5 Vitamins and 14 Foods for Strong, Healthy Nails
Fingernails aren’t just for decorative purposes; they can also tell a tale about a number of health issues. In fact, as they continue to grow, they’re one of the best places to look to ensure vitamin and mineral intake is sufficient. Many nutrients are needed to support not only the growth of the nails but their strength, appearance, texture, and shape. So, what are the key vitamins for nails? Let’s claw into the research…
5 Vitamins for Strong, Healthy Nails
1. Vitamin B7 (aka, biotin, coenzyme R, or vitamin H): This vitamin is found in a number of products designed to support strong nails. For good reason. Biotin is needed to support healthy cell growth and metabolization of amino acids. Research has found it helps nails become firmer, harder, and less brittle for most people. 1 It may also help prevent nails from splitting. 2
2. Vitamin B12 (aka cobalamin): Speaking of B vitamins, vitamin B12 is also necessary for keeping nails healthy and strong as it impacts iron absorption and red blood cell development. If you don’t get enough of this nutrient, you may notice bluish or brownish discoloration and wavy lines or streaks in the nails. It can also lead to other dermatological conditions if you get either too much or not enough. 3 Because most natural sources of vitamin B12 are from animal products, strict vegetarians and vegans run the greatest risk of becoming deficient if they don’t seek out additional sources or supplements. 4
3. Folate (aka vitamin B9): Another B vitamin that plays a role in nail growth due to its affect on new cell development, including red blood cell formation, is folate. Deficiency of this nutrient can lead to a change in nail color and also make nails rigid and prone to breakage.
4. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is needed for so many processes in the body, including the production of collagen. Collagen, in turn, is known as the glue that keeps the body together. This protein provides strength, shape, and integrity to tissues throughout the body, including nails. 5
5. Vitamin A: Cells in the nails require vitamin A to rapidly replace and build stronger, smoother nails. If you experience a deficiency, your nails will be thin, weak, and may even develop ridges and horizontal lines and turn a grayish color.
Of course, vitamins aren’t the only nutrients important for strong nails. Other nutrients to ensure you’re getting enough of include:
- Protein, as nails are made mostly of keratin, which is a structural protein, and for the body to build keratin, you need to eat sufficient amounts of protein
- Iron, which carries oxygen to bodily cell, including those in the nails
- Magnesium, as it’s needed for protein synthesis, which is necessary for strong, healthy nails
- Zinc, which is needed for the growth and division of cells, including those in the nails.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which helps nourish the nails, reduce inflammation, and promote health
- Calcium, as it promotes a number of metabolic activities, including bone and nail growth
- Cysteine is an amino acid needed to produce keratin, one of the main protein building blocks for the nails.
14 Foods for Strong Nails
We don’t, however, eat nutrients. We eat food. So, a nutrient-rich diet that provides an array of the nutrients above would logically help support strong, healthy nails. Top foods for strong nails include:
- Eggs, which are one of the best foods to consume for the nails as they provide protein, biotin, vitamin D, and sulfur—all vital nutrients for healthy nails.
- Avocado, berries, coconut, cauliflower, cheese, legumes, mushrooms, salmon, and sweet potatoes, which are all rich sources of biotin.
- Protein-rich foods like eggs, fish, quality meats and poultry, and beans.
- Wild-caught fish, like salmon and mackerel, provides protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and biotin to help prevent nails from splitting and breaking.
- Beans and legumes are also high in nutrients that support strong, healthy nails, including protein and biotin.
- Another good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids are chia, hemp, and flaxseeds.
- For nail-nourishing iron, B vitamins, silicon, cysteine, phytochemicals, and more, look for 100% whole grains. Oats may be especially helpful as they also provide minerals like copper and zinc.
- Because they provide iron, folate, and calcium, green leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and broccoli, are another nail-promoting food.
- Folate can be found in asparagus, Brussel sprouts, black-eyed peas, and spinach, to name just a few sources.
- For vitamin C, look for citrus fruits as well as bell peppers and tomatoes.
- Sources of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) include clams, liver, nutritional yeast, trout, and salmon.
- To get enough cysteine, try eating more edamame, which also provides folate.
- Almonds don’t just provide biotin. They’re also high in protein and magnesium.
- Finally, berries and other fruits provide a wide range of nutrients, including vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants, in perhaps the most delicious way. Top contenders include blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, apricots, and bananas.
5 Best Supplements for Healthy Nails
Of course, it’s not always easy to eat perfectly every day. This is where quality supplements may come in. There are some supplements designed with “beauty” in mind, to have a positive effect on the nails as well as the skin and hair. These types of supplements tend to provide:
How to Promote Strong, Healthy Nails
In addition to diet, overuse of products and other lifestyle choices can also affect nail health and quality. For example, simply staying hydrated can help support strong, healthy nails. Using a quality moisturizer can also help keep the nails hydrated. Especially if you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly, you can dry out the nails, leading to damage.
Submerging hands in water regularly can also soften and weaken nails. If you do a lot of cleaning (especially with harsher chemical cleaners) or wash a lot of dishes, wearing rubber gloves can help protect them.
Gel and acrylic nails as well as some nail polishes and removers contain chemicals (like formaldehyde) that can also damage nails, causing them to peel and break. Either avoid using them or take breaks between uses to allow the nails to heal.
Using nails as tools to open cans or scrap off caked on materials can also cause them to break. Choose an actual flat tool instead of using your nails to help prevent damage.
Keeping nails short and trimmed can also help maintain their strength.
Even if you boost your nutrition and make other lifestyle changes to improve nail health, don’t expect overnight results. It can take several weeks to months for the nails to strengthen.