Nutrient deficiencies can affect your fingernail growth and strength. Some supplements and a nutritious diet may help support healthy nails.
Your fingernails can say a lot about your health.
Nail beds constantly give rise to nail tissue, and adequate vitamin, mineral and nutrient intakes help support the growth, formation and strength of new nail cells.
A change in the appearance, texture or shape of your nails could indicate nutrient deficiencies.
Here are the 8 most important vitamins and nutrients to keep your nails healthy.
Biotin is a B-complex vitamin, also known as vitamin B7, coenzyme R and vitamin H.
It promotes healthy cell growth and aids in the metabolism of protein-building amino acids that are essential for nail growth.
One study in 35 people with brittle fingernails found that 2.5 mg of biotin per day for six weeks to seven months improved symptoms in 63% of participants (2Trusted Source).
Deficiency in this vitamin is rare, and while there is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for biotin, the Adequate Intake (AI) recommendation for adults has been set at 30 mcg per day (4Trusted Source).
deficiency is rare, but consuming biotin through foods or supplements may help
strengthen brittle nails and improve their growth.
Other B vitamins are also important for nail health.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in iron absorption, as well as the development of red blood cells. Both iron and B12 are necessary for keeping nails strong and healthy.
Likewise, folate, or vitamin B9, is important for nail growth and health by contributing to red blood cell formation and the development of new cells.
A deficiency in folate can cause a pigment change in your nails and make them rigid and brittle (7Trusted Source).
To prevent deficiencies, adults require 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 and 400 mcg of folate per day, though pregnant women have an increased need (4Trusted Source).
Folate can be found in dark green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and avocado. On the other hand, B12 is primarily found in animal foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, though it can be fortified into other foods and beverages.
vitamin B12 and folate play a role in red blood cell production and oxygen
transportation to nail cells. Inadequacies can result in discoloration of your
Iron composes the center of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your organs and every cell in your body — including your nails.
Without iron, oxygen does not get adequately carried to your cells.
RDAs for iron vary considerably depending on age and gender. The recommendation for men is 8 mg per day, while that of women aged 19–50 is 18 mg per day. After women hit age 50 or go through menopause, their iron needs drop to 8 mg daily (9Trusted Source).
Your body absorbs the iron found in animal foods, such as beef, chicken, fish and eggs, better than that in plant foods like dark green leafy vegetables, peanuts, seeds, beans and other fortified foods.
However, eating a food rich in vitamin C together with a plant-based iron food source improves absorption. For example, eating oranges and strawberries alongside a spinach salad with beans and seeds improves your iron absorption.
Summary Iron is
needed to provide your cells with adequate oxygen, which, in turn, is necessary
for healthy nails. If you have an iron deficiency, the shape and appearance of
your nails can be affected.
Vertical ridges in your nails may be a sign of a magnesium deficiency. Despite worldwide availability of this mineral, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that less than 60% of the US population consumes the recommended amount (11Trusted Source).
The RDA is 400-420 mg and 310–320 mg per day for men and women respectively (9Trusted Source).
Whole grains, specifically whole wheat, are a rich source of magnesium. Dark green leafy vegetables, as well as quinoa, almonds, cashews, peanuts, edamame and black beans, are good sources, too.
magnesium intake is crucial to prevent vertical ridges in your nails. This
mineral also helps with protein synthesis and the formation of new nails.
Nails are primarily made of a fibrous structural protein called keratin. This is what gives nails their strength and resilience. It also protects your nails from damage or stress (12, 13Trusted Source).
Interestingly, the keratin you see is actually dead. Nails are formed by dead cells, which your body sheds as new cells push up from underneath (12).
Eating enough protein through your diet is essential for boosting keratin production and thus creating strong nails, whereas low protein intake may cause weaker nails.
The RDA for protein is 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight per day. This equals approximately 55 grams of protein per day for a 150-lb (68-kg) person (14Trusted Source).
However, the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) allows protein to account for 10–35% of your total daily calories — significantly more than the RDA (15Trusted Source).
Protein can be found in animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as plant foods, such as soy, legumes, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
protein intake is needed to produce keratin, which is responsible for keeping
your nails strong and resilient.