Throughout our lives, nutrition strongly affects our bone health. For instance, what women eat while pregnant will affect the eventual bone mass when their baby grows up to become an adult. Strong bones are crucial to good health and good nutrition is crucial to strong bones.
Our skeleton may seem like a static, inactive part of our body but that is far from the truth. Our bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. Bone is a living tissue and the collagen in bone is continually replenishing itself. In fact, did you know that about every 7-10 years your entire skeleton is replaced?
Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease which is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone structure. It can be prevented with the help of regular weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, dancing, or jumping rope. Besides physical activity that stresses our bones, there are 5 vital nutrients absolutely necessary to keep our bones healthy and strong.
Altogether it takes about 20 different nutrients to prevent weakening of the bone. However these 5 nutrients are ones we are more likely to be deficient in and therefore require us to be mindful of our intake of them.
Your bones contain 99.5% of the total calcium in your body. This mineral makes sense for bone health as it helps build and maintain bones making them strong and dense.
Requirement for adults – 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams each day
Food sources – Dairy food, fortified foods such as orange juice, tofu, and soy milk, fish with edible bones like sardines and canned salmon, bok choy, and soy.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium from food and supplements. Without sufficient vitamin D, less than 10% of calcium will get absorbed.
Requirement for adults – 600-800 International Units. Adults should have their vitamin D status checked by their doctor as up to 80% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. It should be at least 32 ng/ml to support bone health.
Food sources – Fortified dairy food, egg yolks, salmon, and tuna. Sunlight is actually the main source of vitamin D for many people. A smartphone app called dminder developed by vitamin D expert Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD can help you assess how much vitamin D you are getting from the sun each day. Always keep in mind staying in the sun without proper skin protection puts you at risk for skin cancer.
This mineral is found in bone, giving it resiliency and protection against fractures. In order for vitamin D to be converted to its active form in the body, magnesium is necessary for this to happen. Many Americans are not consuming enough magnesium. If you take a calcium and vitamin D supplement, it is advised to also take a magnesium supplement as a high calcium intake causes magnesium loss.
Requirements for adults – 310-420 milligrams daily
Food sources – Nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
4. Vitamin K
Vitamin K comes in two forms –K1 and K2. Each form is necessary in blood clotting but it is vitamin K2 that prevents calcium from depositing in arteries developing the process of atherosclerosis. Vitamin K2 helps direct calcium to the bones and helps bind the mineral to the skeleton.
Requirements for adults – 75-120 micrograms each day
Food sources – K1 is found in dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach. K2 is found in natto (fermented soybeans), cheese, grass-fed meat, and liver.
5. Vitamin B12
This water-soluble vitamin helps keep levels of homocysteine to a minimum as otherwise this compound will stimulate the breakdown of bone.
Requirements for adults – 2.4 to 2.8 micrograms daily
Food sources – It is only found naturally in foods of animal origin such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products such as yogurt. But it can also be found in foods fortified with it or where it has been added to such as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.