Waiting for your hair and nails to grow out can be as frustrating as watching a pot boil. But if you’re not eating the right nutrients, it can take even longer. Since both are composed of keratin, there are a few foods you can add to your diet to give them the boost that they need. “The biggest thing with hair and nails is to eat a diet that is full of healthful nutrition. The healthier you eat, the better your body will function,” says Dr. Robert Kominiarek, DO, FACOFP. Here’s what you need to put on your next grocery list:
Studies have shown that certain deficiencies in iron, zinc, biotin, and protein can contribute to hair loss, says Holley Grainger, MS, RD. Iron deficiencies can also lead to ridges and brittleness in nails. “The ideal would be to find foods with the highest amounts of all of these.” And milk is one those super foods. It’s a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and biotin, which also helps make hair soft and touchable.
Your hair (which grows about half an inch per month) is about 97% protein, so you need to replenish your body with this nutrient to “promote cell growth and repair,” says Grainger. Eggs also are rich in biotin and iron.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help strengthen hair and make your scalp less flaky. They can also keep fingernails, which grow about 3 millimeters per month, from getting brittle and frail. Bonus: It’s also rich in biotin, an essential B vitamin for hair and scalp health says Grainger.
4. Leafy greens
Kale, spinach, collards, and other dark green veggies are full of good-for-you vitamins C and A. “It’s really important in collagen production, which builds up and strengthens blood vessels,” says Grainger. Vitamin C is important for the absorption of iron (that you’re getting from eggs), and vitamin A supports hair growth. According to Dr. Kominiarek, vitamin C also helps with a healthy scalp—and a healthy base is extra important for strong hair.
5. Orange- and yellow-colored vegetables
According to Dana White, MS, RD, ATC, vitamin A-packed veggies like carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes can make your nails shinier and less dry. They’re also full of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps the body convert vitamin A for healthier skin. Eat a lot of these and you may be able to do away with those pesky hangnails. Thank goodness!
It’s not a food, but staying hydrated is equally as important to hair and nail health. “Adding more water to your diet and making sure you stay hydrated is key to general body functions,” says Grainger. It also helps transport all those nutrients you need to your hair and nail follicles.