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Eating right can be a challenge, and making smart food choices isn't always easy. One motivation for maintaining a healthy diet is having healthy hair and nails. Sure, it may seem like a shallow reason, but many of the same foods that keep your hair and nails looking great and growing strong are also beneficial for other reasons. On the other hand, many foods that are not great for your hair and nails are also not that great overall.

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Salmon is a super start

Salmon and other fatty fish are a great addition to your diet. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and iron, as well as a great source of protein, Salmon can support skin health, protect against hair loss, and more. It is also quick and easy to prepare, making it a nice choice for busy evenings.

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Not all fish are fantastic

While salmon, halibut, and other fatty fish are tasty additions to your diet, other fish can create problems. Fish with high levels of mercury can cause brittle nails and thinning hair. While true mercury poisoning is not common, elevated levels of mercury in the body can create health issues. Eating fish that are prone to collecting mercury multiple times each week may be enough to allow mercury to build up in the body. Fish prone to high mercury levels include fresh tuna, mackerel, and swordfish.

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Eggs are excellent

Rich in protein, as well as iron and vitamins A, E, B7, and B12, eggs, are a great addition to the healthy hair and nail diet. The protein they provide is easily digested, and the variety of ways you can prepare them make it easy to fit them into your diet.

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Skip tons of sugar

You already know sugar isn't exactly a health food, but you may not realize the effect it has on hair and nails. Sugar blocks your body's ability to absorb protein. Protein is a key nutrient for healthy hair and nails, and without the ability to absorb protein from food, your hair and nails will suffer.

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Blueberries should be your best friend

Avoiding sugar is easy when you have a substitute you enjoy. Rather than grabbing cookies or candy, get in the habit of grabbing a handful of blueberries. The high levels of antioxidants in blueberries help fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals are responsible for many signs of aging, including slower hair and nail growth and thinning hair.

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Don't make refined carbohydrates a daily habit

Cakes, croissants, white pasta, and white bread are all starchy, over-refined, and not great for healthy hair and nails. The reason is simple, these grains are converted to sugar in the body, and the body reacts to them the same way they do to other sugary foods. Avoid relying on white flour for baked goods and develop a taste for alternative types of pasta.

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Top your meals with tomatoes

Another nutritional giant, tomatoes are rich in vitamin C as well as lycopene, carotenoids, and beta-carotene. All of these nutrients that are responsible for giving tomatoes their rich color also protect your skin, hair, and nails. Antioxidant-foods, like tomatoes, protect against oxidative stress. What does that mean for your hair? A healthy scalp and shiny strands.

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Alcohol in moderation

A glass of wine or beer isn't going to cause lasting damage. However, alcohol consumption does affect the body, and one way it does that is by lowering zinc levels. Zinc is an important nutrient for healthy nail and hair growth. Alcohol has another negative effect on your hair. Alcohol consumption leads to dehydration, which makes both your hair and nails more brittle.

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Yes, you still need some dairy

Another great source of protein, dairy has other benefits as well. Vitamin D and calcium encourage hair growth and provide nails with the strength they need to grow without peeling or breaking. Not a fan of full-fat dairy or watching your diet? No worries, low-fat dairy and even soy products are great alternatives.

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Avoid vitamin A-rich foods

Avoid foods rich in vitamin A if you want thick tresses. High levels of this vitamin can cause hair loss, and over time you will notice your hair becoming thinner. Normal amounts of vitamin A, such as those found in a multi-vitamin, will not create problems, but taking a vitamin A supplement may. Some medications, such as Accutane, have high levels of vitamin A and can lead to thinning hair as well.

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Bell peppers make meals tastier and more nutritious

Nutritious bell peppers are a great addition to the healthy hair and nail diet. High levels of vitamin C strengthen hair, letting it grow long and strong without breaking off. For an added boost, pair your vitamin C-rich peppers with a food high in iron, such as spinach for an added boost of strength.

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Avoid low protein meals

One of the worst things you can do when trying to strengthen hair and nails is to cut back on protein. It is easy to eat less protein than you need without realizing it. Particularly for those who are cutting calories for weight-loss reasons, protein is often the first thing that goes missing. If you don't eat meat or are cutting back, substitute good sources of protein such as beans, lentils, and spinach to give your body what it needs.

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Black beans for the win

Speaking of beans, add black beans to your diet for healthy hair and nails. Not only are black beans a great source of protein, but they also provide lysine, which helps the body better utilize iron and zinc. Lysine, when combined with iron, has been shown to help women who experience thinning hair reverse their hair loss.

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Don't forget the body needs zinc and iron

You know you need zinc and iron for healthy hair and nails, but you may not realize how hard it can be to get the amount you need. Zinc and iron are used by the body to form keratin, a building block of hair and nail structure. Readily available in red meat, those who don't eat much beef may have low levels.

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Oatmeal is a great start to your day

Oatmeal is a whole grain food that provides many nutrients your body needs to grow healthy hair and nails. Copper, zinc, and vitamin B are all found in your morning bowl of oatmeal. To keep your morning bowl of oatmeal healthy, look for preparation methods that boost nutrients. Use low-fat milk and berries to make a tasty meal, avoiding sugar and other additions that don't add much nutritional value.

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