It takes the right nutrients to help support strong, healthy nails.
Just like your skin and hair, your fingernails are a window to the “world within”––the health of your skin, hair and nails are a reflection of what you put into your body. And, like any other living tissue, your fingernails rely on a steady supply of nutrients to keep them strong and healthy.
Your nails are made up of layers of protein known as keratin, the same protein found in your hair. And they tend to grow at a fixed rate, with some slight variations: men’s nails usually grow faster than women’s (except during pregnancy, when the pace often picks up); fingernails grow faster than toenails; the nails on your little fingers grow more slowly than the others; and nails usually grow faster in the summer than in the winter. Also, the hardness of your nails is largely determined by genetics.
Even though you can’t make your nails grow faster or make them harder, it’s important to provide them with the nutrients they need to stay strong and healthy. That way, your nails may be able to grow longer since they may be less likely to crack or break.
Four Nutrients that Support Nail Health
Since your nails are composed primarily of protein, it should come as no surprise that you need adequate protein in your diet to support the health of your nails. Choose from a range of low-fat plant and animal sources: soy and other beans, eggs, dairy products, seafood, poultry and lean meats.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Beneficial fats can help keep your nails moisturized, keeping them from appearing dry and dull. Fish is the best source of these omega 3s but you can also find omega-3s in walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Zinc is a mineral that’s vitally important in protein synthesis, as it helps your body manufacture the keratin protein in your nails. Oysters are the richest source of zinc, but you’ll also find it in other proteins–meat, fish, poultry, beans and yogurt–as well as nuts.
Magnesium is a multitasker mineral–it’s needed for literally hundreds of chemical reactions in your body and, like zinc, helps your body to manufacture the proteins found in your nails. Magnesium is easy to get because it’s so widespread in healthy foods. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, avocado, whole grains, yogurt and soymilk are all good sources of magnesium.
By Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
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