, and ointments that boost keratin synthesis, you may want to save some cash and simply start out with good old fruits and veggies. There are a handful of plant-based foods that contain nutrients that boost keratin synthesis within the body.

Read further to learn a bit more about keratin and plant-based foods to get your daily dose!

What is Keratin?

All this talk, but what exactly is Keratin? First off, it’s not something you source from the outside, but it’s actually a compound that your body actually makes.

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Keratin is a “protein that makes up your hair, skin, and nails” and it’s also found in tooth enamel, “internal organs, and glands.” You may also hear this protein referred to as a protective protein, which means it’s “less prone to scratching or tearing than other types of cells.”

Let’s dig down a bit further!

Keratin comes from the term keratinocytes, which are “living cells in your skin” that work to make a “protective layer that provides flexible strength and keeps water and other external material out of the body.” Along with finding it in your body, keratin is also manufactured for hair products and supplements. These products market themselves to boost the strength of hair, nails, and skin.

While most forms of keratin are found in animal-based products — such as “feathers, horns, and wool” — if you do your due diligence, it’s easy to find vegan supplemental forms. On top of that, there is a slew of plant-based foods that help increase the synthesis of keratin within your body.

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Why would you want to boost keratin synthesis in your body? Yes, keratin is a great natural aid to help you obtain those thick locks, long strong nails, and smooth healthy skin.

Yet, keratin is also known to help “aid healing in superficial cuts, surgical wounds, leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, first- and second-degree buns, as well as skin grafts.” This magical protein has been found to “stimulate cell growth,” which speeds up the healing process.

7 Plant-Based Foods that Boost Keratin Synthesis

While there are supplements and beauty products that are engineered to provide a boost in keratin synthesis, you can also go the all-natural route! Instead of turning towards man-made products, start out with some plant-based foods. Each of the following foods contains nutrients that actually naturally boost keratin production in the body!

1. Onions

Spicy Sweetcorn and Onion Fritters

Spicy Sweetcorn and Onion Fritters/One Green Planet

It’s almost impossible to not begin salivating when that smell of sauteed onion hits your nose! While onions are a great aromatic flavoring, they also happen to be great at boosting keratin synthesis. Onions — along with other allium aromatics such as garlic — contain a compound called “N-acetylcysteine, a plant antioxidant that your body converts into an amino acid called L-cysteine,” which is also a “component of keratin.” On top of that, onion is a great source of folate, “an essential micronutrient necessary for maintaining healthy hair follicles.”

Try a few of these tasty onion-rich recipes: Oven-Dried Crispy Onions, Braised Kale and Onion Almondine, Spicy Sweetcorn and Onion Fritters, or this Garlic Miso and Onion Soup.

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2. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Ice Cream

Sweet Potato Ice Cream/One Green Planet

If you practice a plant-based diet then you most likely keep a sweet potato in the pantry at all times. Not only are sweet potatoes a wonderful healthy carbohydrate and rich in “potassium, manganese, and vitamins B6 and C,” but it’s also a great booster for keratin. Sweet potatoes are “high in provitamin A carotenoids” which “promotes keratin synthesis and is essential for skin and hair health.”

Try out a few of these sweet potato-based recipes: Cajun Spiced Japanese Sweet Potato Fries, Sweet Potato Ice Cream, Sweet Potato Chili, or these Sweet Potato and Lentil Patties.

3. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Butter Dressing

Sunflower Butter Dressing/One Green Planet

Nuts and seeds are a staple of a plant-based diet, yet when it comes to boosting that keratin production, you’ll want to focus on integrating sunflower seeds! Sunflower seeds are rich in “both biotin and protein,” which support keratin production. In fact, about a fourth of a cup — think about sunflower seed butter — you’ll get around “[seven] grams of protein and 2.6 mcg of biotin.” If you’re looking to boost the volume of sunflower seeds in order to maximize that keratin synthesis, think about seed butter and dressing!

Here are a few recipes to try out: Spelt-Flax Crackers With Sunflower Seed Pate, Sunflower Butter Dressing, Sunflower Seed Pate, or this Sunflower ‘Cheddar’ Spread.

4. Mangoes

Zippy Vegan Coleslaw with Mango

Zippy Vegan Coleslaw with Mango/One Green Planet

If you were hoping for some sort of sweet dessert option on this list, then this may be the perfect keratin-boosting fruit for you! Mangoes are “tropical stone fruit,” which are filled with 10 percent of your daily value of provitamin A per cup. While vitamin A boosts your keratin synthesis, you’ll also get a healthy dose of vitamin C and folate. 

Even though mangoes are generally seasonal, it’s not difficult to find a few ripe choices at your local market. Here are a few recipes to try out with your delicious mangoes: Raw Fruit Cream, Mango Cherry Popsicles, Seaside Luau Tacos, Zippy Vegan Coleslaw with Mango, or these Mango Lemon Bars.

5. Garlic

Garlic Miso and Onion Soup

Garlic Miso and Onion Soup/One Green Planet

Garlic seems to wind up on plant-based lists quite often. That’s mostly because this aromatic food plays a major role in many health-boosting benefits! Along with being quite tasty, garlic offers “N-acetylcysteine, which your body turns into L-cysteine — an amino acid found in keratin.” Garlic is also a great source of certain “micronutrients, including manganese, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.”

Garlic is one of those lovely aromatic foods that fit perfectly into most recipes! Here are a few to try out: Freezer Friendly Eggplant Meatballs, Crispy Chickpea Burgers, Garlic Miso and Onion Soup, or this Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Pecans.

6. Kale

Kale Falafel Salad Bowl

Kale Falafel Salad Bowl/One Green Planet

Kale falls into that magical superfood category due to its incredibly diverse and high content of a variety of nutrients. Like a few plant-based foods on this list, kale is a “good source of provitamin A,” which has been shown to “support keratin synthesis.” In fact, one cup of raw kale offers about 6 percent of your daily value of provitamin A.

Plus, similarly to other foods on the list, kale also offers valuable nutrients including vitamin C, which “helps stimulate the production of collagen, a type of protein that maintains the strength, structure, and elasticity of your skin.”

Kale is a love it or hate it food. If you’re on the fence about this one, try a few of these mind-changing recipes: One Pot Creamy Tuscan Kale Pasta, Greek Lemon Herb Tofu Naanwiches, Kale Falafel Salad Bowl, Rainbow Sushi Rolls, or this Immunity Antiviral Juice.

7. Carrots

Roasted Carrots and New Potatoes With Arugula Pesto

Roasted Carrots and New Potatoes With Arugula Pesto/One Green Planet

Carrots are not only a healthy and natural sweetener for those seeking to avoid sugar, but they also happen to be a great source of that wonderful keratin boosting provitamin A! In fact, carrots are an incredible source of provitamin A with “[one] chopped cup” offering around 100 percent of your daily value. Plus, just like kale, they are also rich in vitamin C, that glorious collagen promoting agent.

Carrots are one of the natural sweeteners that the plant-based world offers up on a platter. Here are a few ways to get these sweet treats into your daily menu: Baked Smoky Carrot Bacon, Italian Rice Salad, Maple Carrot Muffins with Streusel Topping, or this Roasted Carrots and New Potatoes With Arugula Pesto.

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Looking to learn more about boosting your keratin and collagen production? Check out a few of these articles!

Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!

Beer Battered Onion Rings

Beer Battered Onion Rings/One Green Planet

Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammationheart healthmental wellbeingfitness goalsnutritional needsallergiesgut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acnehormonal imbalancecancerprostate cancer and has many side effects.

For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some great resources to get you started:

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

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