Ever heard the saying, “you are what you eat?” Our daily habits are reflected in not only how we feel, but also how we act, think, and look. Good nutrition is no exception – even something as specific as the external health of our hair and nails can be impacted by our food choices and other decisions. These 4 tips can keep you on the right track toward strong, shiny and healthy hair and nails.
Tip #1: Prenatal vitamins may not just be for pregnant women
You may have heard that prenatal vitamins offer a unique combination of vitamins and minerals to support hair and nail growth. Some nutrients which are found in added amounts in these products are: vitamin D, biotin, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) and folic acid. The most notable vitamin with effects on hair and nail health is biotin (essential vitamin B7). There is speculation that biotin improves longevity and strength of hair and nails, however this is if a deficiency exists. Biotin intakes above the established adult Adequate Intake (AI) of 30 micrograms have not been shown to offer additional benefit. Interestingly, raw eggs (which contain a glycoprotein called avidin) bind tightly to biotin and will prevent its absorption in our gut, leading to possible deficiency. Another reason to practice food safety!
Tip #2: Protein matters
The building block of keratin, a large structural part of nails and hair, is protein. Adequate protein intakes (0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight), in the absence of any condition which would necessitate extra protein needs, can achieve a healthy protein status. Some support in the medical community suggests that the BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) leucine, isoleucine, and valine, in the diet could offer additional help in building keratin. Keep in mind that dramatic hair loss or thinning may be indicators of deeper clinical issues and it is advisable to speak with your healthcare practitioner if this issue persists.
Tip #3: Topical solutions – magic or myth?
With so many products on the market for hair and nails, we may be influenced largely by label claims and packaging. However, because some products for nails (such as polish, cuticle oils, and strengtheners) and hair (like shampoos, serums, and sprays) are applied externally, they are not long-term solutions. These products may offer volume, fragrance, shine, color, and conditioning, with a desirable ingredient list, however the foods on your plate, management of stress, regular physical activity, and other healthy lifestyle habits, are the biggest players in achieving vibrant hair and nails.
Tip #4: You are what you eat
A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (such as legumes and nuts), and whole grains, is one of our best defenses against problems that can manifest on our hair and nails.