Broken Bone? Speed Your Healing

by karen on June 28, 2019

I must admit, I was surprised when I learned that I’d broken my toe a little over a month ago, but even more surprised to learn that a friend broke the same toe a week earlier. Neither of us was doing anything exciting or daring, we simply weren’t paying attention to where we were walking and caught our toes on the corners of furniture. But as I nurse mine back to health, perhaps another reader is working on the same, and it never hurts to get a review of how to take care of our all-important bones to prevent fracture.

Bone Health 101

Bones need a host of nutrients for health and healing that are important to consume regularly, and conversely, there are a number of things we ingest that can harm our bones. Even a small bone in a small toe needs love and attention.

First, let’s review the healthy, well-balanced diet guidelines that are rich in key nutrients to speed healing.


About half of our bone’s structure is made of protein. With a fracture, protein is needed to build new bone that heals and repairs the fracture, and sufficient protein also helps the body take in and use calcium, another key nutrient for healthy bones.

Roughly, women need 65-80 grams of protein daily, and men can have up to 100. This should be sufficient for bone health and healing, so monitor your protein intake for a few days to ensure your needs are being met.

Note: protein from animal sources (meat, eggs, and dairy) can create an acidic environment in our bodies that compromises bone health. Maintain your plant-forward diet to get sufficient protein from soy products, nuts and seeds, legumes and vegetables. And don’t overdo your protein intake, as excess protein intake promotes bone thinning and osteoporosis.


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. Menopausal women should aim for 1,500 milligrams. Milk and yogurt contain 200-300 mg calcium per cup, cheese has about 125 mg per ounce, foods and beverages like cereal and alternative milks are fortified with calcium, but most adults need a supplement to bridge the gap. Calcium in vegetables may not be well-absorbed, so it may be best not to count it.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps calcium, essentially the cement of your bones, get into and stay in your bones.

Very few foods have natural vitamin D (eggs, fatty fish), and foods that are fortified have little vitamin D either (100 iu in a cup of milk), but a minimum of 1,000 to 5,000 iu of vitamin D3 daily is recommended for most. Almost all Americans are vitamin D deficient, so supplementation appears to be a must, and needs vary greatly to achieve and maintain healthy levels in our bodies, including our bones, so it may be worthwhile to check with your doctor regarding your specific needs.

Vitamin C and Potassium

Vitamin C is an essential element for formation of collagen and elastin that help build ‘bridges’ in our bony matrix. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamin C and potassium, which help neutralize acidic animal-based diets that can weaken bones. So, up your fruit and vegetable intake to protect your bones.

Vitamin A

This micronutrient can be harmful to bone if consumed in too-high doses, so keep to a supplement with less than 100% of the daily recommended intake of 700 to 900 mcg.

Zinc and Copper and …

Zinc and copper are important players involved in enzyme processes to heal bone. Phosphorus, manganese, vitamin K and magnesium, along with vitamin B6 in sufficient amounts are needed too. Take a multivitamin to ensure there are no deficiencies that can slow bone healing.

Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients

Many of the nutrients listed above are anti-inflammatory as well as nourishing to our new bone growth. Fatty fish, olive oil, flax seed, fruits and vegetables and whole grains are all excellent foods to include in your diet on a daily basis. Twice a week on the fish is sufficient to get a hefty dose of omega-3 anti-inflammatory.

Cut Back on These Items


While you don’t have to cut out alcoholic drinks, these beverages do slow down bone healing. You won’t build new bone as fast when having alcohol in your diet, so consider abstaining for a few months while your bone heals.


Sorry to be hitting where it hurts at the end of our blog, but more than four cups of strong coffee can slow down bone healing a bit. If it acts as a diuretic and makes you urinate more, you could lose more calcium through your urine. Three cups or fewer of coffee or tea should be OK for your bones.


We all get too much sodium in our diets, which is a contributor to high rates of osteoporosis in our country. Like coffee, too much salt causes calcium losses through the urine. The recommended amount of sodium in our diet is 2300 mg, and you know it’s not much if you track your food intake.

Karen Fisher, MS, RD, LDN, CDE is a dietitian in Reno, Nevada, happily promoting the benefits of healthy foods at her nutrition consulting firm, Nutrition Connection. Find her website

To find a nutrition expert in your area, go to the academy website – Find an Expert

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