If you or someone you care about has ever experienced the debilitating effects of severe back pain, you know just how far you’ll go in trying to prevent it from returning. There are so many “right” things you can do – practice good posture and ergonomics, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and more. One other area of influence you can have in keeping the bones in your spine healthy is your diet. I don’t mean D.I.E.T. as in that nasty four-letter word that prevents us from enjoying the foods we love. I simply mean introducing or including more of certain foods on your menu that will aid in keeping your bones healthy and strong for many years to come.
The vitamin and mineral make-up in our bodies is hugely responsible for dictating how healthy we are. While you can buy vitamins that keep the bones strong in supplement form from any grocery store, you’re better off actually eating the foods that contain the vitamins you need. The reason for this is simple – the nutrients that the body needs, can all be found in the foods that we were designed to eat. You can follow a supplement regimen down to the letter of the instructions on the bottle and you’ll be doing yourself no good if your diet otherwise consists of unhealthy or heavily processed foods. So which vitamins are essential for our bones and what foods should you eat more of for better bone (and overall, really) health?
Vitamin A – Vitamin A helps repair tissue and aids in the formation of healthy bone. Good sources include spinach, kale, broccoli and orange colored fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe. A word of caution here is to be careful in using Vitamin A in its supplement form, unless under the guidance and direction of your physician. Some studies have shown that too much Vitamin A can actually work against healthy bones by accelerating bone loss.
Vitamin B12 – Crucial to the development of healthy bone marrow, food sources rich in B12 vitamins include shellfish, animal liver products (beef, chicken and duck), fortified cereals and low-fat dairy products. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 has been more recently researched as a potential contributor to bone loss and fracture in older men and women.
Vitamin K – You may be surprised to know that Vitamin K is necessary for the proper absorption of calcium into our bones. What’s more? Studies have shown that people who are deficient in Vitamin K are more prone to fractures. This vitamin is especially important for women who have experienced menopause and the unwanted bone loss that can accompany it. To help calcium do the important work it does, foods with the biggest bang for your Vitamin K buck include leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, olive oil and dried fruits.
Iron – Similar to Vitamin K, iron is also a “helper” in providing the body with the ability to absorb calcium. And while not necessarily directly related to bone health, a healthy balance of iron in our bodies also aids in keeping blood cells properly functioning which in turn provides the best circulation and flow to the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. So to get your daily dose of powerful iron, add organ (liver) meat, oysters, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and cooked spinach to your plate.