A Healthy Diet Contributes to a Healthy Back

"You are what you eat", goes the old saying. Whilst a healthy back is largely the product of good posture, diet is also an important factor.

Ergonomic and regular exercise is essential

Almost anybody who spends eight hours working at a desk, standing up or lifting heavy loads each day puts uneven strain on their back. Being overweight puts further strain on the back because it needs to support those extra pounds. A vicious cycle often eventuates. People who spend the whole day sitting down tend to gain weight, suffer back pain and are then no longer able to exercise properly. So do your back a favour: take regular breaks and get some light exercise at work, and start daily exercises to improve you back flexibility.

In addition, doctors and physiotherapists recommend sports that counteract the strain that a sedentary workday puts on your back. Perhaps a few laps of the pool, weekly football training, a trip to the gym or rock climbing is in order. Others prefer a daily jogging session, commuting to work on the bike or going on long walks with the dog. Yoga, Feldenkrais (Backlink) and tai chi is good for the back provided that it is done properly, as are all forms of exercise that use large muscle groups. In short, everything that makes the back move promotes the development of a stable back musculature. It is also helpful to change your posture as often as possible at work. Leaning forwards, backwards, standing up, rolling your shoulders and walking around while taking telephone calls are the little things that will collectively make a big difference to your back health.

Back Health in a Nutshell

Your eating habits can also have a significant impact on your back health. Whilst exercise ensures that spinal discs compress and stretch evenly and thereby receive nutrient-rich spinal fluid, a healthy intake of vitamins and minerals is necessary for the spinal discs to receive any nutrients at all. To maintain a healthy back, a balanced diet is essential. Such a diet includes fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, figs, nuts, fish and sometimes meat. If you want to do your back a favour, you should consume a sufficient amount of calcium in your diet.

The Bone Regenerator: Calcium

There is no other mineral that is as common in the human body as calcium. As a result, we need to consume calcium in healthy amounts. Calcium is an electrolyte that strengthens bones and teeth, and it also plays a decisive role in blood clotting, regulating heart rate and variety of metabolic processes. It is impossible to overdose on calcium; the body removes any excess in the stool. However, a body that does not receive enough calcium will remove it from bone tissue and divert it to blood clotting and to nerve and muscle tissue. Good sources of calcium include milk and dairy products, sunflower seeds, garden cress, eggs, legumes, green vegetables such as broccoli, fennel and beet, and fish (particularly sardines and herrings).

The Great Vitamin-ABC(D)

Vitamin D is great for your bones. It regulates how you metabolise phosphates and calcium and contributes to the stabilisation of bone tissue. A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to skeletal weakness and also to a weak immune system, high blood pressure and allergies. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that can be formed by the body on its own, and it is activated through sunlight making contact with the skin. The scarcity of sunlight in the winter months means that diet is particularly important during this period. Fish such as herrings, salmon and anchovies are good sources of vitamin D.

Vitamin D in combination with the well-known vitamin C is an important factor in the formation of collagen. It contributes to dense and elastic sinews and ligaments as well as bone density, optimal calcium absorption capacity and stronger connective tissue. Good sources of vitamin D include black currants, acerola cherries, rosehip, sallow thorn, citrus fruits, papaya, mangoes and pineapples. A back-conscious person will value the whole ABC vitamin complex.

Aside from vitamins D and C, vitamins A and B are also conducive to back health. Vitamin B is a natural painkiller and vitamin B12, above all, is good for the nerves. It is available in high doses in animal products such as innards, fish, cheese, meat and milk. Vegetarians and particularly vegans need to include enough vitamin B12 in their diet; often this is only possible through nutrition supplements.

Vitamin A is important in bone development and healing, improves vision and can be accessed in high doses through oranges, carrots, apricots, spinach, broccoli and pumpkin. Once again, we find ourselves repeating the old wisdom that vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs and dairy products are part of a balanced diet. The typical vitamin killers—nicotine, caffeine and alcohol—should be limited as strictly as possible or avoided altogether.

Calcium-Rich Meals:

  • Green soup (made out of broccoli, basil and potatoes)
  • Prawns with potatoes
  • Beetroot salad
  • Chicken fillet with spinach ravioli
  • Poached, scrambled or fried eggs
  • Amaranth muesli
  • Plaice fillet with potatoes
  • Fried herring
  • Camembert with cranberries
  • Baked salmon on kale
  • Basil soup with goat’s cheese
  • Broccoli cream soup

To stay fit and healthy, you need to complement a healthy diet with sufficient exercise. To learn how to incorporate exercise into your workday, take a look at our Fitness Special!

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