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Growing Your Own: Nourishing Your Nails

Healthy fingernails are pink, firm, and somewhat lustrous. They do not have any strange tint or color. They do not have ridges, pits, white marks, or dark lines. If your fingernails look strange—discolored, clubbed, thick, or with pronounced lines or indentations—this may be a sign of illness. If your fingernails look basically normal but are dry or brittle, this may be a sign that you are not optimally nourished. Your nails may not be getting enough nutrients if you are a super picky eater, you go on crash diets, or you do not properly digest foods and absorb nutrients.

Recent studies have shown that the health of your nails correlates with the strength of your bones. Women with osteoporosis have less protein in their fingernails. If your diet does not include enough protein and other nutrients to grow strong fingernails, you may have other, less visible problems as well, like weakened bones. If you already have an excellent diet, adding nutrients will not help your nails. If your diet has room for improvement, now is your chance to reverse any nutritional issues you may have. Although companies market dozens of dietary supplements that are supposed to enhance the growth of your nails, I would much rather have you try my Beauty Diet, which provides you with a wide spectrum of nutrients without any danger of side effects. The Beauty Diet can offer you strong, beautiful, healthy nails in six months—plus, eating well to take care of your nails will help make your whole body strong and gorgeous!

Nail-Boosting Nutrients
Following are the major components of a nail-boosting diet:

WATER. If you have been reading this book from the beginning, you already know that water is a true beauty beverage, as it supports every process and every system in the body. A quick, nonscientific test for dehydration is to press on a fingernail and wait to see how quickly the nail bed returns to pink (from white). If the fingernail doesn’t return to its usual pinkish color in less than two seconds, this could be a sign of dehydration. Over the long term, dehydration can make your nails brittle. Make sure you drink enough water to keep all of your cells plump and moist.

PROTEIN. A protein deficiency can show up as white bands across all of your nails. Fingernails are composed mostly of protein, so to grow long, strong, attractive nails you must eat some quality protein every day. As you read in the blog sidebar related post, keratin—the main component of hair and fingernails— is made of amino acids, particularly cysteine. However, this does not mean you need supplemental cysteine. Eating a variety of different protein sources will help ensure you take in adequate amounts of amino acids for growing fabulous fingernails. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, the highest amount of protein is found in salmon, yogurt, walnuts, and oysters. Other good sources of protein include fish, shellfish, turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, soybeans, eggs, nuts, and dairy products. (For more information about protein sources, see Beauty benefits:The Top 10 Beauty Foods!)

VITAMIN B COMPLEX. The B vitamins include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid/folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12).While rare, deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause hyperpigmentation of the nail plate. The B vitamins work together in the body and are vital to many different processes, including good circulation and cell growth. There are studies indicating that supplemental biotin can strengthen nails, but the articles do not clarify whether the participants started out with an underlying deficiency of biotin. It makes sense that giving biotin to people who are deficient would help their fingernails. If you already consume plenty of B vitamins—which are readily available in many foods—you probably don’t need extra biotin. Among my The Top 10 Beauty Foods, the best source of thiamine (B1) and biotin (B7) is walnuts, the best source of riboflavin (B2) and pantothenic acid (B5) is yogurt, the best source of niacin (B3) is wild salmon, the best source of folate (B9) is spinach, and the best source of cobalamin (B12)—which is available only from animal sources—is oysters. Spinach, walnuts, and salmon are all good sources of pyridoxine (B6). (For more information, see Beauty benefits: The Top 10 Beauty Foods.)

CALCIUM. Nails contain calcium, albeit at a much lower concentration than our bones do. Most Americans, particularly women, do not get enough calcium. While there is no scientific evidence that calcium intake significantly alters nail quality, individuals taking calcium supplements sometimes comment that their nails are less brittle or smoother, or that they grow faster, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, the best sources of calcium are yogurt, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Good sources of absorbable calcium include milk products, most types of tofu, some dark green leafy vegetables, turnip greens, and canned fish such as salmon and sardines that include bones. (For more information, see Beauty benefits: TheTop 10 Beauty Foods.)

IRON. If you are not getting enough iron, your fingernails will show it. Iron-deficiency anemia—which is not uncommon in women—makes nails brittle. If this could be your problem, eat more iron-containing foods. Among my Top 10 Beauty Foods, the best sources of iron are oysters, spinach, and tomatoes. Other animal sources of iron include clams, lean beef, turkey, duck, lamb, chicken, pork, shrimp, and eggs. Good plant sources of iron include soybeans, lentils, beans, and bran. (For more information, see Beauty benefits: The Top 10 Beauty Foods.) You can enhance your body’s ability to absorb nonheme iron by consuming vitamin C in the same meal.

ZINC. This essential mineral is found in almost every cell and plays many roles in the body. A deficiency of zinc can cause changes in nails, including white spots or lines, to appear across all of your fingernails at the same time. When I was researching this blog related post, I was pleased to come across an online testimonial from someone who said she finally got rid of the white spots in her nails by eating oysters—one of my Top 10 Beauty Foods and a fantastic source of zinc! Yogurt is another of my Top 10 Beauty Foods that contains zinc. Other zinc-rich foods include seafood, beef, lamb, eggs, whole grains, and nuts. (For more information, see Beauty benefits: The Top 10 Beauty Foods.)

Plain or Polished?

If you truly want to grow out your own long, strong nails, you might consider letting them go au naturel. Nail hardeners can “bulletproof” the plates of your nails by reinforcing them with a stiff outer layer, but they can’t actually fortify your fingernails. No coating product can penetrate inside the nail to strengthen it. If you have brittle or weak nails that you want to improve, a nail hardener that contains formaldehyde or toluene could end up drying out your nails even more, which is the last thing you need.

The real solution for strong, healthy nails comes from the inside, with a little external assistance in the form of cuticle cream or moisturizer. Don’t put polish on your nails if you want to be able to moisturize them from the outside. Also, don’t polish your nails if it is important for you to avoid toxic chemicals (for example, you are pregnant).

If you choose to polish your nails, do not use nail polish remover more than once a week, because it is drying. If your nail polish chips before then, just do a touch-up instead of using polish remover and starting over. Use an acetone-free nail polish remover, which may be less drying to your nails.

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