Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, shares what foods make your nails grow stronger and healthier.
Are you ready to take your nails from dry, brittle, weak, and cracking to strong, long, and healthy? Believe it or not, one of the best hacks to strengthen your nails is to boost your diet.
What you eat can impact the health of your nails, so it’s important to go beyond refreshing your manicure. Instead, take care to nourish your body adequately with foods for strong nails.
What foods make your nails grow?
As a registered dietitian, I recommend eating a well-balanced diet packed with vegetables, fruit, and complex carbs—plus enough protein and healthy fats, too.
Most importantly, it’s essential to eat enough. If you don’t eat enough, your body will be forced to make tough decisions and direct essential nutrients to where it’s needed most (and that’s not your hair or nails).
So what foods make your nails grow longer and stronger? Here are eight must-haves.
Eggs—specifically the yolks—are an excellent source of biotin, providing 10 micrograms (or approximately 33 percent of the recommended daily value).
Although a biotin deficiency is extremely rare in the United States, biotin is one of the best-known nutrients for strong nails, improving their thickness and reducing nail splitting.
However, just be sure to consume cooked eggs. Raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that binds to biotin and actually interferes with absorption. For that reason, by cooking your egg whites thoroughly, your body will better absorb biotin.
2. Lean Meats
Your nails are primarily made of keratin, a protein that’s also present in the top layer of your skin and hair. If your nails are brittle and weak, you can try adding more protein to your diet, including lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fish.
Plus, lean meats are often a good source of iron, which is essential to carry oxygen to cells throughout the body—including your nails. An iron deficiency can lead to concave, “spoon-shaped” nails or ridges on the surface.
Your body best absorbs iron from animal-based sources, including:
- lean meats
- red meat
When it comes to foods for healthy nails, don’t skip over sardines the next time you’re shopping in the canned aisle!
These small saltwater fish are high in vitamin B12, which is essential for iron absorption and contributes to nail health. Without sufficient vitamin B12, your nails can appear bluish with dark pigmentation. Luckily, this is often reversible by restoring your vitamin B12 levels.
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods, such as:
- some fortified plant-based foods
As a result, strict vegans and vegetarians should supplement with vitamin B12 to reduce the risk of deficiency.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Since antioxidants are essential for nail (and overall) health, sweet potatoes are among the best foods for strong nails.
One medium sweet potato contains 769 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin A. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant, scavenging for free radicals to reduce inflammation and damage to cells.
Moreover, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can help your natural nails stay shiny.
5. Whole Grain Bread
Whole grains are rich in magnesium, a mineral that’s essential for over 300 reactions in your body. That said, magnesium is a cofactor necessary for protein synthesis. (As you already know, your nails are made of protein, so it’s essential to keep your nails strong.)
A magnesium deficiency can lead to vertical ridges in your nails. Many Americans don’t meet their daily magnesium requirements, so try adding more whole grains to your diet to help.
When shopping for whole-grain bread, look for “100 percent whole wheat” or “whole wheat flour” as the first ingredient to ensure it’s made from whole grains.
Otherwise, other good sources of magnesium (i.e., foods for nail growth) include nuts and seeds.
Did you know that one cup of strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange?
Vitamin C is essential for collagen production. Collagen isn’t only important for skin health, but also essential for strong nails. For that reason, you can avoid brittle, cracking nails by boosting your vitamin C intake.
Plus, vitamin C is another antioxidant that helps scavenge free radicals and keep your nails strong.
Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are necessary to prevent brittle nails and keep your nails moisturized.
Bonus: Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your hair shiny and your skin glowing, so they’re an all-around beauty booster to add to your diet.
If you’re not a fan of fish, flaxseeds and walnuts—which also contain fatty acids—are other top foods for strong nails.
While it may seem obvious, every cell in your body needs water—including those in your nails.
Drinking water keeps your nails and cuticles hydrated. After all, what’s the benefit of having strong nails with dry, peeling cuticles around them?
The Bottom Line
As we can see, one of the best steps you can take to strengthen nails is by eating the right foods. By regularly including these eight foods in your diet, you can help nourish your body and support your wellness and beauty goals from the inside out.
Thanks to these powerful foods for nail growth and strength, your best manicure ever is right around the corner.