Healthy nails don’t just lift your spirits, they also provide insight into your health and whether you are getting the right nutrients in your diet. Brittle, cracking or discoloured nails can often be signs of nutrient deficiencies. Take a look below of the key nutrients in growing strong healthy nails and what deficiency can look like.
Your nails are made up predominantly of protein or amino acids. Therefore the foundation for having strong nails is a diet rich in protein.
Signs of nail deficiency: brittle, easily chipped nails
Best food sources: Animal based - Lean red meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, Greek yoghurt, cheese
Plant based - Nuts, tofu, beans & legumes, seitan, seeds (particularly chia, sesame, poppy and sunflower)
Iron builds and maintains red blood cells within the body which transports oxygen to tissues, muscles and other cells. Iron must be obtained through dietary sources. A lack of iron can starve cells and tissues such as your nails of oxygen. Iron deficiency is more prevalent in females than males and can have serious health consequences. The most common signs of iron deficiency (anaemia) is chronic fatigue and a blue tinge to the whites of eyes.
IMPORTANT: if you suspect you may have an iron deficiency, seek advice from your doctor promptly.
Signs of nail deficiency: raised ridges, dry & brittle nails
Best food sources: Animal based - Beef, lamb, chicken, salmon, tuna
Plant based - Kidney beans, tofu, green lentils, chickpeas, cooked wholemeal pasta
Note: to improve your body’s ability to absorb iron, it is recommended to also eat foods rich in vitamin C.
Zinc is involved in the growth and division of cells within the body including your skin, hair and nails. In order to promote healthy growth in your nails and other tissues, it is important to gain enough zinc in your diet.
Signs of nail deficiency: slow growth and discolouration
Best food sources: Animal based - Beef, lamb, turkey, prawns, scallops
Plant based - Spinach, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, sesame & pumpkin seeds, lentils
Biotin or vitamin H is involved in maintaining a healthy metabolism. It plays a role in the body’s production of proteins which can encourage the growth of stronger nails. Biotin occurs naturally in foods and you can generally get enough without too much effort. It is not advisable to take biotin supplements without first seeking advice from your doctor.
Signs of nail deficiency: Splitting/peeling nails
Best food sources: Animal based - Eggs, salmon, cow’s milk
Plant based - Tomatoes, almonds, onions, carrots, sweet potato, cauliflower
It’s important to also note the effect of other lifestyle factors on nail health. Smoking, alcohol intake, lack of physical activity, poor hydration and stress can all result in unsightly nails.
SiSU Wellness Nutritionist