What are your hands saying about you? My mother used to always encourage my sister and me to take care of our hands. "People look at your hands -- they say a lot about you," she would tell us. As my career in nutritional research grew, I soon came to discover that in addition to regular manicures and moisturizing externally, the look and feel of your nails can be greatly improved by the food choices you make. Eating well can benefit both the look and strength of your nails and surrounding skin.
Nails grow about one-tenth of a millimetre a day, which means that it takes a fingernail about four to six months to fully regenerate. Healthy nails appear smooth, without ridges or grooves. They are uniform in colour and consistency and free of spots or discoloration.
Similar to symptoms such as fatigue, bloating or rashes, the health of our nails is often an indicator of what is going on inside your body. For example, ridges or spots in the nail bed can often indicate a nutritional deficiency while discoloration of the nails, such as a green or yellow colour, can indicate a more serious condition such as chronic bronchitis. If you do have a concern with the health of your nails, speak to your doctor.
As the old saying goes, "You are what you eat." In order to improve the look and feel of your nails from the inside out, simply follow the nutritional steps below.
Eat your almonds and walnuts
Almonds and walnuts are loaded with omega-3 essential fats. Omega-3 fats have been shown to improve brain function, have cardio-protective benefits and reduce inflammatory response. In addition, omega-3 essential fats provide the fatty acids your nails need to stay strong and prevent splitting. Sprinkle half a handful of nuts over your salad or stir-fry or mix into yogurt to get an omega-3 boost.
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Whole grains with iron
Iron is essential for healthy nails, skin colour, and hair growth. Whole grain or 100 per cent whole wheat bread or pasta are good sources of iron. Additional iron sources include meats, eggs, dark leafy vegetables and legumes.
Protein it up!
Your nails are composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin, which is also found in your hair and skin. Women need an average of 4 to 6 ounces of protein per meal while men need approximately 5 to 7 ounces per meal. It is best to choose optimal sources of protein such as cold water fish, turkey, chicken, egg whites, low-fat dairy products, soy and occasional lean red meats.
Sprinkle with flax
Flaxseeds are loaded with omega-3 fats, fibre and protein. In fact, there is 25 grams of protein for every 100 grams of flaxseeds. In order for your body to absorb flaxseeds, they have to be ground up or milled. Once ground, add one teaspoon of flaxseeds to your morning cereal, salads, juice or protein shakes or just eat them plain.
The most important point
Long-lasting beauty changes take place from improving health on the inside. Start by making healthier nutritional choices and watch for the improvements you will see in your skin, hair and nails.
Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2006). For more information, visit www.drjoey.com.
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