Can you imagine a world without fingernails or toenails? Simple activities like digging, scratching an itch, and opening things would be uncomfortable, and in some cases even impossible.
Your nails are structured from protein fibers called keratin (8). This hardy material protects the ends of your fingers and toes from harm. But different factors can affect how strong or weak your nails become.
Several components (6) that can affect nail strength include:
Your body is a fascinating system with many moving parts. Everything is connected in some way or another, which means the health of your nails can also affect the rest of your body. In fact, how your nails look can be an indicator of more serious health concerns, such as kidney or autoimmune disease (1).
Since ancient times, nail care has been included as part of an overall picture of optimal beauty and health (7). Taking good care of your nails not only looks good, it can prevent fungal infections, ingrown fingernails or toenails, skin infections, and more.
If your nails aren’t quite where you’d like them to be, there is hope. Adding certain nutrients into your diet can strengthen and nourish your nails back to a beautiful shine.
What Makes Stronger Nails?
Healthy nails are the promise of many beauty companies. And supplements have their place, one of the biggest influencers for stronger nails is going to be what’s on your plate.
Eating for health means getting the right balance of proteins, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. And for nails, there are certain nutrients you’ll want to prioritize:
Vitamin A: Also known as retinol, this micronutrient supports healthy cell turnover, making sure the blood and tissue below your nails are functioning properly (9).
Vitamin C: A vitamin that plays a huge role in cell development and maintenance, Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to brittle and slow nail growth (13).
Magnesium: Responsible for multiple reactions in your body, magnesium helps with protein synthesis. This is especially important for strong nails, and a lack of magnesium can create vertical ridges on the nail bed (15).
Biotin: This group of B-complex vitamins are famous for their nail strengthening abilities. In a study of 35 people with brittle nails, 63% saw improvement after taking biotin for over six months (12).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These acids are great for reducing inflammation, adding lubrication, and moisturizing your nails, and can help improve dry or brittle nails (11).
Silica: This trace mineral is the second most abundant element on Earth, and can be found naturally in plants, water, and some animal sources. Not getting enough can result in soft or brittle nails, as some Brazilian research suggests (2).
Iron: Good circulation is key for good health, and the same is true for strong nails. Nails that are deficient in iron tend to look spooned or concave (10).
Zinc: This micronutrient is used when cells divide and grow. Not getting enough zinc in your diet can cause nails to develop white spots on them (14).
Selenium: Not only does this mineral help keep your thyroid functioning properly, taking in enough selenium can help improve hair and nail health (16).
Lysine: An essential amino acid that helps your body absorb iron and zinc.
Water: Though not a directly contributing factor on its own (5), drinking plenty of water helps your body stay hydrated, which helps guide all the other nutrients to where they need to go.
With these key nutrients in mind, what are the best foods to eat for stronger nails? Get your grocery list out, because you have a lot of options to choose from! Some of the top picks include:
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Red Bell Peppers
- Black Beans
- Coconut oil
- Whole Grains
- Brazil Nuts
- Sweet Potatoes
And the best part is, you can eat these separately as snacks, or add them to your meals for a delicious nutrient boost.
Other Nail Tips
Proper nail care, or nail hygiene, is also important in making sure your nails stay healthy and strong.
Cleaning underneath them during handwashing sessions and keeping them trimmed and filed can prevent injury or wounds. Applying oils like jojoba, flaxseed, olive or coconut to your cuticles can help promote hydration, protection, and rejuvenation (4).
Try not to bite or chew your nails. Not only will this disrupt health nail growth, it could also introduce parasites like pinworms into your body (3).
Weak nails that break and chip can be annoying. They can also be an indicator that your health isn’t where it should be.
Beautiful, strong, and healthy nails start by addressing the root cause – and while age, location, and hormones can play a role, diet and nutrition shouldn’t be ignored.
If you want stronger nails, add specific nutrients to your diet and see how things improve. Many of the vitamins can be found in colorful fruits and vegetables, lentils, meats, and oils. If you’d like to try supplements, talk with your healthcare provider to find one that works for you.
Do you know someone looking to strengthen their nails? Share this article with them today!
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author