Q: My nails are brittle and even have ridges. Could this be a vitamin deficiency?
– Helen in Iowa City

A: You could be low in iron. This mineral is essential for growth and maintenance of the nails and nail bed. In a long-term deficiency, the nails can become spoon-shaped, where the nail either flattens out or curves abnormally. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, increased susceptibility to colds and infections, and poor exercise performance. To maximize iron absorption, consume a vitamin C-rich food, such as orange juice, with each iron-rich meal, such as black bean soup; cook in cast-iron pans; and avoid drinking milk with meals that are the main suppliers of iron (these minerals compete for absorption, so a high-calcium food will lower absorption of iron.) Also, ask your physician to check your iron status, including tests such as hemoglobin, hematocrit, total iron binding capacity (TIBC), and serum ferritin. – Elizabeth Somer