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Ask the experts: Nails

Senior nutritionist Rose Carr investigates the role food plays in the condition of nails.

Q. “My nails are always breaking. Would a change in my diet help?”

A. A healthy diet is the basis for healthy nails, skin and hair so if your diet is less than ideal, making some changes may help. Ensure you’re getting:

  • at least one serve of lean meat, seafood, legumes or eggs and two serves of low-fat dairy each day;
  • six or more serves of mostly whole grain breads and cereals;
  • 5+ a day vegetables and fruit.

Including nuts and seeds in your diet, as well as oily fish two to three times a week, will provide essential oils, and red meat and mussels are excellent sources of iron, vital for healthy nails. And don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids each day.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, brittle nail syndrome affects more than 20 per cent of people in the US. If you’re eating a good diet, think about other possible causes such as constant wetting and drying of hands, exposure to chemicals or repetitive trauma to fingernails that can occur from activities like typing.

Q. “I have white spots on my nails. Does that mean I’m low in calcium or iron or something else?”

A. No. Those white spots we often see on our nails are called leukonychia. It’s a common myth that these spots are a sign of a nutrient deficiency but usually they’re from a minor injury to the nail bed and by the time the spot appears we generally don’t recall doing the damage. Less commonly, leukonychia can be caused by infection or other disorders so if it seems more serious, see your doctor.

First published: Oct 2009



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