While the thickness and strength of nails are largely hereditary, there is much that can be done to naturally improve the condition of your nails, optimizing their durability, look and longevity.

Reflection of Health

Strong nails are healthy nails. The condition of your nails broadly reflects the state of your physical health. Your nails, like the rest of your body, depend on sufficient supplies of protein, minerals and vitamins to function. When your body does not receive enough of these nutrients or does not utilize them properly, it is reflected in the condition of your nails.

Eating Your Way to Optimal Nail Strength

Seek to improve the state of your nails, including their strength, first by consistently consuming a varied and nutritious diet of fresh, minimally processed foods. Vegetables and whole grains are particularly beneficial for strong, healthy nails. Note that whole grains differ greatly from refined grains, which, in the milling process, are depleted of their nutrient-packed outer layers (called the bran) and germ.

Foods for Nail Health

Finally, sulfur-rich foods, which help in the formation of keratin, include:

  • eggs
  • garlic
  • fish (good for its stores of omega fatty acids)
  • lean beef

Vitamins for Greater Nail Strength

Several vitamins are notable for their support of strong, healthy nails, so seek these out in the foods you eat or as supplements. Vitamin A helps the body process protein, needed to sustain the nail bed and ward off hangnails. A lack of vitamin B may cause ridges and fragile nails 2. Biotin (also known as vitamin B7) is notable for its treatment of weak, split-prone nails, a condition known as onychoschizia. Persistent hangnails usually indicate an inadequate intake of vitamin C, folic acid and protein. Finally, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which improves the strength and growth of nails.

Minerals for Greater Nail Strength

Several minerals are notable for their support of strong, healthy nails, so seek these out in the foods you eat or as supplements. Calcium is needed to prevent dry, brittle nails, and is especially beneficial for nail growth. (Make sure that you are also getting adequate amounts of the mineral magnesium, which is needed for your body to utilize calcium.)

Include iron. A deficiency of iron can result in thin, ridged and discolored (either pale or darkened) nails. A whitish, crescent shape appearing at the base of the nail may also be the result of iron deficiency. Additionally, zinc supports your body’s utilization of enzymes and minerals, and increases the strength of the nails.