One thing that I love getting in the summertime is a pedicure. After all, we could all use a little pampering every now and then. Often, we think of our nails as blank canvases to paint an assortment of colors, designs and show off our personal style. Did you know that your nails can also be an indicator of your health and nutritional intake?
If you notice that your nails are thin with raised ridges and curve inward, then you may have an iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies I see in patients. Other more common symptoms of iron deficiency can include pale appearance, fatigue and weakness. In many cases, this deficiency is caused by a poor diet or a lack of iron intake; however, some people’s deficiencies are caused by intestinal malabsorption, excessive alcohol intake, dialysis or pregnancy.
Foods that are good sources of Iron:
• Nuts (especially almonds, cashews and pistachios)
• Dried fruit
• Fortified cereals/whole grains
• Pumpkin seeds
There are two types of iron in food— heme and non-heme. Most of the iron in meat is heme iron and this type is best absorbed in the body. Plants are also good sources of iron. but they contain non-heme iron which is not as absorbed as efficiently. Non-heme iron is often blocked by other products in the plants such as phytates which are found in whole grains and beans.
Items like coffee and tea contain tannins, which also can block absorption of iron. It’s always a good idea to limit coffee/tea consumption if one is iron deficient, or not consume them with a meal where a good iron source is available. Excessive consumption of fiber can also begin to block iron absorption as well as calcium supplements.
Luckily, consuming foods that are high in Vitamin C with sources of heme iron can help improve its absorption. Good sources of Vitamin C include bell peppers, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower and strawberries.
The general recommendations for iron are:
• Women (ages 19-50): 18 mg per day
• Pregnant Women (ages 19-50): 27 mg per day
• Women (ages 51 and older): 8 mg per day
• Men (ages 19 and older): 9 mg per day