- What you need to know about calcium
- Calcium is billed as the bone-building nutrient. But some experts argue that we should pay more attention to exercise and vitamin D.
- Food sources high in calcium
- Problems with calcium supplements
- Other ways to keep your bones strong
- Tips for increasing your vitamin D intake
- How to boost your body’s calcium absorption
- Calcium and Strong Bones
- What to Eat When You Have Crashed and Broken a Bone
- Eat plenty of eggs
- Include fish and seafood
- Get some dairy
- Green leafy vegetables will help too
- Expose your body to sunshine
- Avoid alcohol, sugar, and caffeine
- Five Foods to Strengthen Bones and Joints
- What Should Be the Post Fracture/Trauma Diet?
What you need to know about calcium
Calcium is billed as the bone-building nutrient. But some experts argue that we should pay more attention to exercise and vitamin D.
Updated: May 15, 2018Published: June, 2009
Starting on your 51st birthday, current government guidelines say you’re supposed to consume 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. With advancing years, both men and women begin to experience a decline in the density of bones that makes them weaker and more likely to break. In essence, your bone becomes more porous, and calcium supposedly fills in the holes.
But the amount of calcium adults need continues to be debated. The critics say there’s little evidence that high intake has more than a marginal effect on bone density and fracture prevention. They say exercise and reversing vitamin D deficiency are not promoted enough and are more important for bone health. Professor Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, is one of the leading lights in the critical camp.
Naturally, the proponents see the evidence quite differently — and they set the government recommendations, so they’re hardly a fringe group. They say dozens of studies have shown that high calcium intake builds up bone and prevents fractures. And they cite calcium’s other possible benefits, such as modest protection against colon cancer.
So what should you do? For women, 1,200–1,500 mg of calcium daily doesn’t seem to have any drawbacks. For men, though, it may. Studies have shown a possible connection between calcium and prostate cancer. Great Britain set its daily calcium recommendation at 700 mg, which Professor Willett believes is probably closer to the amount that men should be consuming.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is change how you think about calcium. High intake is not the surefire ticket to bone health that it has been made out to be.
Food sources high in calcium
Most of the calcium in the American diet comes from dairy products. Not only do they contain a lot of the mineral, but it’s in a form that’s easy to digest and absorb. An 8-ounce serving of plain yogurt provides about 400 mg of calcium; an 8-ounce glass of milk, 300 mg; and a slice of cheddar cheese, 200 mg.
Vegetables are another food source, although figuring out how much calcium you’re actually getting is tricky. If a vegetable contains oxalic or phytic acid, then the calcium may be poorly absorbed because of the acids. For example, a cup of frozen spinach contains almost as much calcium as a cup of milk, but only a tenth as much is absorbed because of the oxalic acid.
Calcium fortification of everything from orange juice to waffles is making it easier to get a great deal of calcium through diet alone. Breakfast cereals have been fortified for a long time; three-quarters of a cup of the breakfast cereal whole-grain Total contains 1,000 mg.
Problems with calcium supplements
Acid rebound. Calcium carbonate may cause acid rebound: the stomach overcompensates for the high dose of calcium carbonate, which is alkaline, by churning out more acid. For that reason, people with a history of stomach ulcers are advised that they may not tolerate it and may have to switch to calcium citrate.
Constipation. Calcium supplements can have a mild binding effect but by themselves don’t usually cause serious constipation. But if you’re taking another supplement or medication that binds the stool, the addition of calcium supplements could cause a problem.
Too much calcium. Although it doesn’t happen often, some people have taken so much calcium that it causes hypercalcemia, an above-normal level of calcium in the blood. Hypercalcemia may cause nausea, vomiting, confusion, and other neurological symptoms.
Drug interactions. Large doses of calcium interfere with the absorption of a variety of drugs. You should avoid consuming large amounts of calcium — either in food or as a supplement — within 2–4 hours of taking a tetracycline or quinolone antibiotic. After taking alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), or another one of the bisphosphonate drugs for osteoporosis, you should wait at least 30 minutes before consuming a large amount of calcium.
Potential increased health risks. Excessive calcium supplement intake has been associated with a higher risk of kidney and possibly an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and aggressive prostate cancer.
Other ways to keep your bones strong
Exercise. Weight-bearing exercise includes any activity that pits you against gravity: not just lifting weights, but walking, climbing stairs, even dancing. It’s tremendously important to bone health and preventing fractures. Your muscles get stronger and more coordinated, which helps prevent falls. There’s also a direct effect on bone. Working muscle stimulates bone into becoming stronger. If you want to lower your risk of osteoporosis, a short, brisk walk every day might better serve the purpose than a big calcium pill.
Figure 1: Vitamin D and calcium absorption
Vitamin D. Getting enough vitamin D may be the most important variable in preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin D’s main function in the body is to aid calcium absorption. An analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study found that study participants who consume 500 IU of vitamin D daily are 37% less likely to have broken a hip than women who consume 140 IU. (IU stands for International Units, a measure of biological activity.) Neither total calcium nor milk consumption was associated with a lower risk for hip fracture.
The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 – 800 IU of vitamin D daily. Studies have shown that up to 50% of older Americans don’t get enough vitamin D. There are several reasons for this. The vitamin’s biologically active form is metabolized when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. Theoretically, sun exposure can give you all the vitamin D you need. But north of about 40 degrees latitude — the latitude of Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Denver — the winter sunlight is too weak to produce significant amounts of vitamin D. Even in sunnier climes and times of year, older people tend to spend a lot of time indoors. Moreover, older skin is less effective in making the vitamin even when it’s exposed to sunlight. Sunscreens are another problem: they filter out much of the ultraviolet radiation that produces vitamin D.
Theoretically, you could make up for a shortage of sunshine-generated vitamin D with diet. The problem is that precious few foods contain the vitamin. For practical purposes, it’s limited to several types of saltwater fish. So decades ago, health officials in many northern countries decided to fortify foods with vitamin D. In the United States, milk — but not other dairy foods — was chosen. An 8-ounce glass of milk is supposed to contain 100 IU, although surveys have shown that the actual amount can be a great deal less.
Vitamin K. Your bones also need vitamin K, which is found in green, leafy vegetables.
Tips for increasing your vitamin D intake
- Eat more swordfish, bluefish, salmon, mackerel, or sardines. But swordfish and some species of mackerel are on the list of fish with high mercury levels, so don’t go overboard.
- Take a vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin. Multivitamins are a safety net for many nutrients that might otherwise fall through the cracks. Most brands contain 400 IU of vitamin D.
- Spend more time outdoors. This is a balancing act, because you don’t want to risk skin cancer in pursuit of more vitamin D production.
To learn how to prevent and treat osteoporosis through diet, exercise, and medication, buy the Harvard Special Health Report Osteoporosis: A guide to prevention and treatment.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
How to boost your body’s calcium absorption
Your body contains more calcium than any other mineral. Of your calcium stores, 99% sits in your bones and teeth. The other 1% busies itself throughout your body – helping your blood to clot, your muscles to contract and relax, and your brain and body to communicate via nerve signals.
When you do not consume enough calcium to maintain these basic functions, your body steals the mineral from your bones. And when your bones lose calcium, you increase your risk for osteoporosis and fractures.
You need to add calcium back to your body every day, either through calcium supplements or through the foods you eat. As you get older, your body becomes less able to absorb calcium, so your recommended intake increases with age. Children require anywhere from only 200 milligrams of calcium per day as infants to upwards of 1,300 milligrams daily during the growth spurt of puberty. Adults should get about 1,000 milligrams each day, with needs increasing to 1,200 daily milligrams from the age of 51 for women, and from around the age of 71 for men.
Particular foods and nutrients can help or hinder how much of that calcium you absorb:
Vitamin D: Also called “the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is calcium’s best friend. When your body senses calcium, a hormone sends a message to your kidneys to activate vitamin D. Then vitamin D takes care of calcium business! It helps to move calcium through the intestines so it can be absorbed, and it kick-starts the circulation of the calcium that has been locked up in the bones. You should be getting 600 IU of vitamin D per day (800 IU if you are older than 71) from the sun, supplements, or foods like eggs, fatty fish, cheese, or fortified milks and cereals.
Skim milk: You don’t need to fatten up your milk choice to get more calcium. That is because the calcium in milk is separate from the fat. This means that skim milk actually has a higher concentration of calcium than full-fat milk, because the part that doesn’t contain calcium – the fat – has been removed. So, go for skim or non-fat milk to get more calcium for your buck.
Fruits and vegetables: Eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables is a good idea in the first place, but it also boosts your calcium absorption. When your body digests and metabolizes fruits and vegetables, your body produces bicarbonate, which reduces calcium loss.
Caffeine: For some, the cream stirred into their morning coffee may be the only calcium they get in a day. But the caffeine in coffee could cost you 2 or 3 milligrams of calcium. True, that’s not many milligrams, but it can begin to add up – a few cups of coffee here, a caffeinated pop there, a tea in the evening. Especially if you are at risk of bone loss, consider cutting back on caffeine.
Alcohol: To absorb calcium, you know you need vitamin D. To get vitamin D to its job, your liver has to convert D into its active form. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol can interfere with this process. It is unclear how much alcohol it takes to affect your calcium levels, but moderation is likely the best approach to beer, wine, and spirits.
Oxylate: Though spinach is high in calcium, it is also high in oxylate, a type of acid that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. When eaten together with calcium-rich foods, oxylate may affect your body’s ability to absorb the calcium. That’s why milk and dairy products tend to be better sources of absorbable calcium than green veggies like spinach.
Phytate: Another kind of plant-based acid that can reduce calcium absorption is phytate. Phytate shows up in whole-grain products, as well as in beans, seeds, and nuts. This acid can bind to calcium and make it harder for the body to digest and absorb.
Sodium and protein: Foods containing high levels of sodium or protein may prevent your body from absorbing as much calcium as it should. Instead, the calcium exits through the urine, and the body makes up for it by sapping it from the bones. Post-menopausal women may especially benefit from adding potassium to their diets to counter this effect.
Fibre: Like sodium and protein, fibre is a must for your body. But because it can both speed digestion and bind to calcium in the digestive tract, soluble fibre may affect calcium absorption. Those on a high-fibre diet, like some people with diabetes, should talk to their doctor about eating more calcium-rich foods or supplementing with calcium.
Calcium and Strong Bones
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2004.
- Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504-511.
- Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
- Holick MF, Garabedian M: Vitamin D: photobiology, metabolism, mechanism of action, and clinical applications. In Primer on the metabolic bone diseases and disorders of mineral metabolism. 6th edition. Edited by Favus MJ. Washington, DC: American Society for Bone and Mineral Research; 2006::129-137.
- Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Willett WC, Wong JB, Giovannucci E, Dietrich T, Dawson- Hughes B. Fracture prevention with vitamin D supplementation: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. JAMA. 2005;293:2257-2264.
- Nordin BEC, Need AG, Morris HA, Horowitz M. The nature and significance of the relationship between urinary sodium and urinary calcium in women. J Nutr. 1993;123:1615-1622.
- Teucher B, Dainty JR, Spinks CA, et al. Sodium and bone health: impact of moderately high and low salt intakes on calcium metabolism in postmenopausal women. J Bone Miner Res. 2008;23:1477-1485.
- Remer T, Manz F. Estimation of the renal net acid excretion by adults consuming diets containing variable amounts of protein. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59:1356-1361.
- Prince R, Devine A, Dick I, et al. The effects of calcium supplementation (milk powder or tablets) and exercise on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. J Bone Miner Res. 1995;10:1068-1075.
- Lunt M, Masaryk P, Scheidt-Nave C, et al. The Effects of Lifestyle, Dietary Dairy Intake and Diabetes on Bone Density and Vertebral Deformity Prevalence: The EVOS Study. Osteoporos Int. 2001;12:688-698.
- Lloyd T, Beck TJ, Lin HM, et al. Modifiable determinants of bone status in young women. Bone. 2002;30:416–421.
- Going S, Lohman T, Houtkooper L, et al. Effects of exercise on bone mineral density in calcium-replete postmenopausal women with and without hormone replacement therapy. Osteoporos Int. 2003;14:637-643.
- Borer KT. Physical activity in the prevention and amelioration of osteoporosis in women: interaction of mechanical, hormonal and dietary factors. Sports Med. 2005;35:779-830.
- Baron JA, Comi RJ, Cryns V, Brinck-Johnsen T, Mercer NG. The effect of cigarette smoking on adrenal cortical hormones. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1995;272:151-155.
- Krall EA, Dawson-Hughes B. Smoking increases bone loss and decreases intestinal calcium absorption. J Bone Miner Res. 1999;14:215-220.
- Hopper JL, Seeman E. The bone density of female twins discordant for tobacco use. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:387-392.
- Bolland MJ, Avenell A, Baron JA, et al. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010;341:c3691.
- Li K, Kaaks R, Linseisen J, Rohrmann S. Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nut r it ion study (EPIC-Heidelberg). Hear t.2012;98:920-925.
- US Preventive Task Force. Vitamin D and Calcium Supplementation to Prevent Fractures in Adults: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158:1-36.
- Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, et al. Type of postmenopausal hormone use and risk of breast cancer: 12-year follow-up from the Nurses’ Health Study. Cancer Cause Control. 1992;3:433-439.
- Hulley S, Grady D, Bush T, et al. Randomized trial of estrogen plus progestin for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. JAMA. 1998;280:605-613.
- Lee JR. Osteoporosis reversal: the role of progesterone. Int Clin Nutr Rev. 1990;10:384-391.
- Delaney MF. Strategies for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis during early postmenopause. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005;194:S12-S23.
- Peris P, Guanabens N, Monegal A, et al. Aetiology and presenting symptoms in male osteoporosis. Br J Rheumatol. 1995;34:936-941.
- Kanis JA, Johansson H, Johnell O, et al. Alcohol intake as a risk factor for fracture. Osteoporosis Int. 2005;16:737-742.
- Fink, H. A. et al. Association of testosterone and estradiol deficiency with osteoporosis and rapid bone loss in older men. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 2006;91:3908–3915.
You can’t build new bone (or anything else in your body for that matter) without protein. After all, protein accounts for around half the volume of bone and a quarter of the mass!⁴ So consuming enough protein is crucial for healing a broken bone.
So how much protein is enough? Well, the recommended daily allowance of protein is currently 0.8 g per kg of body weight. But this recommendation was set – over a decade ago – with preventing a protein deficiency in mind. Researchers agree that for optimal health, you need more protein. And that’s especially true for older adults, and those recovering from a fracture! In fact, recent research suggests an intake of 1 to 1.5 g of protein per kg of bodyweight instead.⁵
Here’s an example to help you out: An older adult who weighs 140 lbs would first divide their weight by 2.2 (to calculate their weight in kilograms) = 64 kg. Then they’d multiply this number by 1.5 (the upper end of the new recommended protein intake) = 95 g of protein needed daily. For reference, a 3.5 oz (100g) chicken breast provides around 30 g of protein. So a little over three chicken breasts a day would reach the target intake.
Now, the major reason you need dietary protein to build and repair bone is that it supplies your body with essential amino acids– the building blocks of life! Your body can produce some amino acids itself. These are called the non-essential amino acids. But adults can’t produce eight of the 20 amino acids, so you need to provide them via your diet. These are the essential amino acids.
When it comes to choosing your protein source, animal proteins, like fish, meats, and dairy products are considered complete proteins. That’s because they provide all of the essential amino acids. Plant-based protein sources, like grains, legumes, and vegetables are typically incomplete. That’s because they lack one or two of the essential amino acids (although there are some exceptions like quinoa.)
But vegans and vegetarians needn’t worry about missing out on some of the essential amino acids. You don’t need to intake all the essential amino acids in one go. As long as you consume complementary proteins throughout the day, you’ll be fine. And as a rule of thumb, try to include some form of protein in every meal of the day.
To discover the top sources of protein, and for a little more information on how protein and bone health are linked, visit our “Everything You Need To Know About Protein and Bone Health” page.
There’s no need to drastically increase your calorie consumption while you’re recovering from a fracture.⁶
In fact, maintaining the recommended guideline of 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men will still be sufficient. As long as you use your calorie intake wisely that is!
Depending on the bone you’ve fractured, you could be unable to exercise as much as you’d ideally need to. So it becomes even more important to fuel your body with optimal nutrition. To help your body heal and remain strong, the calories you consume need to be nutrient-dense foods, instead of the empty calories in processed and refined foods.
In fact, you need 13 nutrients in particular to maintain strong, healthy bones:
Plus a handful of vitamins too:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2
These nutrients become even more important during the healing process of a broken bone too!
For more information on the optimal diet for bone health, visit our “Diet and Nutrition” page.
Plus, continue reading to discover how to get ALL these nutrients in one bone-building “super-food.”
In phase 2 of the bone healing process discussed above, inflammation was the key activity. Inflammation wreaks havoc on the body, attacking the immune system and leading to a wide variety of health ailments, left unchecked. But this is where antioxidants come in handy. Particularly vitamins C and E.
Because of all the free radicals swirling around the fracture site, your tissues are swollen with inflammatory molecules. They can overwhelm your existing antioxidant reserves. That’s why consuming antioxidants is crucial to combat these oxidizing free radicals.
Antioxidants keep the oxidizing effect of free radicals in check and have been proven to improve fracture healing time in animal studies. One study on calcium metabolism and oxidative stress in bone fractures shows antioxidants like vitamins E and C, lycopene and alpha-lipoic acid can be helpful in extinguishing free radical damage.⁷
Vitamin C has been studied extensively for its antioxidant activity on bone healing. One study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery studied the effect of vitamin C on fracture healing in elderly rats. Researchers found that supplementary vitamin C ‘improved the mechanical resistance of the fracture callus in elderly rats.’ They suggest that these results may also be mirrored in healing fractures in elderly humans.⁸
Vitamin C is also vital for building collagen– the predominant protein in the bone matrix!⁹
Top Sources of Vitamin C
- Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, and lemons
Please note: If you take a vitamin C supplement, make sure you’re not consuming more than 500 mg in one go. Your body can’t process more than 500 mg at a time.
Vitamin E is highly anti-inflammatory, which, as we’ve discussed, is very beneficial in the healing process of a broken bone.¹⁰
Here’s the thing with vitamin E though; supplements rarely provide you with the full benefit. See, vitamin E supplements only provide one form of vitamin E– alpha-tocopherol. This form of vitamin E will only help you to get rid of certain free radicals, and can actually inhibit your ability to remove others.
So you’ll need to provide some vitamin E via your diet to receive the full range, including gamma tocopherol.
Top Sources of Vitamin E
The best source of dietary vitamin E is nuts and seeds like:
- Sunflower seeds
Minimize Pain Medication
Anyone who’s broken a bone knows there’s a certain amount of pain involved. But while it’s tempting to reach for pain medications during the healing process, you should know they could be doing more harm than good.
Pain meds, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs for short) are sold under many brand names. But unfortunately, all of them, except aspirin, have a costly price for short-term pain relief. The NSAIDs actually increase the time it takes for your body to resolve inflammation.¹¹ That means it takes longer for your broken bone to heal!
What’s more, research shows the NSAIDs can reduce osteoclast activity.¹² That might seem like a good thing initially– remember the osteoclasts resorb your old bone. But that means you’ll be left with more old, weak bone!
If that weren’t enough evidence already, prolonged use of NSAIDs can cause intestinal bleeding too.¹³
So, the evidence is clear, NSAIDs interfere with the healing process of a broken bone and can cause other health issues. But that’s not to say you should suffer the pain of a broken bone with no relief. If you are going to use pain medication, use aspirin. Aspirin won’t interfere with the resolution of inflammation. (It’s important to follow the dosing guidelines provided on the bottle though).
Speaking of inflammation, did you know omega 3 fatty acids, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), combat the inflammation in your body? The very same inflammation that causes bone loss and can delay the healing process of a fracture if it’s left unchecked!
That’s why we created Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil. Triple Power provides 1200 mg combined of EPA and DHA in a mango flavored liquid emulsion that’s super absorbable and super delicious!
What’s more, Triple Power provides two more of the world’s most powerful anti inflammatories– astaxanthin and turmeric curcumin. Turmeric curcumin, in particular, has been shown to be more potent than Aspirin (Bayer etc.) and Ibuprofen (Advil etc.) at suppressing inflammation!¹⁴
So, curcumin shows massive potential as a natural pain and inflammation reliever, and because it’s natural, there are none of the side effects the prescription and over the counter drugs can cause.
The Delicious Remedy to Your Tissue’s Silent Killer…Say Goodbye To Inflammation!
Bone Healthy Supplements
In the caloric intake section above, we mentioned 13 minerals and three vitamins you need for strong, healthy bones. And especially for when you’re healing a broken bone.
But there’s a catch…
Conventional farming and agricultural practices tend to focus on quantity above quality. As a result, our topsoil is becoming less capable of holding moisture and trace minerals, so our produce contains less as a result. Including the trace minerals your bones crave!
What’s more, conventional farming practices use pesticides. These pesticides leave harmful residue on produce which can actually harm your bones further. So, when you can, always try to eat organically grown produce. (You can see the Environmental Working Group’s Annual Shopper’s Guide to produce with the most, and least, pesticides by clicking here).
But to give your bones the best chance to fully heal and remain strong thereafter, you should consider a bone-growth supplement.
AlgaeCal Plus provides ALL 13 essential minerals and the three vital vitamins in one convenient capsule.
The calcium in AlgaeCal Plus is plant-based. It’s actually derived from a marine algae called Lithothamnion superpositum (or Algas Calcareas as the locals call it) harvested off the coasts of South America. In fact, this “super-food” provides the other 12 minerals your bones need too! And because the minerals are provided by a plant source, they’re pre-digested and easily absorbed and put to use in your body.
And the three vital vitamins are added to AlgaeCal Plus to make it a truly complete bone-healing supplement. See, the vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium. And the vitamin K2 helps to direct the calcium to the right place– your bones, and away from the wrong places– your soft tissue, arteries, and organs! (The additional vitamin K2 is especially important, as it’s very rare to come by in food products).
No wonder Bone Health Experts like Lara Pizzorno use AlgaeCal Plus!
The World’s Most Mineral Concentrated Plant-Based Calcium SourceBody-friendly and guaranteed to increase bone densitySee More!
Bone healing requires adequate blood flow and circulation to the fracture site, which is enhanced through exercise. Range of motion, joint loading, and specific tendon-gliding exercises should be used to avoid stress on the fractured bone, while accelerating healing.
If you’re not sure how to do those exercises, not to worry. You can visit the following helpful resources:
- After the Fracture – Osteoporosis Canada: Provides information about pain and practice tips for movement following a fracture. How to sit and stand, get out of a car and bending are all covered.
- Physiopedia discusses various physical therapy management techniques ranging from easy to hard weight-bearing, balance and stepping exercises.
- Epainassist has simple, easy to follow tutorials for various physical therapy exercises, including post pelvic exercises.
What to Eat When You Have Crashed and Broken a Bone
There’s nothing worse than breaking a bone in a bike crash because it takes you out of the saddle for many months. But instead of being sad and eating pizza in front of the TV for comfort, you can do something to recover faster. One thing that will help is eating good food that promotes bone health. Let’s take a look at your best food options.
You need plenty of protein, the main building block for all tissues, and calcium, the most important mineral in bones. You also need enough vitamin D and K, so that your body can properly utilize the calcium for bone repair. Getting enough potassium will also help you retain more of the calcium you get from food. And finally, vitamin C and iron will help you build more collagen, which is the main type of protein needed for bone repair. Now, let’s look at what kinds of foods deliver all of that nutrition.
Eat plenty of eggs
Eggs are a great source of quality protein and they are one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D, so they should be a part of your recovery plan. Aside from that, they contain a wide spectrum of vitamins, and minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, and magnesium, so consider them a great natural multivitamin pill.
Include fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are a great source of calcium, quality protein, and vitamin D. Especially sardines that can be eaten with bones are the best calcium source you can find. Alternatively, you can include red meat that will be a good source of iron as well as protein. Or you can nibble at the end of chicken bones to get some quality calcium if you go for poultry as your protein food of choice.
Get some dairy
Dairy is another great all-around bone-building food. It contains a lot of calcium, vitamin K, and protein. A good cultured yogurt or high-protein cheeses like cottage are great choices, but almost any dairy will be a valuable addition to your diet.
Green leafy vegetables will help too
Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and arugula are all great options. They are a potent source of vitamin K, but also provide good amounts of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Other, colourful veggies and fruits will give you some amount of vitamins and minerals too, but leafy greens should become your daily choice, specifically for vitamin K.
© Profimedia, Panthermedia
Expose your body to sunshine
Even though you will get some vitamin D from fatty fish and egg yolks, the best source by far is sunlight that comes in contact with your skin. Try to get about 30 minutes of exposure a day, depending on your skin tone, geographical location, and time of year.
Avoid alcohol, sugar, and caffeine
If you manage to get the above-mentioned foods into your daily meals, you will boost your bone-repair capabilities substantially. Don’t worry if they aren’t in every meal, just do your best. At the same time, make sure your diet is free from alcohol, foods rich in added sugars, and too much caffeine. Such things make you lose calcium and slow down bone healing in general.
Five Foods to Strengthen Bones and Joints
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone density. Many, however, have no symptoms until they suffer a bone fracture.
“Bone disease is often preventable by getting enough calcium and vitamin D into your diet,” says Kathryn Weatherford, RD, LDN, CNSC, a registered dietitian at BIDMC. “It’s important to be aware of your calcium and vitamin D intake to preserve bone strength as you age.”
According to research, adequate vitamin D levels not only help with bone health, but also improve energy levels and muscle fatigue.
Eat Calcium and Vitamin D Rich Foods
“By eating the right combination of calcium and vitamin D rich foods, we can boost our immune system and protect our bones,” Weatherford says. “Many foods are now fortified in calcium and vitamin D, making it easier to meet our daily recommended intake.”
Here are five food suggestions from the nutrition team at BIDMC:
- Calcium-fortified cereal: Start off the day with a double shot of calcium. Choose a calcium-fortified cereal that is high in fiber (>3g) and low in sugar, then add milk or milk alternative. Whole grain cereal with a cup of milk adds up to 600 mg of calcium.
- Salmon: Fatty fish is an excellent source of vitamin D. Just a 3-ounce portion of wild caught salmon provides more than 100% of daily value of vitamin D.
- Dark leafy greens and vegetables: Mix up your diet with a variety of dark, leafy greens. Variety is key – spinach, kale, Swiss chard and bok choy are just a few examples.
- Yogurt: High in protein and good bacteria to promote a healthy gut, yogurt offers 400 mg of calcium in just an 8-ounce serving. Choose non-fat yogurt for a satisfying and healthy snack, or Greek yogurt which provides additional protein.
- Milk Alternatives: Whether it is almond, soy, cashew or hemp milk, almost all milk alternatives are fortified with both vitamin D and calcium. Almond milk provides up to 45% daily value of calcium and 25% daily value of vitamin D.
Let the Sunshine In!
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” can be synthesized from sunlight. Just 10-15 minutes of sunshine per day can produce enough vitamin D the body needs.
“While this may be easy to do during the summer, it’s not easy during New England winters,” Weatherford says. “Vitamin D deficiency often becomes more prevalent at this time due to lack of adequate sunlight.”
It’s important to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels in the winter or early spring; if your levels are low, your doctor or dietitian can recommend a daily supplement.
Keep Track of Your Daily Intake
Most importantly, keep track of how much calcium and vitamin D you consume each day. If you suspect you’re not getting enough, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
“It’s good to know if you’re vitamin D deficient so you can take steps to fix the problem and keep building strong bones,” Weatherford says. “The goal is to be able to stay active at any age.”
What Should Be the Post Fracture/Trauma Diet?
We all know that bone is a highly vascular organ and a dynamic tissue which is remodelled constantly throughout life.
How does a bone fracture occur?
A bone fracture is a medical condition in which there is a break in the continuity of the bone. A bone fracture can be the result of high force impact or stress, or trivial injury as a result of certain medical conditions that weaken the bones, such as osteoporosis, bone cancer, or osteogenesis imperfecta, etc. The healing process can take weeks, months, or even years depending on the injury.
Can a good Nutrition help?
Food is one factor that can affect how quickly or slowly a broken bone heals. Nutrition is one of many elements that influence bone strength. Good nutrition lays a firm foundation for a healthy body and strong bones. Dietary intake also plays a significant role in protecting the skeleton by maintaining healthy tissues to cushion the force of a fall. Each stage of the fracture healing process brings with it increased nutritional demands. For starters, the whole process requires a great deal of energy—which is generally supplied through the intake of calories in food. Next, healing requires the synthesis of new proteins, which is dependent upon an ample supply of dietary proteins. Dr. Divya Choudhary, Head, Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests what all post fracture diet for a quick healing.
Calcium: Calcium is one of the main bone-forming minerals and an appropriate supply to the bone is essential at all stages of life. Since calcium is the primary mineral in the composition of human bone, it comes as little surprise that it plays the central role in recovery from bone fractures or other bone injuries. Foods high in calcium include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt; almonds; green leafy vegetables, pulses, soy products; and cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, collard and mustard and turnip greens. White sesame seeds are believed to be one of the excellent sources of calcium.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays an important role in drawing calcium from your blood into the bones. Without adequate doses of vitamin D, dietary calcium can have difficulty finding its way into the bones that need the mineral to heal. The sunshine vitamin can be acquired through exposure to unfiltered sunlight. However few people get enough of this vitamin from the sun and need to eat foods rich in D or take supplemental doses. Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna; egg yolks; dairy products, including fortified milk. Increasing your vitamin D also balances your phosphate and calcium ratio in your bones. A 10 – 30 minutes exposure of sun on a daily basis without sunscreen can help the body to synthesise sufficient amounts of Vitamin D.
Vitamin K: This vitamin plays a key role in strengthening osteocalcin, a protein component of bone, without increasing the mineral density of bone. This vitamin is abundantly found in green leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, fish, liver, meat, eggs and cereals.
Vitamin C: A key player in the production of collagen is essential to bone healing. Good sources of Vitamin C include Lemon, Oranges, Mausami, Papaya, Tomato, Guava, Raw amla juice to name a few.
Which foods to avoid?
Just like certain foods promote bone healing, some hinder it. These foods, known as bone robbers, hinder your body’s ability to absorb calcium and vitamins. In some cases, they may cause your body to pull nutrients from the bones. Foods to avoid include foods high in sugar or salt, red meat, alcohol and caffeine.
It is best to abstain from alcohol while healing a broken bone. Patients, who smoke, have a much longer average time to healing. Smoking alters the blood flow to the bone, and it is that blood flow that delivers the necessary nutrients and cells to allow the bone to heal.
Coffee, colas, and other caffeinated drinks increase the rate of calcium loss through the urine.
Salt: High salt intakes affect calcium metabolism and are, therefore, it is recommended to avoid foods with a high salt content e.g. salted chips, packet soups, Pickles, Processed and packaged foods, Ketchups, sauces etc. You need to visit the best nutrition doctor for better results and quick recovery.
Written by Sandra Winslow Category: Education Published: 10 March 2017 Last Updated: 11 March 2017
If you are looking at a healthy recovery after having an orthopedic surgery like knee replacement or even a fracture, then along with ensuring plenty of rest and proper wound care you must also factor in good nutrition. An orthopedic surgery can place immense stress on the body as the body’s metabolism is elevated when it is in the repair mode.
If you are looking at a healthy recovery after having an orthopedic surgery like knee replacement or even a fracture, then along with ensuring plenty of rest and proper wound care you must also factor in good nutrition. An orthopedic surgery can place immense stress on the body as the body’s metabolism is elevated when it is in the repair mode. A well-balanced and nutritious diet becomes indispensable for proper tissue growth, repair and speedy recovery.
Mentioned below are the nutrients that act as building blocks during the post-operative period and aids a quick and healthy recovery. Most of these nutrients can be easily obtained from food that we regularly consume. Let’s dive in to know more about these bone-healing foods that can help you recover faster.
Protein constitutes 55% of our bone volume and hence becomes a key ingredient of the bone-healing diet. Adding this important nutrient to the diet after an orthopedic surgery has shown to attenuate bone loss, reduce the probability of post-surgical infections and increase bone mass. On the other hand, protein deficiency leads to decreased bone building hormones, which in turn slows down the recovery.
Vegetarian Sources of Protein
In order to obtain the essential amino acids present in protein vegetarians are suggested to include the following food items in their diet:
• Soyabean and soy products
• Chia seeds
Non-Vegetarian Sources of Protein:
If you gravitate towards non-vegetarian sources of protein, following are your best options:
To support the healing process 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight is recommended.
Calcium acts in synergy with protein for bone formation and therefore is an essential mineral post-surgery. Even our heart, muscles and nerves need calcium to function properly. The best sources of calcium include dairy products such as low-fat and no-fat milk, yogurt and cheese; fortified foods for example seeds, tofu or rice milk. Dark leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach and kale etc.
Studies suggest that 600-1,000 milligrams of calcium a day is a reasonable goal for bone health.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D works with Calcium to promote bone health as it helps our body absorb and utilize calcium. Sun is the best source of Vitamin D but our body’s ability to make Vitamin D depends on time of year, time of day and where we live. A small amount of Vitamin D can also be obtained from food sources like fatty fish, salmon, tuna, egg, cheese or fortified milk.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C boasts of antioxidant properties and hence is an integral part of our body’s immune function, especially would healing. It can neutralize the effects of free radicals that promote disease. Vitamin C also helps in collagen synthesis, which is required for repairing tendons, ligaments and healing other surgical wounds. Adding adequate amount of this important nutrient in the diet can lead to faster healing post-surgery.
Citrus fruits like orange, strawberries, kiwi, and lemon; and vegetables including broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts etc are a good source of Vitamin C.
The daily recommended allowance of Vitamin C during post-operative period is 500 mg as the body requires more of this vitamin for better healing.
Zinc along with Vitamin C and protein can substantially speed up the recovery after an orthopedic surgery. Deficiency of the same is associated with poor bone health.
Zinc has been shown to aid wound healing, unite bone fractures and prevent osteoporosis due to its role in collagen synthesis. This mineral is mostly found in animal foods. Oysters, meat, dark poultry etc are considered to be the best non-vegetarian sources of protein. On the other hand, fortified cereals, dairy, beans, nuts etc also provide moderate amount of zinc.
6. Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and their role in bone formation. DHA and EPA found in fatty acids have shown to aid bone formation and prevent bone loss. They also boast of anti-inflammatory properties that that protects against the disease causing agents of the bone.
Col-water fatty fish like salmon or tuna are good sources of Omega 3. Other vegetarian sources include tofu, walnuts, canola and flax seeds etc.
Pain medications that are prescribed after the surgery can lead to digestive problems like constipation. As such fiber-rich foods along with drinking plenty of water can have a laxative affect that can help with constipation. Fruits and juices are considered to be most effective in this case.
Adding the aforementioned foods associated with bone healthy nutrients in your diet can really help you recover quickly from surgery. But make sure you consult your doctor on the appropriate proportion of each nutrient in the diet.
Sandra Winslow is a passionate health writer who shares easily digestible info through her clear and effective writing skills. She strives to empower people by creating awareness among people to take control of their lives so that they can bring about better health outcomes. She also works closely with many NGO’s and news organizations that promote authentic information on recent health reports and medical advancements.