The Reason Why We Have Fingernails

Paint them or bite them, can you imagine living your life without fingernails? Or toenails? Without them, we definitely wouldn't have fake nails or nail salons, and what would life be if you couldn't treat yourself to an acrylic nail or a shiny shellac job? On a more practical note, fingernails are also pretty great for scratching and opening packages.

According to ABC Education Australia, the reason we have fingernails is simply that we have evolved to have them. "Early humans who had these types of nails (instead of claws) tended to live long enough to have babies and pass on the fingernails gene to their kids," they write. "So over time, the number of human ancestors with nails grew and the number with claws shrunk." Like chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, humans are primates. All primates have evolved to have nails from a common ancestor who had claws.

While evolution gave you fingernails, you need to take care of them, too

Like human hair, human fingernails are made of keratin. To ensure you keep your nails and hair healthy and strong at the same time, Jessica Krant, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Art of Dermatology, told Huffington Post that people need a varied diet rich in vitamins, antioxidant fruits and veggies, protein, and minerals. Krant said, "Keratin is a protein, and healthy oils and fats are also needed to keep the skin, hair, and nails moisturized and strong." 

"There is a huge amount that a well-trained dermatologist can tell about your overall health just by examining nails," Krant says. "From nail bed discoloration (blueish means lung disease), to capillaries in the cuticles (autoimmune disease), to yellow, white, or banded nails, sometimes very serious or even life-threatening disease can be diagnosed just by examining the tips of your fingers ." 

Since your nails thrive on a healthy diet laden with protein and healthy fats, you now have permission to spend too much money on avocado toast at brunch (or master it yourself at home). Just be sure to fill your fridge with fish, leafy greens, eggs, and nuts, too.