Healthy bones are increasingly important as we get older; aging causes the bones to become less dense, and this can lead to them becoming porous and weakened. Many people are at risk of bone-weakening conditions such as osteoporosis as they age. However, looking after our bone health is something we can do no matter what age we are. As with many aspects of our health and wellbeing, getting the right nutritional balance from the foods we eat is key to ensuring that bones remain healthy and strong. Minerals are particularly important for maintaining healthy bones, so let’s take a look at the most important minerals for healthy bones, whatever your age.
Top Bone Health Minerals
Calcium – When you think about minerals for healthy bones, calcium is probably the one that comes to mind. Our bones store up calcium which is also used by the nervous system. Our bodies prioritize the use of calcium in the nervous system as it is an important part of how the different parts of the body communicate. So, when we are low in calcium, the body releases it from the bones. If calcium intake isn’t enough, or there are problems with absorbing calcium from dietary sources, then bones can become weakened over time. Good sources of calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, but dairy alternatives often have calcium added to make up for this, so check the labels. Dark green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses, and fortified cereals or juices are also good sources of calcium. Calcium supplements come in different forms, so consult a doctor for advice if you feel you should be taking extra calcium.
Magnesium – This essential mineral magnesium works in conjunction with calcium in the bones. Better magnesium levels are linked to improved bone density, making magnesium particularly important for those who suffer from conditions that affect the bones, such as osteoporosis. Magnesium is also extremely important for many other functions within the body, as are many of the important minerals for healthy bones. It is estimated that many people may be deficient in magnesium without realizing it, so it is worth having your levels checked if you are deemed to be at risk of bone problems. You can get magnesium quite easily through a healthy diet. It is found in foods such as leafy greens, legumes, beans, pulses, nuts, and seeds. Some foods such as breakfast cereals have magnesium added to them, so this is worth checking out too. Magnesium supplements come in various forms, so it is best to find out from your health professional, which one might suit you. Sometimes calcium and magnesium come together as a single supplement which may be an option if you lack these important bone-boosting minerals.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is not strictly one of the minerals for healthy bones; it is an essential vitamin for bones. Vitamin D is one of the most important substances for the skeletal system because it is essential for the absorption of calcium. We get our vitamin D from sunlight, as there are few good dietary sources. For people who live far north, those with darker skin or those who are not exposed to much sunlight, vitamin D levels can be low. Supplements are available, which are especially useful for during winter months when there is less sunlight. Vitamin D is one of the crucial minerals for healthy bones. It is also important for immunity and general health. Hence, you must follow advice tailored to your location – some people living in the northern hemisphere are advised to take a vitamin D supplement all year round. Chat to your health care provider for advice on this and see if a supplement or trying to get more daylight could help you.
Iron – There is evidence that if iron levels are low, bone health can be affected. However, it is important to only take iron supplements if you have been tested and are low in it. A straightforward, simple blood test can alert you to low iron levels, and eating iron-rich foods may help. For some people, taking an iron supplement is essential. Be careful when taking iron and calcium, as calcium can block the absorption of iron into the body. Talk to your doctor regarding when to take different supplements and how to prioritize what your body needs. This will help you get the right balance of minerals for healthy bones. Dietary sources of iron include leafy greens (especially dark vegetables), red meat, beans, nuts, and fortified cereals. There are some surprising sources, such as soybean flour and dried apricots.
Potassium – Good levels of potassium are linked to better bone density, whereas lower potassium levels appear to lead to poorer bone density. Potassium has been linked to the prevention of calcium loss. It is important not to have too much potassium, so supplements are not recommended unless your doctor has diagnosed you with a potassium deficiency. This is one of the bone-boosting minerals that should be quite easy to get enough via a normal balanced diet. Potassium is found famously in bananas but also other fruits, vegetables, and potatoes.
Trace Minerals for Healthy Bones
There are also some trace minerals (substances that we only need tiny amounts) that are important for improving and maintaining bone health. These include boron, which is believed to keep bones strong and extend the usefulness of vitamin D in the body. Copper, manganese and zinc are also important for maintaining bone strength; these too can be obtained through the consumption of a normal balanced diet incorporating plenty of fresh produce and lots of healthy variety. While you should not underestimate the importance of getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals for, it is also very wise to get enough strengthening exercise. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regime or course of supplements. Tailored advice for your unique circumstances and medical history is so valuable.