You know it when you see it: shiny hair that just screams in good health. It’s the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed variety that’s impossible to achieve with styling products alone. It is also guaranteed to come with an equally healthy and strong set of nails. For a guide to getting that kind of upside-down glow, we tapped a panel of nutritionists to find 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,” shares our in-house expert Edie Horstman, Integrated Nutrition Health Coach. “Because they’re both directly connected to our bloodstream, our skin and nails are usually the first places we notice deficiencies.”
Up front, Horstman, along with nutritionists Serena Poon and Mia Rigden, breaks down the best foods for stronger nails and hair, plus some highly recommended vitamins and supplements.
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
The best foods for stronger nails and hair
“I recommend that my clients try to eat a diversity and abundance of foods to ensure they are getting as much nutrition as possible,” shares Rigden. “Each food is going to have its own mix of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and more, so the more variety the better.”
To guide you in the right direction, we’ve put together a list of ingredients for strong hair, skin and nails. Choose the following 25 foods to help you eat well.
“Hair and nails are mostly made of protein, especially keratin,” says Horstman. “High-protein foods are very beneficial because they act as building blocks.”
- wild salmon
- Pasture Raised/Grass Finished Steak
- Greek yogurt
- In addition to containing protein, Chia seeds and Nut are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which Poon says can support healthy hair and nails.
Point! To opt for bone broth on fed collagen. “You’ll get a wider range of overall nutrients to support hair and nails,” adds Horstman.
“Speaking of which, the body uses vitamin C to produce collagen,” Horstman shares.
“Sun-flower seeds are high in a B vitamin called biotin,” says Poon. Some research suggests that biotin may support healthy hair and nails. The seeds also contain magnesium – a magnesium deficiency can hinder nail growth.
“Combining vitamin C with a source of iron, another useful ingredient for hair and nails, helps the body absorb iron,” says Horstman. Good sources of iron include:
- animal protein
“Your body turns this nutrient into vitamin A, which supports the production of sebum that keeps your hair healthy,” says Poon.
Folate (a B vitamin)
- Liver of beef
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale and green cabbage)
- Citrus Fruits
Vitamins recommended by nutritionists for stronger nails and hair
While a handful of morning vitamins should never be your main source of healthy ingredients, a quick boost is always nice, especially since the standard American diet is lacking in essential nutrients. “I think most of us could benefit from a multivitamin, an omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin D, and a probiotic,” says Rigden.
“This ensures you’re getting the daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, zinc, and B vitamins, all of which are especially important for healthy hair and nails,” Rigden shares.
“It plays a vital role in hair health,” says Poon. “Your body doesn’t produce vitamin D and it’s hard to get it from food, especially if you’re on a plant-based diet. I often recommend a high-quality vitamin D supplement for a variety of reasons, including hair health.
An omega-3 fatty acid
“Omega-3 supplements can promote hair growth,” Poon shares. “Some people bring shiny hair and strong nails to a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you can consider supplementing with high-quality products.
“Maintaining a healthy gut through the intake of probiotics is important to ensure that you can digest and absorb all the nutrients from the foods you eat,” Rigden adds. “In addition to taking a probiotic, eating one probiotic-rich food daily (such as sauerkraut, miso, or yogurt) and prebiotic-rich foods such as garlic, onion, dandelion greens, and banana may help create a strong and healthy gut.”
What to avoid for stronger hair and nails
When your focus is on flooding your body with beautiful foods and nutrients, the last thing you want to do is take away from that natural glow. Our three nutritionists share some tips to avoid on the road to upside-down beauty.
Toxins. “The presence of toxins, such as mercury, can lead to hair loss,” says Poon. “Try to avoid fish high in mercury like tuna, mackerel, and Chilean sea bass.”
Industrial seed oils. “These are very pro-inflammatory,” says Horstman. To learn more about the impact of industrial seed oils on your health, read this.
Sugar, excessive caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. “In addition to any emotional stress you may 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 the stress burden on your body.”
Not eat enough. “We’re so conditioned to eat the bare minimum and that causes nutrient deficiencies, hair loss, etc.,” says Horstman. Here are eight signs you might be running out of fuel.
As well many nutrients. “Excess vitamin A, vitamin E, or selenium has been shown to cause hair loss,” adds Poon. “This scenario highlights why it’s important to check your vitamin levels before starting a supplementation program, so you don’t overdo it.”