A balanced diet helps prevent fractures by giving bones a regular supply of the nutrients they need to stay strong. If you break a bone, nutrients are even more important to support bone repair. Without proper nutrition, the bone may heal too slowly or it may not heal at all. Protein, calcium and vitamins C and D are the nutrients needed to support healing, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
1. Bone Basics
When it comes to nutrients for your bones, you need more than the obvious minerals. Your body builds bones by attaching crystals of calcium and phosphorus to a collagen matrix. To synthesize collagen, take up minerals and rebuild supporting vessels, you need a variety of nutrients. In addition to the protein, calcium and vitamins C and D on the list for healing, the building and maintaining of strong bones also require magnesium, zinc and vitamins A and K.
Any time your body must rebuild and recuperate, whether from surgery, illness or a broken bone, it needs extra energy to support the healing process. Even if a broken bone slows you down, don’t be tempted to cut back on calories. If you don’t consume enough, the healing process will slow down or stop. If you need surgery to align the bone or your fracture is severe, you may need to increase your caloric intake temporarily, but consult your physician about your energy demands.
Tissues need protein for structure but it’s especially vital for healing fractures. Collagen is made from protein and a variety of proteins enhance healing by regulating bone metabolism. Your daily diet should include 46 grams of protein, which is the intake normally recommended for healthy women. Don’t consume excess amounts of protein unless under the guidance of your health-care provider -- eating too much protein for an extended period of time may cause bones to lose calcium.
4. Calcium and Vitamin D
Consuming calcium is absolutely essential for a fracture to heal properly. Along with calcium, you also need vitamin D because your body can’t absorb calcium without it. The recommended daily allowance for calcium is 1,000 milligrams. The best sources of calcium are fat-free dairy products, as well as broccoli, kale and calcium-fortified orange juice. Women need 600 international units of vitamin D daily. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D. Otherwise, natural sources are limited to fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, beef liver, egg yolks and some mushrooms. Most women get their vitamin D from fortified milk and cereals.
5. Vitamin C
Bone fractures will not heal without vitamin C, which must be available to make collagen. When bones break, they generate a lot of free radicals, so you’ll also benefit from vitamin C's antioxidant ability. Good sources include oranges, red and green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomato juice and green peas. Women need 75 milligrams of vitamin C daily, but should increase their intake to 85 milligrams daily during pregnancy and 120 milligrams if they’re breast-feeding.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Nonunions
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Calcium, Nutrition and Bone Health
- National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Texas A&M: Bone Development and Structure
- BetterBones.com: How to Speed Fracture Healing
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein and Chronic Disease
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Neurosurgical Focus: Principles of Bone Healing
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