In order to increase bone density naturally, vitamins and minerals work together and are carefully monitored and balanced by the body. With a very few exceptions, we can achieve the ideal intake from food only, when we know what to eat. So, let’s see what’s important for the health of our bones. Bones are made of collagen-protein matrix, filled with minerals. If we want our diet to support bone rebuild, that’s what we should be eating. The following article might help to create the best diet for osteoporosis or for its prevention.
OK, we know what food we can have proteins from. But, where can we find collagen in food? Our best choice will be a good old bone broth. As it is made of bones and connective tissues, it contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, amino acids, and many other nutrients, so, no doubt it is good for our bones. Poultry, with its many connective tissues, full of collagen, as well. The gristle in meat is also very important, no matter how much we might dislike the taste and texture of it-we should eat it.
Vitamins and Minerals for Improved Bone Density-Also Essential
There are international recommended daily intake values which are optimal for a person, in general. Our body might need slightly more or slightly less, but if we try to stay in line with these guidelines, we’ll do fine. There is also such a value as upper limit, i.e. a value we should not exceed, or it could bring up various problems in our health. These values are rarely hit only by consuming food, more often it happens by taking supplements on our own, without consulting our doctor. In this article, we’ll see the possibilities of having all the vitamins and minerals needed for our bones predominantly from food. So, let’s see which exactly and how much of each.
Vitamin A is important to building strong, healthy bones. Both osteoblasts (bone building cells) and osteoclasts (bone breaking down cells) are influenced by this vitamin. There are two different types of vitamin A. The first type, the ready, preformed vitamin A is found in meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products, particularly in fish and other animals liver. The second type, provitamin A, and it’s most common type is beta carotene, which is found in dark green (kale, spinach…) and orange fruits (mango, cantaloupe) and vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots).
Recommended adults’ daily intake is 2330 IU (international unit), or 700mcg for women and 3000IU, or 900 mcg for men. (UK government’s recommendations are a bit lower, 600mcg and 700 mcg). As with anything else, too much vitamin A (more than 3,000 mcg or 10,000 IU/day) means possible problems, from headaches to bone density loss. So, we’ll want to be careful with highly rich in vitamin A liver, for example, let alone if taking additional supplements. But, if we consume, let’s say a 150g salmon stake, with 50g of cooked sweet potato, we are OK. Men can have an additional 100g of Camembert or three hard-boiled eggs to reach the right dose.
Vitamin B12-According to the Framingham Osteoporosis Study conducted on 2500 men and women, showed that low levels of vitamin B12 are linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis in both men and women, as this vitamin effects bone building cells. Elderly people in their 80s and 90s may have difficulties with absorption of this vitamin (and iron), due to changes in the linings of the stomach. In these cases doctors may give injections of B12, bypassing the digestive tract, so patients still get the benefits of the vitamin, despite the absorption being an issue.
1.5 mcg of B12 is what everyone agrees on being the daily dose we need. It can be found in dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, milk, poultry, shellfish. A cup of plain Greek yogurt will have a 31% of your daily needs, while 100g of lentils will have half of your daily needs. The same quantity of beef will have 29%, while organ meats, like liver, heart will exceed 13 times your needs for B12. Obviously, we’ll want to avoid having these too frequently (more than 3-4 times a month).
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, besides being an antioxidant and fighting free radicals, is maintaining our immune system, and is also essential to the collagen creation which makes the basic matrix (with proteins) that bone mineralization is built on. The human body cannot produce or store vitamin Cand people generally tend to simply not consume enough of it regularly. On top of it, those with poor absorption will have lower levels of vitamin C, as well as smokers, who’s intestines are not able to absorb normally, either. Recommended daily intake is 75mg for adult women and 90mg for adult men.
Smokers need to increase their intake by additional 35 mg. (Or need to quit smoking…). Best sources of vitamin C are row fruits (citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and their freshly squeezed juices, strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwifruit and vegetables (red and green pepper, broccoli, baked potatoes, tomatoes). Some foods and beverages have added vitamin C content, which is usually declared on the product labels. Taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. One of the highest contents of vitamin C can be found in rose hips. Only four or five rose hips will provide the daily needs of an adult person. Less than a third (50g) of a red or yellow bell pepper can do the same.
Vitamin K, besides it’s well-known role in blood clotting, is now said to have critical function in improving bone health. Vitamin K deficiency is very rare in healthy adults. We probably consume enough of it (120mcg daily need), as it is found in a variety of foods: Chard, kale, spinach, chicory, onion, lettuce, brussels sprouts, cabbage, soy, sage, thyme, parsley, tuna in oil, canola oil, olive oil, soybean oil and many more.
Half cup of cooked kale will give us 4 times our daily needs of vitamin K, for example, while 100g (3 ounces) of pork chops will provide roughly half of the needs for a day. The same result we would get from the same amount of prunes. As for the overdose, there’s not enough evidence to support any of the opinions on the possible effects of high doses of vitamin K. Also, it is highly unlike to occur from food only, rather as a result of uncontrolled additional supplements taking.
Word of caution: People who take blood thinner should not take vitamin K.
Vitamin D, besides other beneficial roles, helps our body absorb and use calcium, which gives the bones the strength and hardness. There are two significant types: D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 has been proven to be better absorbed and utilized by the body than vitamin D2. Best source of vitamin D is sunlight on our skin, producing vitamin D. Unless we live in all-year sunny areas, in autumn and winter the sun is not powerful enough for this process, even if we are exposed to sun for a long time, which we are usually not. There’s also a small amount of vitamin D in some foods, like oily fish, herring, salmon and mackerel, eggs, some pork products, lamb’s liver, but it is difficult to get enough from food only.
Getting enough exposure to sunlight even during summer days might be more difficult if we live in high-polluted areas, or in huge cities where the sun has hard time getting by the high buildings which may block the light, if we use sunscreen, whose purpose is to block the sunlight, if we have tanned skin, whether it is natural or artificial, it will still block the sun rays.
Therefore, vitamin D is the one exception where most experts agree that it is important to compensate this deficiency by taking supplements, at least in autumn and winter. A 10 mcg dose per day during the months with less sunlight is considered the right necessary dose. Sensitive groups like people over 65, people with darker skin and those who cover up their skin for religious or cultural reasons are advised to take a year-round vitamin D supplement.
What About Minerals That Are Important for Bones
Calcium-makes up much of our bones and teeth (and plays a role in heart health, muscle function and nerve signaling). We have more calcium in our body than any other mineral. The recommended daily intake is1000mg per day for men between 50 and 70 years old. Aged 71 or more, they need the same intake as women aged 50 and over-1200mg/day. We can get it by consuming dairy products, dark leafed green vegetables, soybean, salmon with bones, canned sardines, some tofus.
One cup (250g) of plain yogurt will provide us with 30% of your daily needs for calcium, (and phosphorus, potassium and vitamin B12), while one cup of cooked collard greens has the quarter of our needs for a day. There’s also an upper limit value, established at 2500 mg in adults, which should not be exceeded, as it can increase the risk of kidney stones.
Copper, which takes part in creating connective tissues, can’t be produced by the body, so we need to obtain it from food. It can be found in avocados, mushrooms, potatoes, whole grains, chickpeas, cashews, tofu, beef liver and chocolate. A good excuse to have some right now, as a 50 g bar of dark chocolate — with 70–85% cocoa solids — provides all the 100% of the RDI for copper, which is 900mcg and under no circumstances should be above 10 000mcg.
Iron is involved in collagen synthesis, therefore it is a good idea to increase our dark green leafy vegetables and red meat intake. Above 50 years old, we are good with 8 mg of iron per day. In 300g of spinach, we’ll have the necessary dose of iron, or, even tastier, a 75 g bar of dark chocolate (with 70–85% cocoa solids) will provide all the iron we need for a day. Still, we need to take care not to overeat dark chocolate. It’s still a high-calorie food loaded with fat and potentially sugar. Also, we should never exceed 25 mg of iron per day, as it can cause upset stomach, constipation and blackened stools. One should not take iron supplements unless prescribed by the doctor.
Magnesium is another important mineral for our healthy bones. More magnesium will lead to a higher bone mineral density, which will have a role in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. 320 mg of magnesium per day for women and 420 mg for men is the recommended daily intake. We can find some in green leafy vegetables again, spinach for example, brown rice, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, milk, yogurt, milk products and-chocolate. 100g of it contains 228 mg of magnesium.
To avoid chocolate, with 75g of pumpkin seeds we’ll meet the daily intake in magnesium, or with just two Brazil nuts we’ll even slightly exceed it. Doses of above 350 mg, however, taken for a long time might cause too much magnesium to build up in the body, causing serious side effects including an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing, even coma and in severe cases – death.
Phosphorus is a mineral contained in each cell in our body, most in the bones and teeth. It works with calcium and other nutrients to build healthy bones (and teeth). 700 mg is important to our body daily. A quarter cup (60ml) of deshelled pumpkin seed will provide nearly the whole dose. Or 300g of cooked tempeh, or 2 cups (500 ml) of cottage cheese.
We can also find it in eggs, fish, meat, other dairy products, legumes, such as lentils, kidney beans, peas, nuts, grains, potatoes, asparagus. Phosphorus, calcium and vitamin D need to be in balance in our body. Trying to keep them in balance, our body will have no choice but to pull out calcium from our bones, if our kidneys do not function properly and too much phosphorus gets build up in our blood.
Potassium-having too little of this mineral we risk calcium depletion in bones, which will decrease the bones density. To improve it, we should include into our diet avocados (one avocado will give us about 974 mg of potassium), beans, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, lentils, white potato (which will provide more than a third of our daily needs), milk and yogurt, cheese, nuts, soybeans, bananas, dried apricots, prunes, raisins, orange juice (natural, home-made), poultry, fish. For example, 100g of mushrooms has 318 mcg of Potassium, while the same amount of chocolate has 825mcg.
US National Institutes of Health recommends 2600mg for a woman and 3400mg for a man, although UK government recommends 3500 mg for both. They all agree, however that in case of kidney disease, when they are not capable of flushing out the unused potassium from body, it will stay in our blood. High concentration of it in blood can, at the very least, cause irregular heartbeats putting an extra pressure on this vital organ, or even a heart attack. Sadly, there are no noticeable symptoms, until heart problems, but it can be discovered at a blood test.
Zinc-one more mineral needed for healthy bones with good density. 8 mg per day will do for a woman. 100-150 g ( 3.5-5.3 oz) of beef, or 350 ml (1.5 cup) of canned baked beans will contain what we need. Men are recommended to stick with 11 g per day. Other sources of zinc: legumes, whole grains, eggs, milk and dairy products, poultry, other red meat, fish and seafood, such as crabs, lobsters, oysters. Oysters are especially high in zinc content, about 3.3mg per 100g. Unless by the doctor’s prescription, an adult should never exceed the 40 mg per day dose, or the risk of lowering the immune system and levels of the good cholesterol (HDL) arouses.
Notice that many of the foods that supply the necessary vitamins and minerals for the bone density are the same, making it a lot easier to eat right. So, there’s no reason not to start working on our potential calcium deficiency and all the nutritional requirements for healthy bones, even, or especially as we age. Combined with exercising, foods packed with the nutrients listed above can make all the difference between a careless moving or a fracture risk at old age. Think of that-it’s never too late to start, if you haven’t yet.
You have here plenty of foods that can help you obtain the necessary nutrients for building up the density and health of your bones, hopefully before any problems occur. Take care of your body-it’s the only one you have!
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