Your weight-loss efforts may be off to an excellent start on your new ketogenic diet, and our team at Konscious Keto is here to help you along the way. We'd like to help you through another phase that you may notice as you go: brittle nails.
A low-carb, high-fat diet is one that advises eating primarily healthy fats, a moderate amount of protein, and a small number of carbohydrates.
However, a drastic dietary change and possible nutritional deficiencies that can occur if not focused on eating nutrient-dense foods may be evidenced by breaking or brittle nails.
Eating an abundance of healthy fats and proteins on a keto diet, with a keen eye on consuming a lot of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, will help keep your nails, hair, and skin thriving as you become fat-adapted.
Fortunately, staying hydrated and well-nourished can contribute to healthy nails and strands, but let's take a few moments to discuss the causes of brittle nails and then we'll provide some actionable tips to help you keep your nails in peak condition on keto.
What Causes Brittle Nails?
Many factors can contribute to peeling or brittle nails, and some aspects of the initial phase of the ketogenic diet can trigger changes in the appearance of your nails, even if you're healthy.
Whether it’s the drastic change in carb macros, not eating enough low-glycemic carbs, or failing to drink enough H2O, dietary and environmental factors can significantly impact our nail health.
Here are some common causes for brittle nails while on keto:
Similar to those on other diets, there are clean and dirty ways to approach any eating style, including keto—with some skirting the technical lines of a plan to eat processed and packaged foods just because the macros work, even if the food lacks substantial nutrition.
A balanced diet is vital on a ketogenic diet, and this relates directly to the maintenance of healthy nails. Along with focusing on consuming the highest quality fats and proteins possible, make sure to also get the proper nutrients, like iron, zinc and folic acid to maintain your nail quality.
If you make an effort to include nutrient-rich foods to compose your meal plan, you'll set yourself up for success in the areas of weight loss as well as hair, skin and nail health on a ketogenic diet.
Sudden Change of Diet
Although reducing carbs and sugars and boosting healthy fats and ketones is an important goal for those following a ketogenic diet, any drastic change in our eating habits can cause side effects short-term, as our bodies adjust to a new lifestyle.
In addition to the onset of brittle nails, some transitioning to a ketogenic diet may experience other side effects like keto rash and keto flu.
But again, most of these symptoms tend to be short-lived, and their side effects can be tempered with some conscientious dietary and lifestyle changes.
Focus on eating the highest-quality ingredients as possible and choose whole, organic and fresh living foods (over-processed and packaged foods), whenever the choice is presented.
Our bodies will take a little time to adjust as we usher them into burning fat and ketones for fuel, as opposed to carbs and glucose, which may be a drastic shift—especially if we're transitioning to keto after eating a Standard American Diet for some time.
Luckily, our bodies are highly adaptable and note that the initial symptoms that many endure when removing sugar and carbs from their diet subside within a couple of weeks.
Not Enough Healthy Carbs
Eliminating high-glycemic carbohydrates is a hallmark of the ketogenic diet, so we already know that foods like corn, potatoes, and carrots are inadvisable.
For that reason, consuming healthy and low-glycemic carbs like dark leafy greens is essential to getting quality phytonutrients.
Again, micronutrients are crucial, and we are fortunate because we have many low-glycemic carb options we can incorporate into our diet to broaden the nutritional profile while keeping it low-carb.
Here are some low-glycemic carbs to consume without much concern that they will compromise ketosis:
Low GI Veggies:
- Bell Peppers
Low GI Fruits:
Make sure that health and wellness remain central in your efforts as you learn the ins-and-outs of eating a ketogenic diet. Enjoy an abundance of fatty fare and craft your meal plan through a lens mainly focused on eating foods known to provide adequate nutrition.
Does Keto Cause Brittle Nails?
Eliminating carbohydrates and choosing to run on fat for fuel doesn't cause brittle nails, by default.
Eating mediocre food and making poor lifestyle choices, or pre-existing medical conditions, can all contribute to the emergence of weak nails when starting on keto.
Again, other diets that shock the system all have the potential to alter some elements of our physical appearance—this is not exclusive to keto—but some mistakes people make when choosing to embrace this sugar-free lifestyle can lead to unwanted issues.
How to Overcome the Causes of Brittle Nails
Take a Vitamin A Supplement:
A simple keto-friendly spinach breakfast omelet, (with bacon, cheese and avocado if you please!) can provide a healthy serving of vitamin A, which is known to fortify teeth, bones, and nails.
Food-based sources of vitamin A are excellent, but consider adding in a quality supplement if your diet is less-than-stellar in terms of micronutrients.
Increase Zinc Intake:
Along with helping to strengthen nails, an adequate amount of zinc can also help prevent nail discoloration. Furthermore, deficiencies in this vital mineral can even stunt nail growth altogether.
Fortunately, there are many keto-friendly food sources to keep levels up and your nails looking beautiful. Nutrient-rich foods like red meat, nuts or flax seeds are common in many low-carb, high-fat, recipes and are a fantastic source of zinc, as well.
Take a Biotin Supplement:
Biotin is synonymous with the growth and support of healthy nails, hair, and skin and is found in virtually every supplement on the market.
Also known as vitamin H, biotin is an excellent component to prevent brittle nails as it is very well absorbed on a cellular level to aid in more rapid cell regeneration—a guaranteed boost to the state of nail health.
Consider incorporating a high-quality biotin supplement, one free of fillers and artificial ingredients, to provide your nails, skin, and hair a proper portion of this vital element to keep your locks luscious and your nails gleaming.
There are many specific reasons to include a biotin supplement on a ketogenic diet, and we've dedicated a post to the topic to share common causes and how to avoid them. Check out our recent article, here.
For a special treat, you can eat nutrient-rich walnuts (that also provide excellent brain function support), with raspberries and a bed of lettuce for a lovely low-glycemic meal that will honor your goal to maintain metabolic ketosis.
Plus, consider adding a delicious meal replacement into your plan, like our Keto Shake, for an added boost of healthy fats that are free of artificial ingredients but tasty enough to make you think you’re cheating.
Include a Folic Acid Supplement
A firm focus is placed on consuming enough folic acid for women of child-bearing age as it is essential in the forming of healthy tissue, and aids in providing moisture along with the nourishment that nails need to thrive.
Also, foods like avocado that are rich in healthy fats and fiber, along with folic acid, as well as pasture-raised eggs, are excellent food options to ensure adequate levels while keeping carbs wicked low.
Our nail cells are considered the fastest growing in the body and folic acid, also known as B9, will act to nourish nails and keep them classy as you begin a ketogenic diet.
Eat Healthy Fats (especially omega-3s):
Healthy fats are the key to helping the body remain well-fueled, energized and in fat-burning mode.
Foods like salmon are excellent options on keto as it provides an abundance of omega-3 fats—perfect for aiding in a spectacular set of nails and a super-strong mane.
Also, grass-fed beef, nuts, and seeds, as well as MCT oil are all fabulous options to help maintain ketosis—especially with coconut-based MCT oil providing instant access to clean fuel the body can convert to ketones for an immediate boost of energy.
Don't Skimp on Protein:
We all know healthy fat is the star of the show on a ketogenic diet, but eating enough protein also contributes to a well-balanced diet on keto.
Add grass-fed and grass-finished beef to your meal plan, along with pasture-raised eggs, coconut butter, or hemp seeds—honestly, the tasty and healthful options are endless.
Also, don't be afraid to experiment with plant-based protein options as there are many to choose from that are packed with nutrients while being lower on the glycemic scale.
The following are some excellent nuts and seeds or plant-based options, to consider pairing with your fish, chicken, meat or seafood selections:
- Hemp, chia, and flaxseeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Take an Iron Supplement:
Iron is an essential mineral, and deficiencies can result in everything from brittle nails and dull hair, to chronic fatigue.
We encourage adding a plethora of dark leafy greens to your dietary plan as they are nutrient-dense and also provide a potent dose of iron.
Iron is vital in the production and metabolism of red blood cells, and deficiencies result in chipping and cracking nails, as well as reduced skin quality.
Also, iron absorption is aided by adequate levels of B12, and Vitamin C. Consider taking a multi-vitamin to ensure that your body can absorb the iron in the foods that you consume.
Here are some additional iron-rich, keto-friendly foods to enjoy:
- Liver (and other organ meats)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Red Meat
Take a Fish Oil Supplement:
Eating fatty fish is an excellent way to get a lot of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. However, if fish is not your favorite, you can also include a quality fish supplement into your regimen to support healthy hair, skin, and nails.
In addition to supplements, the following are some omega-3-rich fish options to enjoy on a ketogenic diet:
- Sea Bass
Check Your Iron Levels
Iron deficiency is an issue for people on many types of diets. Fortunately, there are many low-glycemic foods to eat that are perfectly primed to keep iron high and glucose in the body low.
Consult your physician as your iron levels can be tested to see whether you need to increase your intake with certain food choices or quality supplements.
Use a Biotin Supplement
Biotin is a master supplement used by those looking to improve or maintain the health of their hair, skin, and nails, and increasing your intake is an excellent option.
Biotin-infused supplements are an excellent addition to the regimen of anyone looking to maintain healthy nails and a lustrous mane on a ketogenic diet.
Use Folic Acid
Although we've mentioned it above, the addition of this element is so vital that it's worth mentioning again. Folic acid is a primary builder and regenerator of nail tissue, and we advise eating a diet rich in foods that contain it.
Also, please consider supplementation if your levels are still low.
And don't forget pasture-raised eggs. This food option is the boss!
Trust us, eggs offer a lovely balance of fat, protein and folic acid, all of which will promote ketosis and beautiful nails.
In addition to adding a delicious omelet or poached pasture-raised egg to your daily menu, here are other keto-friendly food options to consider while supporting your optimal nail health:
- Brussel's Sprouts: We get that the middle-school-soggy variety of this delicious veggie may have soured your opinion on it, but we're here to tell you that it's a delightful and low-carb option that's so tasty when well-made. Roast the sprouts in grass-fed butter and you will be a convert.
- Broccoli: Brimming with tissue-building folic acid and an excellent addition to any meal, broccoli is another low-carb vegetable to consider.
- Avocado: Not like we haven't already mentioned it, but avocado is a marvelous keto-friendly veggie to keep carbs low and healthy fats high.
We know that the body can go through some changes when attempting to adopt a new dietary plan, and that is to be expected.
Take heart, after a few weeks into the program, and with some careful planning, you'll become fat-adapted and may even be able to side-step some of the pesky problems we face when starting a ketogenic diet, including brittle nails.
- A Study of Nail Growth. (2009). Nutrition Reviews, 18(4), 112-113. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1960.tb01718.x
- Fernandez, M. L., (2015). The Mediterranean Diet Versus a Low-Fat Diet, Cardiovascular Risk Factors, and Obesity. The Mediterranean Diet, 357-365. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-407849-9.00033-6
- Lipner, S. R., & Scher, R. K. (2017). Nail Growth Evaluation and Factors Affecting Nail Growth. Agaches Measuring the Skin, 867-881. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-32383-1_121
- Sutherling, J. E., & Mele-Hayes, D., (2004). How to Maintain and Support a Ketogenic Diet Program. Epilepsy and the Ketogenic Diet, 83-94. doi:10.1007/978-1-59259-808-3_5
- Zaias, N., (1980). The Yellow Nail Syndrome. The Nail in Health and Disease, 219-222. doi:10.1007/978-94-011-7846-4_24