You likely give very little thought to your nails even if you treat yourself to regular manicures. After all, they’re just kind of there, so it’s rare for most of us to worry too much about our nail health.
But if you’ve ever had dry, brittle nails that feel weak or break easily, you know how distressing it can be, because it’s not just about the way your tips look. It turns out your fingernails can be an indicator of underlying health concerns, or even just visible proof that your diet is lacking in certain important vitamins and nutrients.
Fear not, though: Incorporating these 11 types of foods into your diet is the easiest (and tastiest!) way to help your nails grow long and strong – without supplements, treatments, or products with harsh chemicals.
Lean meats like turkey, chicken, and beef
The same way that protein helps build strong muscles, it also does wonders for your fingernails. As Dr. Ava Shamban, dermatologist and author, told The Huffington Post, lean meats are great for nails.
She said, “Nails are made out of protein, so the first thing you can try is adding more to your diet.” She recommends eating lean poultry, fish, beef and pork to keep nails in tip-top shape.
Fruits and berries — especially blueberries, strawberries, and bananas
Eating plenty of fruit in is an easy and delicious way to get lots of nutrients and vitamins in your diet, but did you know these snack favorites are also great for your nails?
In fact, there are lots of all-star fruits you can add to your diet for an easy nutritional boost, as well as for thicker, stronger tips. Some favorites include blueberries, which registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade recently discussed with Health magazine.
Palinski-Wade explained, “Antioxidants help protect your body’s cells against free radical damage. This damage increases stress hormones and inflammation, which impacts all cells in the body, including those in the hair and nails.” Blueberries “have one of the highest antioxidant properties of all fruits.” Livestrong also points out thatblackberries and grapes are high in antioxidants as well, providing an equally sweet treat for your fingertips.
Other top contenders? Strawberries, and kiwis, which have high levels of Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps produce collagen, which naturally makes nails more resilient. Dried apricots and bananas are also good choices as they’re rich in vitamin A and B6 respectively, according to Livestrong.
Dark leafy greens including spinach, broccoli, and kale
We won’t lecture you on the importance of eating greens on the regular, but here’s one more huge reason: They help make your nails, well, tough as nails. Leafy green veggies, including kale, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens provide your body with enough iron, folate, and calcium to get nails back into fighting shape.
Other veggies including sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers
If you like a little more color on your plate, worry not — there are tons of veggies that give equally strong staying power to nails without being totally boring.
Tomatoes and bell peppers are chock full of Vitamin C, which is great for collagen levels, and sweet potatoes and carrots are high in Vitamin A, which provides necessary antioxidants to keep nails protected and strong.
Nuts and seeds, including almonds and sunflower seeds
Snacking on nuts and seeds provides a hefty dose of healthy fats that your nails might be craving. Registered dietitian Ashley Koff explained to Health magazine thatalmonds are a pretty great source of protein and magnesium, adding, “Vertical ridges in your nails may be a sign of inadequate magnesium.” So if you’re seeing those, you may want to start snacking on some almonds.
And sunflower seeds are also the perfect antidote to weakened nails, according to Vivian Goldschmidt, a nutrition expert. Aside from plenty of magnesium, she says, “sunflower seeds contain the trace minerals manganese and copper, which are essential for the synthesis and production of connective tissue in bones and cartilage,” thus also strengthening nails.
She adds, “These crunchy seeds also contain Vitamin B6, zinc, and Vitamin E. All of these minerals and vitamins contribute to healthy fingernails and strong bones.”
It may sound too good to be true, but wheat-based beer is rich in silicon, which is proven to strengthen your bones and, in turn, your nails. Of course, we’re not suggesting you start drinking a keg’s-worth of beer per day, but you can absolutely fit in a cold one from time to time and see the benefits when you glance down at your fingertips. We’ll drink to that.
The way that beer can help strengthen bones is, ironically, the same way that milk can, too. Milk is loaded with calcium and Vitamin D, both of which are crucial for building strong, healthy nails that can tackle all the abuse we put them through every day, from typing to trying to remove the batteries from your remote.
Whether you like ’em scrambled, poached, fried, or in an omelet, eggs are a nutritional powerhouse that give your body so much good stuff, you’ll feel and see the benefits from head to toe — including your nails.
According to Goldschmidt, here’s why: “They are one of the few dietary sources of Vitamin D, and their protein content is crucial for strong fingernails. Unlike meats, the protein in eggs is highly digestible and easily taken up by the body.”
“Eggs also contain B12, vitamins A and E, iron, and biotin (also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, and a part of the B-complex vitamins). Biotin has been scientifically shown to increase fingernail thickness and reduce brittleness and splitting.”
And even though that sulfur smell from rotten eggs makes you gag, it turns out that sulfur is actually an important nutrient for your nails. Who knew?
Earlier, we called out lean meats for their high protein content, but we also have to show special love for salmon, a fatty fish rich in protein and also in biotin and omega-3 fatty acids, three essential nutrients for lush nails.
Salmon is chock full of healthy fats and vitamins B6 and B12, which will keep nails from splitting, breaking, peeling, or otherwise falling apart.
Beans and legumes like lentils and lima beans
If you prefer a plant-based diet but want to keep your nails looking flawless, there are plenty of nutrient-rich sources of protein and biotin that aren’t meat-based. Beans, for example, are packed with biotin, which is a proven powerhouse for nail health, helping them to grow longer and thicker in time.
Legumes, like lentils, are are packed with “nine essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and biotin,” according to Eat This, Not That!, so you’ll want to enjoy them in soups and stews year-round to reap their nail-enhancing benefits.
Whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal
They’re great for your energy levels and overall dietary health, but did you know that complex carbohydrates (read: not the kind in white breads and flour) are also killer for your nail health? Whole grains, like those in brown rice, are amazing sources of biotin, silicon, and cysteine, which all keep your tips in their healthiest state.
Oats are equally important, according to Goldschmidt. She says, “Oats contain micronutrients like copper and zinc that are important for healthy fingernail and bone maintenance. They also have manganese, silicon, and B-complex vitamins, all of which promote healthy fingernails and bones.”