Having healthy hair and nails isn’t just about looking good. Their appearance can be a direct reflection of what’s going on internally so be aware of abnormal hair loss and the condition of your nails.
The look and feel of hair, nails and skin reflects the state of your overall health and could also be an indication of an underlying condition or illness. As hair and nails are essentially made of keratin (a type of protein), our lifestyle and what we eat directly influences their quality.
Vitamin, mineral and nutritional deficiencies can be seen on nails and the more severe the deficiency, the more unhealthy your nails will appear.
Common examples of this include:
- Pale / see-through nails – anaemia, malnutrition
- Brittle nails – lack of vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vertical / horizontal ridges – lack of calcium, protein, zinc or vitamin A
- Spoon nails – lack of iron
Hair loss - 100 strands daily is normal, anything more could be a problem - can be caused by several nutritional deficiencies especially if you are on a low-calorie diet. A lack of protein, vitamin A, C, D and E, zinc, iron and biotin can all have an effect on the state of your hair.
To maintain health hair and nails, make sure you have enough of the following nutrients, all of which can be found in proper food sources, no matter what kind of diet you follow including vegetarian / vegan.
As nails and hair are made of keratin, there should be the correct amount of protein consumed daily to ensure they remain strong and not break / fall out easily. Protein is also an integral building block of muscle, skin and bones.
Food sources: tempeh, lentils, nuts, eggs, chicken, lean meat, soy, dairy, beans, tofu, seitan, peas
Biotin is type of Vitamin B complex that the body needs to maintain a healthy nervous system. It also helps convert food into energy and is highly recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mums; and helps to strengthen hair and nails.
Food sources: cauliflower, green beans, eggs, bananas, almonds, avocado, salmon, yoghurt, sweet potato
Healthy nails and hair need to be properly conditioned as well and this is where vitamin A plays its part. It helps with the production of sebum, which is an oily substance secreted by sebaceous glands that protects and moisturises skin and hair.
Food sources: Spinach, carrots, broccoli, red bell peppers, oatmeal, high-fibre bran, sweet potato, salmon, tuna
Zinc is a mineral that supports the formation of connective tissue, and enhances the immune system and metabolic function. It also helps in regulating the body’s ability to produce protein, which is the building block of healthy hair and nails.
Food sources: Mushrooms, meat, shellfish, soy, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), whole grains, seeds
A shiny, healthy head of hair is something we all want and Omega-3 is a fatty acid that can help. It nourishes hair follicles, moisturises, enhances scalp health and promotes hair growth.
Food sources: salmon, mackerel, fish oil supplements, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, seaweed, soybeans