Minerals and Bones—More Than Just Calcium

Bone is made up of collagen, with minerals to give it strength. If you lack minerals, your bones are more prone to breaking as you age. Now, most everyone knows about the importance of calcium for bone health, but there are many other minerals that should be part of your bone health program. Don’t rely on calcium alone. Here is a list of minerals needed to maintain and restore bone:

  • Calcium needs to be balanced with phosphorous (2:1), so the more phosphorous you eat, the greater your need for calcium. Protein and soda raises your phosphorous, so don’t go overboard with either of these. To improve your bones you will need 1200-1500 mg of calcium each day. The best forms (most easily absorbed by your body) are: calcium citrate, malate, gluconate, lactate, ascorbate, and hydroxy apatite. (Try to avoid carbonate, it is the hardest form to absorb and requires normal stomach acid.) Most people think dairy is the best food source but many other foods have even higher amounts. In addition to cheeses, good food sources are: kelp, kale, turnip greens, dulse, collard greens and almonds.
  • Magnesium is needed to activate vitamin D to build cartilage. Magnesium deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency that I see in my patients; and studies have shown that, if it is low, bones are more prone to break. You lose magnesium with excessive sweating and stress, and deficiency is common in perimenopause and menopause. You should take 300 mg/day. Take more if your RBC (red blood cell) magnesium level is below 4.8 mg/dL. Best forms are glycinate, taurate, and aspartate (citrate is good if you are prone to constipation, it will cause your stool to be looser). Good food sources are kelp (the best food source), whole grains (wheat bran and wheat germ), tofu, legumes, seeds and nuts.
  • Boron prevents calcium wasting, is needed for vitamin D to work, and it improves estrogen and testosterone levels. You need 2 to 3 mg/day. Good food sources are fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, many soils are boron deficient which may explain why many Americans are boron deficient, despite eating these foods regularly.
  • Zinc enhances the actions of vitamin D and is also needed to make bone. Most American diets are low in zinc. It is best taken in the Zinc picolinate form. You need 15 to 30 mg/day. The absolute best food source is oysters, but other shell fish, pumpkin seeds and ginger root are also good. Although it is in many legumes, nuts and seeds, zinc is not easily absorbed from these plant foods (it binds to fiber compounds).
  • Manganese is needed for bones to incorporate other minerals and to make collagen. You need 15 to 20 mg/day. Good food sources are nuts (especially pecans, almonds, and brazil nuts), whole grains (especially barley, rye, whole wheat, split peas and buckwheat), dried fruits, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Copper prevents bone breakdown. You need 1 to 2 mg/day. (Beware, however, that too much copper can lower your zinc and vice versa). Good food sources are shellfish- particularly oysters, and legumes.
  • Strontium improves bone density. Over time our food has become low in strontium. The recommended dose is 500 mcg/day, but I sometimes use higher doses in patients suffering bone loss who are resistant to treatment.
  • Silicon is the second most abundant element on earth, second to oxygen, but it is not easily absorbed into our bodies. It is needed for healthy skin, ligaments, tendons and bones. Most people need 20 to 40 mg/day. Good food sources are unrefined grains such as brown rice and oatmeal.

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