You know it when you see it: gleaming hair that just screams healthy. It’s the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed variety that’s impossible to achieve with styling products alone. It’s also guaranteed to come with a set of equally healthy, strong nails. For a guide to achieving that kind of inside-out glow, we tapped 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,” shares our in-house expert Edie Horstman, an 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.”
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.
The Best Foods for Stronger Nails and Hair
“I recommend that my clients try to eat a diversity and abundance of foods to make sure they get as much nutrition as possible,” Rigden shares. “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 broke down a list of ingredients for strong hair, skin, and nails. Reach for the following 25 foods to help you eat pretty.
“Both hair and nails are made predominantly of proteins — in particular, keratin,” Horstman explains. “Foods rich in protein are very beneficial, as they act like building blocks.”
- Wild-Caught Salmon
- Pasture-Raised / Grass-Finished Steak
- Greek Yogurt
- In addition to containing protein, Chia Seeds and Walnuts are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which Poon says may support hair and nail health.
Tip! Opt for Bone Broth over powered collagen. “You’ll get a wider range of overall nutrients to support hair and nails,” Horstman adds.
“Speaking of, the body uses vitamin C to produce collagen,” Horstman shares.
- Bell Peppers
“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 deficiency in magnesium can hinder nail growth.
“Pairing vitamin C with a source of iron, another helpful ingredient for hair and nails, helps the body absorb iron,” Horstman says. Good sources of iron include:
- Animal Protein
“Your body transforms 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 Collard Greens)
- Citrus Fruits
Nutritionist-Recommended Vitamins for Stronger Nails and Hair
While a heaping handful of morning vitamins should never be your main source of healthy ingredients, a quick boost is always nice, especially given 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,” Rigden says.
“This ensures you’re getting the daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, which include antioxidants, zinc, and B vitamins, all of which are particularly important for hair and nail health,” Rigden shares.
“It plays an essential role in hair health,” Poon explains. “Your body does not produce vitamin D and it is difficult to get from food, especially if you eat a plant-based diet. I often recommend a high-quality vitamin D supplement for a variety of reasons, which would include hair health. ”
An Omega-3 Fatty Acid
“Omega-3 supplements may support hair growth,” Poon shares. “Some contribute lustrous hair and strong nails to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you are not eating enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you might consider supplementing with high-quality products. ”
“Maintaining a healthy gut through probiotic intake is important for making sure 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 a day (like sauerkraut, miso, or yogurt) and prebiotic-rich foods like 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 the road to inside-out beauty.
Toxins. “The presence of toxins, such as mercury, can lead to hair loss,” Poon says. “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,” Horstman says. To learn more about how industrial seed oils impact your health, read this.
Sugar, excessive caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods. “In addition to any emotional stress you might have, these foods can increase the 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 burden of stress on your body.”
Not eating enough. “We’re so conditioned to eat the bare minimum and it causes nutrient deficiencies, hair loss, and more,” explains Horstman. Here are eight signs you might be underfueling.
Too many nutrients. “A vitamin A, vitamin E, or selenium surplus has been shown to cause hair loss,” Poon adds. “This scenario highlights why it is important to get your vitamin levels checked for inadequacies before starting a supplement program, so you don’t overdo it.”