May 27, 2015
Our first post, we dove into the best foods for maintaining bone and joint health, here on the blog. Today, we're still focused on the topic of how you can maintain and improve your bone health, but we'll take a look at the specific vitamins and minerals that are most beneficial. Some of them you might already know about, but a few others might surprise you! Vitamin D It's arguable that Vitamin D is the single most important nutrient you can put in your body to ensure healthy bones. This is true for a number of reasons. First, without enough Vitamin D in your system, it might be harder for your body to absorb calcium (arguably the second most important nutrient for bone health -- more on that later). It's important for growing children to get enough Vitamin D as their bones are developing, and it's important for adults to get Vitamin D to help maintain that strong bone density. Maintaining healthy bone density becomes more and more important as you age, as your bones might become more prone to breaking. You can get Vitamin D from three different sources -- sunlight, food, and supplements. Because of the risks of skin cancer from too much sun exposure, food and supplements might be the healthiest, easiest way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is often added to foods and drinks like orange juice, soy milk, cereal, and other dairy products. To get naturally available sources of Vitamin D, eat plenty of fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Calcium Calcium is one of the most important minerals essential for life, yet our bodies cannot produce it. Therefore, we must find calcium through foods and supplements. If we don't get enough calcium, our bodies take calcium from our bones to make up for the overall loss, which then negatively affects bone density. In addition to keeping our bones healthy and dense, calcium helps our blood clot, our muscles contract and relax, and our nerves send signals to our brain -- pretty important stuff, wouldn't you say? The amount of calcium you need per day varies based on your age. Generally speaking, adults 50 years and younger need 1,000 mg daily, while adults 51 years and older need 1,200 mg per day. So, how do you make sure you're getting all the calcium you need? It's all in your diet. Look for low-fat dairy products like skim milk and 0% greek yogurt for a good source of calcium. Leafy green vegetables, like kale and spinach, are also a great way to work calcium into your diet. If you feel like your diet doesn't allow for enough natural sources of calcium, you can always take a supplement. The recommended amount of daily calcium is the same as Vitamin D -- 1,000 mg for adults 50 years and younger, and 1,200 mg for adults 51 years and older. Magnesium There is a strong relationship between magnesium and bone density. The majority of magnesium in adult's body is found in the bones, and contributes to the strength and firmness of bones, and the hardness of teeth. Magnesium is different from Vitamin D and Calcium in that it contributes to many different chemical reactions throughout the body. It is essential and necessary in over 300 enzyme systems within the body, and helps to convert Vitamin D into its active form. Then, Vitamin D can begin to absorb calcium. So as you can see, these three vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D, Calcium, and Magnesium), all work together in chain-link to promote bone health. Eating foods rich in magnesium is key to your overall bone health. Leafy green vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains are all great sources of this mineral. Similar to calcium, you can find many foods that are fortified with magnesium, like breakfast cereals and mineral waters. Vitamin K2 Vitamin K2 is a lesser known vitamin than any of the others mentioned so far, but it might be just as important in maintaining and improving bone health. While magnesium, calcium, and Vitamin D all work together to regulate bone density, Vitamin K2 plays an essential role in the process as well. A fat-soluble vitamin, K2 is required to activate osteocalcin, which is an important protein secreted by the body to, simply put, build bones. What's more, K2 helps remove calcium from places where it shouldn't be -- your arteries, for example. When coupled with other bone-healthy vitamins, minerals, and supplements, K vitamins can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease due to its anti-blood clotting qualities. Do you take supplements to maintain bone health? Do you eat a diet that promotes healthy bone density? Let us know what you do to actively improve your bone health in the comments!