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Other Nutrients That Contribute to Bone Health

Calcium is needed for strong bones and to keep our heart, muscles, and nerves functioning properly. Other vitamins and minerals are also necessary for calcium to be used effectively by our bodies.
Photo credit: Cynthia Che, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Cynthia Che, Flickr Creative Commons

Vitamin D

This vitamin is so important that it is added to many calcium-rich foods and supplements to allow calcium to be absorbed. The best food sources of vitamin D are egg yolks and some fish. Our skin also creates vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. It only takes 20 minutes of sunlight each day. Recent research indicates that many of us are deficient in vitamin D. Some experts are recommending supplements of 600 to 800 IU (International Units) daily. Deficiencies can occur in the winter when days are short and winter clothing covers most of our skin. People with dark skin create less vitamin D. Seniors may also be at risk if outdoor time is limited.

Phosphorus

This mineral is also found in the bone structure. It is more easily absorbed than calcium. Phosphorus is found in many foods we eat, and people are rarely deficient. Some good sources are dairy foods, liver, and sunflower seeds.

Magnesium

Magnesium is another mineral important for bone structure. It is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, bananas, and grain foods. Deficiencies are rare but do occur in alcoholics and those with kidney disease.

Vitamins A, K and C

These are important for collagen production, the first step in bone formation. Vitamin A is essential for the development of new bone cells. Low levels are associated with osteoporosis and increased risk of fracture. Vitamin K is also involved in building cartilage and connective tissues. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights aging factors, including bone depletion. Vitamin K is found significantly in liver and green leafy vegetables. Citrus fruits, kiwis, and cabbage are good sources of vitamin C.

Warning: Vitamin A is needed for many body functions, but too much can contribute to osteoporosis. Vitamin A is found in eggs, the fat in dairy foods, and green and orange fruits and vegetables. If you eat these foods, do not use a supplement in any of the following forms: multivitamin, fish oil, or single supplement providing more than 100 percent of the RDA (700 μg for women, 900 μg for men).

Shopping tips

Calcium-rich foods with added vitamin D are the best choice for good absorption by the body. Choose a variety of foods to get the other important vitamins and minerals in your meals. Spinach, oranges, and dairy foods are good sources of vitamins and minerals important for bone health.

Examine Your Choices

Food
Source
What I buy
What I plan to buy/change
Salad greens
Vitamin K and magnesium
Iceberg lettuce
Spinach and romaine lettuce
       
       

My Goal:

_____________________________________________________________________________

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Mandarin Orange Spinach Salad

Serving size: 1½ cup; 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 cups fresh spinach, washed well
  • 6 large fresh mushrooms
  • 1 red onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 small can of mandarin oranges
  • ¹⁄3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Dressing:

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • Tarragon leaves, 2 tsp fresh or ½ tsp if dried
  • Reserved juice from mandarin oranges
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

Tear spinach leaves into bite-sized pieces, removing stems. Slice mushrooms after washing and removing soiled end from stem. Drain mandarin oranges, reserving juice. Mix dressing ingredients and shake well to blend. Toss with spinach, mushrooms, onion rings, and oranges just before serving. Garnish with almonds.

Nutrition Information: 203 calories, 161 calories from fat, 90 mg sodium, 7.3 g carbohydrates, 2.3 g fiber, 4.1 g protein, vitamin A 89%, calcium 9%, vitamin C 42%, iron 10%.

Sources

Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies, “Dietary Reference Intakes: Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins.

International Osteoporosis Foundation, “Nutrition.”

National Institutes of Health, Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, “Vitamin A and Bone Health.”

Prepared by Frances Alloway, extension educator.

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Title

Other Nutrients That Contribute to Bone Health

Series

Creating Health and Nutrition

Code

UK164

Cost

Free

This publication is available in alternative media on request.