What are the Best Choices for Healthy Nails?

By Mary Parsons, MS, RD

Question: What nutrients are important for nail health? If I have nail issues, am I missing some nutrient?

Nearly all nutrient deficiencies, including iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, and the B vitamins, have manifestations in the fingernails. The wide range of possible conditions makes diagnosis a difficult matter, so it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider and ideally a registered dietitian for a full assessment of your unique situation.

I’m sure many of our readers are familiar with an abundance of home remedies for optimizing nail health, some more effective than others! One common belief is that gelatin can have a strengthening effect on soft or brittle nails. In reality, the body metabolizes the protein in gelatin like any other protein, so you would be better off including more high-quality protein sources in your diet, like chicken, fish, dairy or eggs.

Overall, the best way to get proper nutrition for nail health is by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, making an effort to consume enough protein, and staying hydrated with plenty of water. If you’re worried that your nutrition is incomplete, a multivitamin can help fill in the gaps. Supplements of biotin, one of the B vitamins, have also been shown to contribute positively to nail health.