Beauty is a marker of health, and our skin, nails and hair are the first places to reflect our inner health. Ideally, you should receive enough vitamins and nutrients through your regular diet, but with our busy lifestyles and numerous fast-food options, this is not always the case. There are several nutrients and vitamins that you need to achieve strong, healthy nails, which you can supplement either with changes in your diet or with supplement pills. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any extra supplements, especially if you take medications already.
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When it comes to preventing brittle nails, the B vitamin called biotin stands out as an important nutrient. Biotin is a necessary vitamin for cell growth and the production of fatty acids. Research has shown that biotin helps prevent brittle and flaking nails. In one study, taking 2 1/2 mg of biotin every day for 5 1/2 months significantly increased nail firmness and hardness. In addition to taking biotin supplements, biotin can be found in peanuts, almonds, Swiss chard, goat's milk, yogurt, tomatoes and eggs.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important not only to overall body health, but to nail health specifically. Many people suffer from omega-3 deficiency without realizing it. Signs of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include dry skin, unhealthy hair and soft or brittle nails. You can increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by taking fish oil supplements, which have a number of additional benefits, such as protecting you from heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels and preventing blood clots. To receive omega-3 fatty acids naturally through your diet, try to eat weekly servings of flaxseed, walnuts and oily fish including salmon, mackerel and sardines.
Gamma-linolenic acid is another fatty acid that is essential to achieving health and beauty. GLA promotes healthy hair and nails and can help with skin conditions, rashes and irritation. GLA can be hard to obtain in diet alone; the best sources of GLA are primrose oil, black currant oil and borage oil. To see results, it is best to take 500 mg of a GLA supplement twice a day for six to eight weeks.
Many basic vitamins play an important role in keeping your nails in healthy condition. A lack of vitamin C can cause hangnails and swollen nail tissues. Vitamin A deficiency can cause rigid or brittle nails. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause flat or dark nails, and vitamin D deficiency can cause peeling or cracking nails. Eating a well-balanced diet and taking a multivitamin can ensure that your body receives enough of all these vitamins.
Protein And Zinc
Like hair and skin, nails are made of a hard protein called keratin. Protein and zinc are necessary for keratin synthesis, which means that foods for beautiful hair also keep nails healthy and strong. High protein foods such as lean meats, poultry and fish are often high in zinc and iron as well. Vegans and vegetarians can supplements their diet with tofu, beans and nuts as a healthy alternative.
Overall Nail Health
No amount of supplementation in your diet will replace basic nail care. To keep nails healthy, avoid overexposure to water, such as frequent dish washing. Avoid using nail polish, which can dry out nails. Refrain from biting or picking at your nails and use a moisturizing lotion or cream regularly to keep hands and nails hydrated. With a healthy diet, regular supplementation and basic nail care, you can achieve beautiful, strong, healthy nails.