5 bone-strengthening nutrients you need to be getting

Osteoporosis, which literally translates to porous bones, affects three million people in the UK, while one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone through the condition, according to the National Osteoporosis Society.

Sufferers have thin, fragile bones which break easily – and the consequences include chronic pain, a constant risk of fractures after a fall, and the increased possibility of spinal curvature.

As a runner, you are afforded some bone protection thanks to doing regular weight bearing exercise, which helps to slow the age-related decline in bone density, however, there are still a number of other risk factors to watch out for, including a poor diet and lifestyle habits such as smoking and genetics.

(Related: Is weight bearing exercise really useless for bone strength?)

Paul Chamberlain, Nutrition and Education Director at Solgar, says it’s important to eat the right diet in order to prevent osteoporosis in later life: ‘Poor nutrition is a major factor in increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis – a health issue which can develop very slowly over the course of decades.’

Here are the essential nutrients he recommends:

1/ Calcium

This is because your body needs calcium for a lot of processes including nervous system function, meaning if you’re deficient it’s leached from your bones. Chamberlain explains: ‘If dietary calcium intake is low hormones are released that stimulate what is know as calcium resorption from the bones – breaking down bone to release calcium back into the blood to maintain calcium homoeostasis.’

Eat this: Your mum was right – dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium for your bones. Other good sources include tofu, some fish such as salmon and sardines, baked beans, figs, nuts and seeds

Supplement with: Synergistic calcium, £8.19, Quest.

2/ Vitamin C

Okay, vitamin C is recommended for everything under the sun, but for good reason – and it’s a key part of your healthy bone diet. 'Vitamin C helps collagen formation for the normal function of cartilage and bones,’ explains Chamberlain.

Eat this: Fruits such as papaya, oranges and pineapple, plus vegetables including broccoli and bell peppers are all excellent sources of vitamin C.

Supplement with: Solgar Vitamin C 1000mg capsules, £14.99 for 100, Holland & Barrett.

3/ Vitamin D

Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is essential for healthy bones: ‘It helps calcium to be absorbed from food and therefore helps control the process of bone resorption [the aforementioned leaching calcium from bones business],’ says Chamberlain.

(Related: Why vitamin D is important for runners)

However, absorption isn’t so simple – especially during the colder months in the UK. ‘It is clear that the best way of obtaining vitamin D is from exposure of the skin to UVB sunlight (in moderation), which through a complex process creates vitamin D3. However, in the winter months, and if you apply sunscreen, this process doesn’t work.’

Therefore, it’s wise to supplement vitamin D, as well as getting it from food sources.

Eat this: Egg yolks, fatty fish like tuna and mackerel, cheese.

Supplement with: BetterYou DLux Oral Vitamin D Spray 1000IU, £6.95, Better You.

4/ Vitamin K

‘Vitamin K is required for bone formation and may play a role in the prevention of fractures.’ It’s especially useful for post-menopausal women, who tend to lack this vitamin, adds Chamberlain.

Eat this: Green leafy vegetables (think collards, kale and spinach), natto (a Japanese food made from fermented soy) and fermented dairy products.

Supplement with: Holland & Barrett Vitamin K2 50ug, £13.99 for 30, Holland & Barrett.

5/ Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral for bone health, according to Chamberlain, thanks to its role in the collagen formation process. It also plays a role in what’s known as osteoblast activity, the process by which cells make bones.

Eat this: Beef, chicken, seafood including crab and oysters, cashew nuts, baked beans.

Supplement with: Holland & Barrett Maximum Strength Zinc 25mg, £8.69 for 100, Holland & Barrett.

Remember, however, that zinc can sometimes cause unpleasant GI symptoms when taken on an empty stomach – so try and eat with a meal. It also competes for absorption with calcium, so try not to take zinc at the same time as you eat dairy or take a calcium supplement.