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Vitamins, minerals and nutrients for bone health

In addition to calcium and vitamin D, many other vitamins, minerals and nutrients are needed to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Try not to become too concerned with getting all these in your diet. If you enjoy a healthy, balanced diet, you're getting everything you need. In most cases, you don't need any additional supplements.

You can find more information on the vitamins, minerals and nutrients listed on this page on the further food facts and bone factsheet.

If you have a medical condition that affects how food is absorbed, such as:

  • Crohn’s
  • coeliac disease
  • severe liver disease

- speak to your doctor. They can advise whether you need any supplements, to make sure you're getting everything you need.

For more information about healthy, balanced eating, we recommend you take a look at The Eatwell Guide, developed by the NHS.

Vitamins

Vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cyanocobalamin) help strengthen your bones and prevent breaks.

B12 support your bone building cells (osteoblasts)

B9 and B12 help to control levels of homocysteine, which is linked with an increased risk of breaking a bone in older people.

Foods that contain B vitamins

Vitamin B6 is found in:

  • pork
  • poultry
  • liver
  • fish
  • bread
  • brown rice
  • eggs
  • vegetables
  • beans
  • soya beans
  • peanuts
  • milk
  • potatoes
  • whole cereals e.g. oatmeal & wheat germ
  • some fortified breakfast cereals

Vitamin B9 is found in:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • spinach
  • asparagus
  • peas
  • chickpeas
  • liver
  • wholegrain bread
  • brown rice
  • nuts
  • oranges
  • bananas
  • fortified breakfast cereals

Vitamin B12 is found in:

  • beef
  • lamb
  • liver
  • shellfish
  • salmon
  • cod
  • cheese
  • milk
  • eggs

Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are a natural by-product of your body converting oxygen and food into energy. It’s thought that if free radicals build up, they can cause your bones to lose strength.

Vitamin C also supports the formation of collagen, a protein important in bone formation.

Foods containing antioxidants

Vitamin C is found in:

  • oranges and orange juice
  • red and green peppers
  • strawberries
  • blackcurrants
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • potatoes

Vitamin E is found in:

  • soya, corn and olive oils
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • cereals

Vitamin K activates a protein called osteocalcin, which builds and heals your bones.

There are two types: K1 and K2.

Foods containing vitamin K

Vitamin K1 is found in:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • parsley
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • asparagus
  • okra
  • fruit
  • cereals
  • vegetable oils

It’s found in smaller amounts in eggs, meat and dairy.

Vitamin K2 is found in:

  • fish
  • meat
  • liver
  • eggs
  • soy
  • fermented dairy foods, like some soft cheeses and yoghurt

K2 is also found naturally in your gut, as a result of good bacteria.

Minerals

Boron helps your body get the most out of the minerals it receives. It also reduces the amount of minerals you lose in your urine.

Foods containing boron
  • green vegetables
  • avocados
  • potatoes
  • fruit
  • dried foods
  • nuts
  • eggs
  • milk
  • wine

Copper helps calcium and other minerals attach to the protein structure that makes up your bones.

Although it's an important mineral, having too much in your body can be toxic to the liver and kidneys.

Foods containing copper
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • fruit
  • beans
  • sunflower oil
  • mushrooms
  • shellfish

Magnesium helps your body use calcium and vitamin D.

It helps minerals, like calcium, harden and strengthen your bones.

It’s not yet clear whether low magnesium levels increase your risk of breaking a bone, but it is thought to be a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Foods containing magnesium

You should be able to get all the magnesium you need from food, as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

  • green vegetables
  • milk
  • dairy
  • tap water (in areas with hard water)
  • nuts
  • brown rice
  • fish
  • meat
  • bread (especially wholegrain)
  • breakfast cereals
  • bananas
  • orange juice

Potassium has been found to reduce acidity in the bloodstream, and the amount of calcium you lose in your urine. This could be good for bone health.

Foods containing potassium
  • bananas
  • fruit
  • orange juice
  • vegetables
  • potatoes
  • coffee
  • nuts and seeds
  • pulses
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • beef
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • milk

Silicon helps calcium and other minerals attach to the protein structure that makes up your bones.

Foods containing silicon
  • cereals
  • rice
  • water
  • beer
  • bananas
  • many other fruits and vegetables

Zinc helps calcium and other minerals attach to the protein structure that makes up your bones.

Foods containing zinc
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • red meat
  • shellfish
  • bread
  • cereals
  • Brazil nuts
  • pecans

Other nutrients

Fatty acids help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins essential for bone health, like D, E and K.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 (polyunsaturated fatty acids) are also thought to promote good bone health.

Foods containing fatty acids

Omega-3 is found in:

  • mackerel
  • kippers
  • herring
  • trout
  • sardines
  • salmon
  • mussels
  • oysters
  • crab
  • walnuts
  • flaxseed (linseed) oil
  • rapeseed oil
  • soya-based foods, like tofu
  • omega-3 enriched eggs

Omega-6 is found in:

  • sunflower, corn and sesame oil
  • eggs
  • turkey
  • some nuts
  • evening primrose oil supplements

Phyto-oestrogens have a slight 'oestrogrenic' effect on the body. Some people believe this may help to keep bones strong in postmenopausal women whose natural oestrogen levels have dropped.

Evidence is yet to prove this to be the case.

They are plant-based substances, found in:

  • soya products, like tofu and soya milk
  • linseed

A mix of different proteins forms the structure in your bones, which other minerals attach to make them strong and hard.

Getting enough protein becomes even more important as you get older. It helps your muscles stay strong, reducing your risk of stumbling and falling - which can lead to broken bones.

You should aim to consume two to three servings of protein each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Foods containing protein

Protein is found in:

  • meat
  • fish
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • pulses
  • baked beans
  • soya products
  • cereals
  • alternative milks

Protein is made up of different amino acids, each with their own beneficial effects.

Animal sources of protein contain the full range of essential amino acids.

Individual plant sources of protein contain a limited range of amino acids. If you're vegan or vegetarian, you can get the full range of amino acids by including a good variety of different plant sources in your diet.

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