Top foods for strong and healthy nails

Summer is the perfect time of year to show your nails off, but keeping them looking in tip-top condition isn’t always easy. While manicures and pedicures can help, you can do a lot to improve the appearance of your nails by following a healthy, balanced diet. Here are some of the best foods to consume if you hanker after strong and healthy nails, all-year-round.


© alexngm / Adobe Stock

Foods high in zinc

If you want healthy nails, topping up your zinc levels is critical. Zinc helps cells to grow normally and healthily, and because cells regenerate quickly in nails, you need adequate supplies of this mineral to keep up with the cell regrowth pace. You’ll soon notice if you’re lacking in zinc as white spots will appear on your nails.

Foods rich in zinc include almonds, seafood, poultry, cereal, eggs, beef and soya.


Vitamin B rich foods

Vertical ridges on nails are common as we get older, but horizontal ridges could indicate a health issue, such as a vitamin B deficiency. Lack of this vitamin might also manifest in cuticle problems.

To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin B in your diet, boost your intake of fish, dairy, chicken and red meat.



Biotin is a type of complex B vitamin, often going by the name of vitamin B7. Although deficiency of this vitamin is rare, if levels do drop, you could find that your nails start to become brittle. Counteract this by eating biotin-rich foods such as liver, eggs, sweet potato, avocado and cauliflower.


Iron sources

Iron delivers oxygen to cells in the body, including your nails. When iron stores are low, it can affect the appearance of your nails, giving them a concave or spoon shape.

Animal products such as red meat are good sources of iron, but non-meat eaters should opt for green leafy vegetables such as kale combined with vitamin C (a glass of orange juice, for example) to maximise iron absorption.


Protein foods

Essentially, nails are made up of a protein called keratin. It stands to reason, therefore, that if you want healthy, strong nails you need to include sufficient amounts of protein in your diet. Experts reckon you should aim for 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, but if you exercise a lot, your dietary protein needs may be higher.

Good sources of protein can be found in red meat, fish, poultry, dairy, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.


Oily fish

If your nails appear lacklustre and dull and are frequently dry and brittle, you might want to consider increasing your uptake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in abundance in oily fish. These fatty acids boast excellent anti-inflammatory properties, keeping your nail bed strong, lubricated and healthy, resulting in a shiny appearance.


Citrus fruits

Many people complain that their nails never seem to grow. Scientists reckon that this could be a result of vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C helps produce a protein called collagen, necessary for creating strong and healthy nails. Low vitamin C levels can also cause nails to become weak and brittle.

Ensure you get adequate vitamin C in your diet by stocking up on citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons. Kiwis, strawberries and red peppers also get the thumbs up for their generous vitamin C content.