Are there really foods and vitamins that can help thicken your hair and make your finger nails grow more quickly? I would like to know because I have fine hair and brittle nails. – Bethany G.
The answer is yes and no. Yes, there are nutrients that are essential for proper hair and nail growth, but don’t expect your nails to grow faster or hair strands to thicken. Proper nutrition and supplementation of key nutrients help alleviate thinning hair and brittle nails for those with a deficiency.
Note: Fine hair is a texture that you’re born with, whereas thinning hair is a condition of losing hair more rapidly than regrowth cycle can keep up with.
Fragile nails can also be caused by a myriad of factors including genetics, daily work submersed in water and smoking.
Here’s what you should ramp-up in your diet for possible hair and nail improvements:
Biotin is the B vitamin essential for hair, skin and nail growth. Its action is in protein synthesis (especially the structural protein keratin) and normal cell growth. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, biotin can eliminate the brittleness of fragile nails. Biotin is widely distributed in foods. Relatively good Biotin sources include egg yolk, liver, whole cereals, avocado and some vegetables. Almost all supplements promoted for hair, skin or nails contain a high dose of Biotin.
Adequate protein is needed for cell growth. Intake should be around 1.0 gm/kg body weight per day which equates to approximately 65-80 grams for most women. A balanced diet incorporating 2-3 servings of milk products plus 6 ounces of animal meats or analogs per day will provide sufficient protein. Vegetarians should also include 2-3 servings of legumes, nuts and seeds daily.
Healthy fats such as from fish oil and plant fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, coconut) are necessary for cell membranes and may stimulate hair growth. Nuts also contain beneficial Vitamin E — its antioxidant activity prevents fat peroxidation in the nail bed.
The minerals iron and zinc must be in sufficient supply for normal hair and nail development. Good sources include meats, eggs, whole grains, oysters, other shellfish, legumes and dark green leafy vegetables.
Other supportive nutrients and compounds include L-cysteine, silica, probiotics and water. L-cysteine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in keratin. You can obtain it from protein-rich foods. Silica (the bioavailable form of silicon) strengthens hair and nails and is found in oats. Probiotics, such as from kefir, cultured yogurt or kimchi, support proper digestion so that you can absorb the most vitamins and minerals from your food. Sufficient water is key to keeping your nail beds adequately hydrated for normal growth.
– Debbie J., MS, RD
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