Like our hair, our nails are made of a tough protective protein called keratin. Obviously, what is good for healthy hair is good for healthy nails.
The growing part of the nail is under the skin at the nail’s proximal end under the epidermis, which is the only living part of a nail. Nails peeling, breaking and splitting can ruin perfect manicure. The nutrients that can help restore them are: protein, iron, zinc, vitamin A, B, C, E and D, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Here are 7 essential nutrients for your healthy nails
Proteins are essential nutrients for nail health. Main sources of high quality proteins are animal sources such as meats, poultry, milk and dairy products, fish and eggs. Plant proteins include grains, legumes and nuts.
Iron helps nails to grow due to its involvement in numerous biological functions: supplying with oxygen, facilitating oxygen use, acting as a transport medium for electrons within the cells, being an integral part of various enzyme reactions. Rich sources of dietary iron include red meat, lentils, beans, poultry, fish, watercress, tofu, chickpeas, fortified bread, fortified breakfast cereals, spinach and other leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and salad greens. Iron in meat is more easily absorbed than iron in vegetables. Iron deficiency can lead to dull, brittle nails.
The omega-3 fats in fatty fish like salmon and sardines, have been shown to preserve collagen – the fibrous protein that keeps skin firm, youthful-looking and wrinkle-free. Do you know that your skin begins to decline starting in your twenties?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that regulates collagen synthesis, forms barrier lipids, aids the absorption of iron and takes part in many other biological processes. The richest natural sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables: Kakadu plum, rose hips, red bell pepper, parsley, broccoli, strawberry, blueberry, papaya, orange, kale, and pineapple.
Vitamin E is a membrane antioxidant that protects your nails against oxidative damage. It can be found most abundantly in wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, corn oil, almonds, avocado and papaya.
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the must-have foods for healthy nails because they are responsible for the health of the cell membrane – the passageway for nutrients to cross in and waste products to get out. Our body cannot make Omega-3 fatty acids itself, and therefore must be obtained through our diet: fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, trout and mackerel), seafood, canola oil, flax seed, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex. Include biotin rich foods such as whole grains, liver, egg, soy flour and yeast. By the way, biotin has been used for decades to strengthen horse hooves.
Interesting facts about nails:
- The nail of the index finger grows faster than that of the little finger; and fingernails grow up to four times faster than toenails.
- Nails grow at an average rate of 3mm a month.
- Fingernails require 3-6 months to regrow completely.
- Toenails require 12-18 months.
- Actual growth rate is dependent upon age, sex, season, exercise level, diet, and hereditary factors.
Bottom line: if you have a healthy and balance diet, you’ll have your nails healthy too.