By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Bone health is a topic for both women and men because our bones play an important role in overall strength, mobility and basic wellness. When it comes to bone health you may have heard about the importance of calcium and vitamin D intake, as well as the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and continuing to be active. However, you may not have heard too much about other nutrients that are also key for healthy bones.
When it comes to nutrients for keeping bones healthy, it actually goes much further than just calcium and vitamin D, and in fact there are other nutrients found in other foods that are also key for overall bone health and in preventing diseases like osteoporosis and other conditions that cause bones to weaken.
Here are 5 nutrients that may be key for your bone health, and where they can be found in food items (remember it’s always best to get your nutrients from food when possible). This list includes nutrients that play a role in promoting absorption of key bone nutrients, and in signaling hormones; two key roles that indirectly affect bone health in very important ways.
5 bone nutrients that you may not have heard of:
Boron is a nutrient that is found in small amounts in the body and is key for bone health because it plays a role in absorption of key vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. Boron also plays a role in hormone balance like in the case of estrogen and testosterone, which can also in some ways affect bone health. Boron is not a supplement needed in large quantities, but like other nutrients is important for bone health and can be found in certain foods that contain small amounts of the mineral.
Foods that contain boron:
Strontium is similar to calcium because it too plays a role in helping bones to make more bone, while also helping to prevent bone breakdown, which is very important when it comes to preventing conditions like osteoporosis. Some research is suggesting that women (and men) with osteoporosis may have trouble absorbing strontium in some cases – however, more research is still needed on whether strontium should be supplemented like calcium is in many cases.
Foods that contain strontium:
You may have heard of vitamin K before as it is widely known for the important role it plays in helping the body to make blood clots. As it turns out, vitamin K has more functions than just one, and also comes in different forms. Vitamin K1 is the one that has the function that I previously mentioned, and is found in green vegetables like kale. However, there is another form of the vitamin called K2 that is super important for bone health and isn’t found in the same food sources as K1. Vitamin K2 may help to promote bones to make more bones and prevent bone loss, and in some cases is being used to help treat or prevent osteoporosis.
Foods that contain K2:
Manganese is a nutrient that plays a role in an important antioxidant pathway in the body called Superoxide Dismutase and can be found in food sources like maple syrup. Manganese is mostly found in small amounts in places like the liver, kidney, pancreas, and also plays a role in helping the body to form both connective tissue and bone tissue, playing a major role in calcium absorption. Not having enough manganese may contribute to conditions like infertility and poor bone health.
Foods that contain manganese:
Zinc is a nutrient that’s found in animal protein and plays important roles in immune health and wound healing. As it turns out, zinc is also important for bone health too. Zinc indirectly helps to promote healthy and strong bones because it helps to prevent activation of cells that can break down our bones called osteoclasts and helps to promote balance between many of the key cells in our bones that regulate lots of important functions relating to bone health and strength.
Foods that contain zinc:
Try to incorporate these nutrients as part of a healthy and well-balanced everyday plan that includes many different colored veggies and plant-based foods for optimal health. And remember that it’s always the best idea to get nutrients from food instead of supplements when possible.
If you’re looking for more on bone health and nutrients for bones, see here: