Nutrition for Healthy Nails
One thing I am guilty of…
Is noticing someone’s nails when I meet them.
It’s a habit.
You reach out to shake their hand…and see their nails.
Our nails are front and center for everyone.
And our nails can take a beating.
Manual labor or even just poor diet habits.
But what if our diet made our nails so strong and healthy that doing manual labor wouldn’t matter when it came to our nails?
Ok sure, no matter how strong my nails are…
They get dirty when I am plugging away in my garden…
But when I eat well…
I don’t have to worry about them snapping while I am working with my hands. Especially when I take my Complete Collagen+ which works AMAZING for my hair, skin AND nails.
Of course, it’s not just about how our nails look. It’s also about how we feel about our nails and their overall health.
Unhealthy nails can say a lot about us. And a lot of it can boil down to…
Lack of certain vitamins can make our nails brittle, weak, and damaged. Our nail beds are constantly giving rise to nail tissue, and adequate vitamin, mineral, and nutrient intakes help support the growth, formation, and strength of new nail cells.
A change in the appearance, texture, or shape of our nails could all indicate nutrient deficiencies.
And similar to many things that our diet impacts, we can improve it with some simple dietary changes, and by adding in some foods to get the proper nutrients our bodies need – inside and out.
So let me tell you about some ways to get some added nutrition in so your nails can look and feel healthy!
Here are some ways to strengthen and nourish those nails!
Iron deficiency can cause a lot of health concerns for us internally, such as fatigue, pale skin, weakness, headaches, dizziness – the list goes on! Low iron results in low red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen to our organs and every cell in our body, which includes our nails.
Without iron, oxygen does not get adequately carried to your cells, which can result in brittle nails, as well as a ‘damaged’ appearance (shape and color). Adequate iron intake can ensure your body is functioning at its best from the inside out. After all, our outside isn’t nourished unless the inside of us is first!
And iron needs vary depending on gender and age!
A male aged 19–50 years old requires 8 mg a day while a female in the same age range needs 18 mg of iron a day.
Some foods high in iron include:
- Pork and poultry
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Dried fruit such as raisins and apricots
- Iron-fortified cereals, bread, and pasta
Our nails are predominantly made of keratin – a fibrous structural protein. Keratin is what gives our nails their strength. It also works to protect our nails from damage and stress.
Low protein levels in the body will cause weakened nails, making them more susceptible to breakage. Ensuring you are getting enough protein in your diet is essential for boosting keratin production, which will help create stronger and more durable nails.
Similar to iron, the recommended daily intake can vary based on age and sex, as well as activity level and even muscle mass. The average adult male (weighing around 150lbs) requires 56 grams per day, while the average adult female weighing the same requires 46 grams.
Foods high in protein are:
- Meat, poultry, fish
- Eggs and dairy
- Soy, legumes, beans, and lentils
- Nut and seeds
- Whole grains
Vitamin C is widely known to help boost our immune system, but it can also help our nails!
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen. And just like our hair and skin, this protein provides strength and durability to our nails.
Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to brittle nails as well as impeding the inability for our nails to grow.
Vitamin C is a vitamin that our bodies cannot produce on their own. It is something that we must get from our everyday diet through foods and supplements.
On average, men require 90 mg and women 75 mg per day of vitamin C.
It is essential for us to ensure we are getting adequate amounts of vitamin C since our bodies cannot produce it.
Some foods high in vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges
- Bell peppers (red bell peppers actually have more than twice the vitamin C of an orange)
- Green vegetables
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids do so much for us, and on that list – supporting healthy nails by helping to lubricate and moisturize your nails, giving them a shiny appearance.
Increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids helps to nurture the cells in the nail bed. This can help to curb inflammation and encourage the absorption of nutrients.
Similar to vitamin C, our bodies do not produce Omega-3’s so we must get them from our diets.
While there is no recommended daily intake for Omega-3 fatty acids, it is still something we should be diligently getting ample amounts of in our diets every day.
Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- Chia seeds, flaxseeds
- Fish and flaxseed oil
Zinc is something essential for the body – especially for the growth and division of cells. Since our nails are made up of a type of cell that grows and divides rapidly, a fast production and a steady supply of zinc are crucial for promoting the healthy growth of nails.
Low zinc intake can result in the degeneration of our nail plate, which can cause the appearance of white posts on our nails.
Our recommended daily intake for zinc is between 8mg to 11mg for the average man and woman.
Zinc can be found in:
- Beef, poultry, and fish
- Soy, chickpeas, and black beans
- Nuts such as almonds and cashews
While we all need B vitamins for our overall health, there are a few different specific B vitamins that are essential for healthy nails.
Let’s start with Biotin – which is vitamin B7.
Biotin works to promote healthy cell growth and can aid in the metabolism of protein-building amino acids, all of which are essential for nail growth.
Studies have found that getting adequate amounts of biotin may help strengthen brittle nails.
The good news is that deficiency in biotin is very rare. The average adult needs about 30mcg per day of biotin.
Biotin can be found in:
- Egg Yolk
- Dairy products
- Sweet potato
- Nuts and seeds
Then we have Vitamin B12. B12 is something many of us are deficient in.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause significant discoloration to our nails such as bluish-black pigments with wavy dark streaks and brownish pigmentation. To prevent deficiencies, the average adult requires 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day.
B12 is essential in our iron absorption, as well as the development of red blood cells. Both iron and B12 are necessary for keeping nails strong and healthy.
Sources of B12 include:
- Fish and shellfish such as trout, salmon, tuna fish, and clams
- Beef, liver, and chicken
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
Next on our B vitamin list is Folate, which is B9.
Folate also plays an important role in nail growth by contributing to the formation of red blood cells as well as the development of new cells. A folate deficiency can lead to a pigment change in our nails and result in them being brittle and rigid. Adults typically need 400 mcg of folate per day.
The best sources of folate are:
- Dark leafy green veggies like turnip, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and asparagus
- Sunflower seeds
- Fresh fruits, fruit juices
- Whole grains
If you find it difficult to add these foods into your everyday diet, you can also seek supplementation. Check out our sister company PuraTHRIVE for many of your supplement needs – especially for their Vitamin C and Vitamin B12!
Of course, there are other ways to care for your nails that will help strengthen them.
Moisturize them. Try a dedicated nail oil or a hand lotion with alpha hydroxy acid or lanolin. If nails are soft but brittle, they may be too moist so cut back on the moisturizer.
Limit your manicures. Limit the number of manicures you get to avoid subjecting your nails to the chemicals in nail polish and polish removers. Especially avoid acetone-based nail polish removers if you can. For soft, brittle nails, a layer of nail polish may actually help strengthen them.
Avoid frequent use of alcohol-based sanitizers. Hand sanitizers are a convenient way to keep germs away when soap and water aren’t available. However, alcohol-based ones can really dry out our skin and nails. So try to limit the use if you are experiencing concerns with your nails.
Wear gloves as much as you can when cleaning. When washing dishes or doing housework, wear rubber gloves to protect your fingernails from chemicals and anything else that may damage them.
Try to incorporate these foods and tips into your everyday routine and see the difference they could make in your nails!