The World's Healthiest Foods

What foods are best for nail health?

While nails are not overly complicated from a physiological standpoint, their nourishment is still not fully understood. Many factors appear to impact the development of the nail plate itself, and not all of these factors are nutritional. Many common whole-body diseases, many changes in hormonal production (including changes in thyroid gland activity), many types of prescription drug use, and many environmental exposures (including workplace exposures) can affect the health of the nail plates. For example, it's important for the nail plate to stay fully hydrated in order for brittleness to be avoided, and workplace activities that leave the hands and nail plates too dry can contribute to brittleness. From a nutritional standpoint, water drinking is very important in this regard, because it help keeps the nail plates hydrated (and the rest of your body as well).

The best way to support your nail health is to eat a well-balanced diet. You'll need plenty of protein as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Sufficient water intake is also important; as well as keeping the rest of you healthy, water provides moisture for nails.

There remains much debate over the relationship between nails and specific nutrients. Since the nail plate always undergoes a process called "keratinization" in which keratin proteins are integrated into the nail structure, optimal protein intake can be an important dietary step in helping to strengthen the nail plate. Some studies have investigated the use of amino acid supplements in this regard, but our top recommendation is to review your meal plan for the presence of protein-rich foods.

There is one nutrient that's stood out when its come to addressing nail brittleness and that is the B-vitamin called biotin. In one study, 2.5 mg of biotin per day was enough to significantly increase the firmness and hardness of the nails after 5.5 months of supplementation. You can review the biotin article on our website to find out more about this important B vitamin. Some rich sources of biotin include peanuts, almonds, Swiss chard, goat's milk, yogurt, tomatoes, and eggs.

In nutritional research, two minerals have been inconclusively associated with nail plate problems: iron and zinc. Iron deficiency seems most closely related to spoon-shaped nails, although studies are not consistent in pointing to this effect. Many healthcare practitioners interpret white spots on nails as an indication of zinc deficiency, although there's no conclusive research evidence here as far as we can determine. There is no doubt, however, that the overall quality of your diet-and making sure that you have optimal intake of all nutrients from whole, natural foods-is your best first step in support your nails. To clearly assess whether nutrient deficiency is playing a role in your nail health, you may want to consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner skilled in nutrition, such as a naturopathic physician, nutritionist, or dietitian.

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