A Healing Diet After Bone Fracture

After a fracture, your bone needs to rebuild. A healthy, well-balanced diet rich in key nutrients can help speed that up.

You don’t need to take a supplement unless your doctor tells you to take one. In fact, they aren’t always effective. It’s much better to get the nutrition you need from your plate, not from a pill.

Protein

About half your bone’s structure is made of this. When you have a fracture, your body needs it to build new bone for the repair. It also helps your body take in and use calcium, another key nutrient for healthy bones.

Good sources: Meat, fish, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, nuts, pulses, seeds, beans, soy products, and fortified cereals.

Calcium

This mineral also helps you build strong bones, so foods and drinks rich in it can help your bone fracture heal. Adults should get between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day. Your doctor will tell if you need a calcium supplement, and what amount you should take if you do.

Good sources: Milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, broccoli, turnip or collard greens, kale, bok choy, soy, beans, canned tuna or salmon with bones, almond milk, and fortified cereals or juice.

Vitamin D

This vitamin should be a part of your diet to help your fracture heal. It helps your blood take in and use calcium and build up the minerals in your bones. You actually get some vitamin D when sunlight hits your skin, so it can be a good idea to spend a short amount of time outdoors each day -- 15 minutes may be enough for a fair-skinned person.

Vitamin D is found in only a few foods like egg yolks and fatty fish, but it’s added to other foods. Adults should get at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily, and those over 70 should get at least 800 IU.

Good sources: Swordfish, salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, liver, fortified milk or yogurt, egg yolks, and fortified orange juice.

Vitamin C

Collagen is a protein that’s an important building block for bone. Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, which helps your bone fracture heal. You can get it from many tasty, fresh fruits and veggies. Aged or heated produce can lose some of its vitamin C, so go for fresh or frozen.

Good sources: Citrus fruits like oranges, kiwi fruit, berries, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and green vegetables.

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Iron

If you have iron-deficiency anemia -- when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells -- you may heal more slowly after a fracture. Iron helps your body make collagen to rebuild bone. It also plays a part in getting oxygen into your bones to help them heal.

Good sources: Red meat, dark-meat chicken or turkey, oily fish, eggs, pulses, dried fruits, leafy green veggies, whole-grain breads, and fortified cereals.

Potassium

Get enough of this mineral in your diet, and you won’t lose as much calcium when you pee. There are lots of fresh fruits rich in potassium.

Good sources: Bananas, orange juice, potatoes, nuts, seeds, fish, meat, and milk.

What Not to Eat

It’s a good idea to cut back on or skip these:

Alcohol: While you don’t have to cut out alcoholic drinks, these beverages slow down bone healing -- you won’t build new bone as fast to fix the fracture. A bit too much alcohol can also make you unsteady on your feet, which can make you more likely to fall and risk an injury to the same bone.

Salt: Too much of this in your diet can make you lose more calcium in your urine. It can be in some foods or drinks that don’t taste salty, so check labels and aim for about one teaspoon, or 6 grams, a day.

Coffee: Lots of caffeine -- more than four cups of strong coffee a day -- can slow down bone healing a little. It might make you pee more, and that could mean you lose more calcium through your urine. A moderate amount of coffee or tea should be fine.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on June 28, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Nonunions.”

American Society of Orthopedic Professionals: “Essential Nutrients to Aid Fracture Repair.”

Dairy Council of California: “Eating to Heal a Broken Bone.”

New York State Osteoporosis Prevention Program: “Spine Fractures.”

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Vitamin D.”

National Osteoporosis Society UK: “Minerals and bone health.”

Journal of Bone and Mineral Metabolism, May 2017.

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