Your hands and feet are in use every day, working hard, and as a result they can start to look tired and, quite literally, a bit ragged round the edges. Nails can often take the brunt of it, with toes being pushed into shoes on a daily basis and fingers picking up, being used as a toolkit, and getting wet. While we can take care of the immediate problems by enjoying a manicure or pedicure, for longer lasting care we need to look a bit deeper than our nail polish racks.
A closer look at nails
Nails, hair and the outer layer of our skin are all composed of keratin – a fibrous structure that also makes up feathers, fur and hooves. The fibres of this insoluble substance stick together, forming tough epidermal appendages, such as human fingernails.
However, the part of the nail, or hair, we see is actually dead tissue, which is why we can painlessly cut or file it. This means that they are the last parts of our body to receive nutrients when we are ill or have a poor diet. Nutrients are directed to parts where they are essential for life. As a result, our hair and nails are extremely vulnerable to a poor diet and their condition can speak volumes about our health.
We are constantly told that in order to live a long and healthy life, we should be eating a nutritious balanced diet, and this is also the key to growing good, strong nails.
So, what do we need to eat to keep our nails looking and feeling great?
A protein rich diet is crucial for nail health. Protein can be found in red meats, soya, and nuts. Eggs, oily fish, such as salmon, and dairy products also contain this essential nutrient.
Iron is also necessary, and a diet lacking in iron can not only cause anaemia, and other serious health problems, but also very weak and brittle nails. Like protein, it is found in lean red meat, and oily fish. But green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, pulses, and beans are crammed full of iron, too.
We all rush for the Vitamin C at the slightest sign of a sniffle, but did you know it is also vital for your nails?
Found in citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, and peppers, this is a water soluble vitamin, and as a result, is not stored in our bodies, and therefore we need a regular Vit C top up.
The immune-boosting mineral, zinc, is another important dietary addition, a lack of which will quickly cause brittle, broken nails – often accompanied by white spots on the nail. Many dairy products contain zinc, as do nuts and seeds, and oysters. They also include another great health boosting mineral for your nails – biotin (also known as Vitamin B7).
Just like the rest of our bodies, nails suffer when we are dehydrated. So to prevent dry and damaged cuticles, drink six to eight glasses of water a day and eat loads more juicy fruit and vegetables – many are at least 90% water, so you can top up fluid and vitamin levels at the same time.
As well as diet, there are a few dos and don’ts to consider when it comes to growing gorgeous nails.
- Do not use your nails as tools
- Only use quality manicure and pedicure kits
- Never cut your cuticles
- Do not pick off your old nail polish
- When filing, always go in one direction
- Moisturise regularly
- Treat your feet to a pedicure
- Polish your fingernails
Okay, the last two points might seem less important, but really, your feet go through so much, as do your fingernails, that a session at the nail bar, or at home, is less of an indulgence, and more a necessity. Go on, treat yourself.
All you have to do is put your feet up, decide which one to choose, and munch on some spinach. Perfect!