Your nails and skin can tell you a lot about your health. While there may be a number of different reasons why you're nails are ridged or your skin is dry, a vitamin, or even a mineral, deficiency may be the cause. A low intake of iron may cause the appearance of ridges in the nail, and not enough vitamin A or C in the diet may lead to dry skin. Talk to your doctor about your diet and how it relates to your nail and skin health.
Vitamin C Essential for Skin
Vitamin C is found in high amounts in your skin. Not getting enough vitamin C in your diet may lead to skin dryness, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Higher intakes of vitamin C may help your skin produce barrier lipids that help prevent water loss. Men should aim for 90 milligrams of vitamin C a day, and women 75 milligrams. Including foods such as red peppers, oranges, broccoli and strawberries in your diet can help you meet your daily vitamin C needs and may prevent the onset of dry skin.
Vitamin A and Dry Skin
You may associate vitamin A with eye health, but not getting enough vitamin A in your diet may also lead to dry skin. Adequate intake of vitamin A is important for the maintenance of your skin cells. A deficiency causes keratinization -- or hardening -- of the skin. Men need 900 micrograms of vitamin A, and women need 700 micrograms. Foods that can help you meet your needs to prevent deficiency include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, peppers and salmon.
Your Nails and Iron Deficiency
Koilonychia is a nail disorder that causes abnormally shaped nails that curve inward with raised ridges. Iron deficiency anemia is associated with koilonychia. Although iron deficiency is rare in the U.S., according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, children, teen girls and women of childbearing age are at risk of not getting enough in their diet. Men and women age 51 and older need 8 milligrams of iron a day, women between 19 and 50 need 18 milligrams, teen girls need 15 milligrams and children need 7 to 10 milligrams. Fortified breakfast cereals, lentils, white beans, liver, spinach, sardines, chickpeas and beef are all good sources of iron, and including them in your diet may help improve nail health.
Diet for Healthy Nails and Skin
While there is no special diet for nails and skin, eating a variety of foods from all the food groups can help ensure you get all the nutrients you need to keep them healthy. That means fruits and vegetables, grains, lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy. Protein and omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for skin and nail health, supporting both structure and function. Tuna, salmon and walnuts are good sources of both essential nutrients. Also, drink plenty of fluids, such as water, 100 percent fruit juice or low-sodium broth, to keep hydrated and prevent dry skin and brittle nails.