Foods for stronger nails and hair, and their main ingredients

You know it when you see it: shiny hair that just screams healthy. It’s the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed variety that’s impossible to achieve with styling products alone. It is also guaranteed to come with a set of equally healthy, strong nails. For a guide to achieving that kind of inside-out glow, we enlisted a group of nutritionists for the best foods for stronger nails and hair.

“We always want to consider the health of our skin and nails when it comes to nutrient deficiencies,” our in-house expert Edie Horstman, an integrated nutritional health coach, tells SELF. “Because they’re both directly connected to our bloodstream, our skin and nails are usually the first places we notice deficiencies.”

Ahead, Horstman, along with nutritionists Serena Poon and Mia Rigden, breaks down the best foods for stronger nails and hair, along with a few highly recommended vitamins and supplements.

Feature image by Michelle Nash.

Image by Hannah Haston

The best foods for stronger nails and hair

“I recommend my clients eat a varied and plentiful diet to ensure they get as much nutrition as possible,” Rigden shares. “Each food gets its own blend of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and more, so the more variety the better.”

To lead you in the right direction, we’ve broken down a list of ingredients for strong hair, skin, and nails. Reach for the following 25 foods to help you eat beautifully.

Egg white

“Both hair and nails are made primarily of protein, specifically keratin,” Horstman explains. “Foods rich in protein are very beneficial because they act as building blocks.”

  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Wild caught salmon
  • Meadow Raised/Grass Finished Steak
  • Greek yoghurt
  • In addition to containing protein, Chia seeds and walnuts are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which Poon says can support hair and nail health.

Tip! Choose Bone broth over powered collagen. “You get a wider range of general nutrients to support hair and nails,” Horstman adds.

Vitamin C

“Speaking of, the body uses vitamin C to produce collagen,” Horstman shares.

  • Berries
  • Paprika
  • Citrus

Biotin

Sunflower seeds are rich in a B vitamin called biotin,” explains Poon. There is some research to suggest that biotin may support hair and nail health. Seeds also contain magnesium – a lack of magnesium can hinder nail growth.

Iron

“Combining vitamin C with a source of iron, another beneficial ingredient for hair and nails, helps the body absorb iron,” says Horstman. Good sources of iron are:

  • Animal Protein
  • Spinach
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli

Beta-carotene

“Your body converts this nutrient into vitamin A, which supports sebum production that keeps your hair looking healthy,” Poon explains.

Folate (a B vitamin)

  • Beef liver
  • Dark leafy greens (Spinach, Kale and Kale)
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Citrus Fruits

Vitamins recommended by nutritionists for stronger nails and hair

While a hefty handful of morning vitamins should never be your main source of healthy ingredients, a quick boost is always nice, especially considering that the standard American diet lacks essential nutrients. “I think most of us could benefit from a multivitamin, an omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin D, and a probiotic,” says Rigden.

A multivitamin

“This ensures you get the daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, zinc, and B vitamins, all of which are extremely important for hair and nail health,” shares Rigden.

Vitamin D

“It plays an essential role in hair health,” explains Poon. “Your body doesn’t make vitamin D and it’s hard to get it from food, especially if you eat a plant-based diet. I often recommend a high-quality vitamin D supplement for several reasons, including hair health.

An omega-3 fatty acid

“Omega-3 supplements can support hair growth,” shares Poon. “Some contribute to shiny hair and strong nails on a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, consider supplementing with high-quality products.

A probiotic

“Maintaining a healthy gut through probiotic intake is important to ensure you can digest and absorb all the nutrients from the food you eat,” adds Rigden. “In addition to taking a probiotic, eating one probiotic-rich food a day (such as sauerkraut, miso, or yogurt) and prebiotic-rich foods such as garlic, onion, dandelion greens, and banana can help create a strong and healthy gut.”

What to avoid for stronger hair and nails

When you’re focused on flooding your body with beautiful foods and nutrients, the last thing you want to do is detract from that natural glow. Our three nutritionists share a few things to avoid on your way to inside-out beauty.

Toxins. “The presence of toxins, such as mercury, can lead to hair loss,” says Poon. “Try to avoid fish that are high in mercury, such as tuna, mackerel, and Chilean sea bass.”

Industrial seed oils. “These are very pro-inflammatory,” says Horstman. Read this to learn more about how industrial seed oils affect your health.

Sugar, excessive caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. “In addition to any emotional stress you might have, these foods can increase stress levels in the body and cause nutrient depletion,” Rigden shares. “Try to manage your stress as best you can and avoid foods that increase stress on your body.”

Not enough food. “We are so conditioned to eat the bare minimum and it causes nutrient deficiencies, hair loss and more,” Horstman explains. Here are eight signs you may be low on fuel.

At many nutrients. “A vitamin A, vitamin E or selenium excess has been shown to cause hair loss,” adds Poon. “This scenario shows why it’s important to have your vitamin levels checked for deficiencies before starting a supplement program so you don’t overdo it.”

Foods for stronger nails and hair, and their main ingredients

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