Eat your way to better nails and never go back to Shellac

Nutritionist Fiona Tuck shares the seven simple food steps to follow to boost the look, feel and growth of your nails. 

We all know the hassle keeping up with gel nail appointments can be. But lockdown really thrust it into the spotlight when we were all trying to remove our old manicures at home without destroying our nails. Luckily, we had handy guides to DIY, and this helpful how-to of post-picking care.

Unless you ran straight back to your manicurist the minute salons we’re allowed to reopen, you’re likely trying to stick it out as long as possible without going back to Shellac (which is good, considering The Clean Beauty Manicure is the no-makeup-makeup trend for nails this year).

But, there’s always room for nail improvement and thankfully your diet has a huge play to part. Nutritionist and friend of Mavala Fiona Tuck shares how eating the right foods can help improve both the strength and shine of your nails, but the rate at which they grow, too.

Here’s seven simple ways to ‘feed’ your nails with the correct nutrients, so they grow stronger and be more resistant to breakage and deterioration.

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1. Eat your veggies

It may sound obvious, but alarmingly 96% of Australians are not eating enough vegetables. A well-balanced diet littered with plenty of fresh greens and veggies are essential. They’re a good source of nutrients to support healthy nail growth. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale, as these are packed full of nutrient-rich vitamins and minerals are key for healthy nail formation.

2. But you’ll need more than just veggies

You will need proteins like amino acids, a variety of minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and silica. B vitamins and essential fatty acids are also vital. You can find these in foods like good-quality protein such as organic chicken, eggs, non-GM tofu, lean red meat, turkey, fish, raw nuts and seeds.

Silica-rich foods can be found in cucumbers, barley, oats, root vegetables, slippery elm, leafy green vegetables, onion, celery and cereals. Essential fatty acids in raw nuts and seeds (especially walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds), oily fish, fish oil and avocado.

3. There’s no one-stop cure-all

Eat a variety of good quality nutrients to achieve healthy nails as they work together in synergy to create the building blocks for healthy keratinization – AKA the nail-forming process.

4. Avoid or minimise ‘nutrient robbers’

Be mindful of nutrient robbers such as tea, coffee, alcohol and even certain medications which can deplete the body of important vitamins and minerals. Minimise alcohol consumption and try to drink tea and coffee away from meals (at least one to two hours) as these can inhibit the absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc from food.

Smoking and medication can also affect nutrient status so speak to your GP if you think this may be affecting you. Be mindful of diet trends which require the removal of complete food groups from the diet such as dairy or legumes. When we remove complete food groups it may lead to nutrient depletion so it is important to consult with a nutritionist prior to making any dietary changes. Dairy is a good source of calcium, which is required for strong bones, nails and teeth. Whilst calcium can be acquired from non-dairy plant sources these sources may have less bioavailable calcium meaning it’s harder to absorb and therefore professional guidance is recommended.


5. Your gut health plays a vital role

Gut health is the foundation of overall health, not only is food digested and nutrients absorbed into the body, the gut houses trillions of microbes that work to keep us healthy. The skin and nails tend to be the last areas to receive the nutrition. If the gut is damaged or weakened due to stress, poor diet, medication or lifestyle factors this affects nutrient absorption and immune system health. As such nails may become weak and brittle and may also have vertical ridges, as they are not forming properly. Or, if you’ve been through a period of chronic illness it may show up in the nails months later as deep horizontal ridges.

The best way to get nutrients is from a healthy, balanced diet via quality, natural food sources. However if the nails are weak or brittle and need a little extra TLC we can also supplement the diet. Look for high quality natural supplements derived from whole foods over synthetic isolated vitamin pills which often come with artificial additives and chemical excipients.

6. Sub in seaweed as your go-to snack

Seaweed is a fantastic nail-friendly snack being rich in minerals, good fats and amino acids.

7. Supercharge healthy nail growth with extra support

As a skin therapist and nutritionist I believe that taking a holistic approach to treating skin, hair and nails will always get the best results. Feeding the body with the right nutrients, combined with topical product application will fast track results and you’ll notice a dramatic difference in the state of your nails. Look for a nourishing product rich in essential amino acids, lipids and vitamins.

Fiona Tuck is a Nutritionist, Skin Expert and Author of The Forensic Nutritionist. She’s also the founder of Vita Sol.