“Since both hair and nails are made of keratin, through a similar process in the body, it’s thought that nutrients that help one can also help the other,” he explained.
Following is his list of foods that promote thicker hair and tougher nails.
- Whey Protein—Little Miss Muffet, sitting on her tuffet (a low seat—I looked it up) while eating her curds and whey did a wise thing. Whey is the watery part of milk that is rich in lactose, minerals, and vitamins. As a bonus a study showed that people who drink whey protein ate 18% less two hours later than those who drink a carb-heavy beverage.
- Red Meat—A juicy steak is loaded with protein and has another important nutrient for hair and nail health: iron. Zeichner says that people with iron-deficiency anemia often have thin hair. Iron deficiency is also associated with koilonychias, which is a nail disease characterized by spoon-shaped nails. However, it is suggested that red meat be eaten only once a week to prevent ingesting too much saturated fat.
- Blueberries—Among other fruits and dark greens, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect body cells against free radical damage, which increases stress hormones and inflammation and impacts all body cells including those in hair and nails.
- Almonds—Besides being a good source of protein, almonds are loaded with magnesium, which helps maintain healthy hair and nails. It is an anti-stress mineral, and stress is a major factor in hair loss. Vertical ridges in nails may be a sign of inadequate magnesium. Leafy greens and soybeans also supply magnesium.
- Beer—Believe it or not, beer is a rich source of silicon, which is thought to increase circulation to the scalp that stimulates hair growth. According to the Archives of Dermatological Research, a daily supplement of 10mg was shown to reduce hair and nail brittleness after 20 weeks. Since single servings of beer contain more than 10mg of silicon experts recommend having no more than one drink a day if you are a woman, and two if you are a man.
- Oysters—Zeichner maintains that zinc is needed for many biological processes, including making proteins like those in hair and nails. Oysters have more than 74g of zinc per serving, far more than any other food. Don’t want to eat oysters every day? Beef, poultry, fortified cereals, and baked beans will also increase zinc uptake.
- Milk—Some studies suggest a link between vitamin D and hair loss. Women with hair shedding had lower vitamin D levels than women with healthy hair. Calcium, also in milk, is a key mineral for building healthy hair and nails.
- Eggs—Besides being a good source of protein, eggs contain some vitamin D, as well as biotin, a B-complex vitamin that may have a role in the development of keratin. Zeichner notes that patients with biotin deficiency often have weak hair and nails.
- Salmon—Another good source of biotin and protein, along with omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and promote healthy, moisturized skin. A healthy scalp means healthy hair follicles and omega-3’s anti-inflammatory effects aid in the healthy development of the nail plate.
Besides being good for you, all of the above-mentioned foods are also tasty, perhaps with the exception of oysters, which are an acquired taste (which I have yet to acquire). And who knew that beer was healthy? Bottoms up!
Harvey M. Fishman
Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm in Wanaque, NJ, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.