Calcium is the most important mineral for bone health. However, there are other minerals that play an important role as well. The good news is that a balanced diet provides adequate nutrients for most people—without the need for expensive supplementation.
Here’s a snapshot of some mineral super-stars and links to further information about each one. Notice that many of the foods that supply them are the same, making it a lot easier to eat right.
In laboratory animals, boron deprivation can lead to poor bone development. Boron deficiency may be associated with vitamin D deficiency. It appears that boron reduces the excretion of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, all of which are necessary for strong bones. No dietary requirement has been set, but 4 to 5 milligrams daily is ample. Large doses can be toxic.
Sources of Boron: almonds, apples, bananas, broccoli, celery, pears, grapes, legumes, nuts, and tomatoes.
Copper is involved in collagen maturation and this protein helps provide the “infrastructure” that holds bone together. It appears that typical intake of copper is less than the recommended daily allowance and can lead to reduced bone formation, but further studies are needed.
Sources of Copper: Beans, nuts, mushrooms, liver, oysters, cereals, and chocolate.
Iron is a co-factor for the enzymes involved in collagen synthesis. In laboratory tests, low levels of iron may lead to lower bone strength. Caveat: if you’re taking calcium, don’t take iron at the same time, because some studies suggest that calcium supplements may inhibit the absorption of iron.
Sources of Iron: Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and red meat.
Two-thirds of our body’s magnesium is found in our skeletons. Magnesium is also essential to the proper functioning of nerves and muscles and all living cells. Unfortunately, many of us appear to be taking in too little magnesium. Alcohol and diuretics can drain our supply because they increase urinary excretion. Magnesium can be replaced with a 100 mg tablet or capsule daily, and its level in the blood can be measured accurately in commercial reference laboratories.
Sources of Magnesium: Chocolate, green vegetables, nuts, seeds, squash, whole grains-and hard water.
Phosphorus is another element that is essential for bone growth. Eighty-five percent of our body’s phosphorous is incorporated in our bones as calcium phosphate. Although most people probably take in enough phosphorous in their diet, vegetarians who do not eat dairy products run the risk of developing phosphorus deficiency which can result in a serious bone disease resembling vitamin D deficiency (rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults).
Sources of Phosphorus: Cereals, dairy, eggs, fish, meat, legumes, nuts, and grains.
Potassium plays a vital role in maintaining bone health. Certain potassium salts neutralize the acids produced during the body’s metabolic processes. These acids deplete bone “much like acid rain eats away at a limestone statue.” The current RDA is 4,700 mg/day, or about 6½ cups of fruit and vegetables. The average daily intake of potassium in the U.S. is too low—about 2,200 mg in women and 3,200 mg in men.
Sources of Potassium: Avocados, bamboo shoots, beans, cereals, orange juice, and scallops.
Like copper, zinc in trace amounts is essential to collagen synthesis that helps provide a structural platform for bone formation. As with magnesium, excessive alcohol intake can reduce our supply of zinc.
Sources of Zinc: Eggs, fish, legumes, milk, poultry, oysters, and whole-grain breads.
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