Nutritional advice for healthy hair and nails

Do you suffer from brittle nails, hair that breaks or hair loss? Then you may be deficient in certain nutrients. This can be caused by, for example, illness, excessive menstruation or long-term dieting. A balanced diet keeps your hair and nails healthy. The most important nutrients for this are iron, zinc and calcium. Why are these nutrients important and in which foods are they found?

Eat healthy

A balanced diet can help keep hair and nails healthy. If you become deficient in certain nutrients, this can cause health problems with your hair and nails. Make sure you consume healthy food, eat regularly and with a varied diet. For example, you can eat according to the scale of five. The most important nutrients for healthy hair and nails are iron, calcium and zinc.


Low iron levels are associated with hair loss. Iron affects hair health. Women who have heavy periods and eat little to no red meat are more likely to experience hair loss. During menstruation, a woman loses blood that contains iron and therefore she will need more iron in her diet. For optimal iron absorption, several factors must be taken into account. Mentioned below are the most important factors to consider while preparing food:

  • Protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and shellfish promote the absorption of iron.
  • By eating fruit, vegetables and fruit juice, the body is better able to absorb iron from other sources such as fish or meat, and iron absorption increases two to three times.
  • Tea, coffee, cocoa, spinach and spices contain phenols that inhibit iron absorption from legumes, grain products and vegetables.
  • Calcium-rich foods such as milk and cheese disrupt the absorption of iron.
  • Fermented products such as soy sauce promote the absorption of iron from products other than meat and fish.

Make sure your diet contains enough iron-containing foods. The richest sources of iron are: red meat, liver, egg yolk, tropical fruits, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale or lettuce) and fortified breakfast cereals. For maximum iron absorption, it is good to consume food rich in vitamins at the same time. This can be done by drinking a glass of orange juice during a meal or eating a piece of fruit. It is better not to drink coffee and tea during or just after meals because this negatively affects iron absorption.


Zinc is an important component of the hair. It has been shown that a zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss, brittle hair, thin hair on the head and the absence of pubic hair. The hair often becomes pigmentless and breaks easily. A zinc deficiency also causes hair loss in the condition acrodermatitis enteropathica .

Acrodermatitis enteropathica

In this disease, the body is unable to absorb zinc due to a genetic defect. This disease can occur from the age of a few months until the age at which breastfeeding is stopped. This disease can also develop later in life due to a deficiency of zinc in the diet. Zinc absorption in the small intestine can be prevented by, for example: excessive vomiting, prolonged diarrhea, extreme sweating, anorexia, alcoholism or Crohn’s disease. Inflammations of the skin occur in various places on the body, and there is often hair loss on the scalp. Furthermore, hairs from the eyelashes and eyebrows can also fall out.
Although various foods contain zinc, the absorption of zinc by the body depends on the composition of the diet. The risk of a zinc deficiency is highest when a lot of unrefined grain products and little animal protein are eaten. Below are some nutritional tips for zinc absorption:

  • Phytates in whole grain products, legumes and other vegetables bind to zinc, so that zinc cannot be absorbed.
  • Animal proteins stimulate the absorption of zinc from food.
  • Essential fatty acids are important for good hair condition. Essential fatty acids consist of two groups: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are found in oily fish, vegetables and red meat.


Nutritional deficiencies

Malnutrition can have serious consequences for the hair. The hair root releases more easily and in some cases can be pulled out without pain. The hair that remains becomes thinner and straight and may turn gray. Ultimately, the patient may become completely bald. When sufficient nutrients are absorbed into the body again, hair growth will usually recover.

Healthy nails

The nail is a type of skin layer that mainly consists of the protein keratin. A nail normally grows between 0.05 and 1.2 millimeters per week. The nails can reflect a person’s health. A deficiency of vitamins and minerals will ultimately be detrimental to the good health of the nails. The nails can become brittle and spoon-shaped.

Nutrients for healthy nails

The body needs various vitamins and minerals to ensure healthy and strong nails, of which iron is essential. The foods to promote iron absorption have already been mentioned above.
In addition, vitamin B8 (biotin) is an important source for forming strong nails. Biotin is mainly found in: egg yolk, dairy products such as milk, liver, other organ meats, soy and yeast. Calcium not only ensures stronger bones, but also stronger nails. Foods high in calcium include: milk, yogurt, cheese, bread, calcium-fortified soy milk, tofu, green leafy vegetables and hard water. A breastfeeding woman needs extra calcium. For example, she could eat a handful of raisins as an extra snack.

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