Diet & Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Back
Updated: Sep 1, 2019
Each year, millions of people suffer from back pain in some form or another. It can be debilitating to go through a daily routine with constant or sporadic discomfort, leading some to miss work, skip out on activities with friends and family, or accomplish other tasks. Back pain may even lead to disability claims if it isn’t addressed. While causes of back pain vary from one person to the next, there are steps you can take from a diet and nutrition perspective to improve the health of the spine over time. Here are some things to consider.
Foods for Spinal Health
Nearly everyone recognizes the importance of eating a balanced diet to maintain overall health. It keeps weight in check first and foremost, but it can also lead to improvements in your spinal health if you focus on the right food choices. These often include the following:
Plant-based protein – foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, and chia seeds offer up nutrients you may not know you are missing. These foods help keep inflammation at bay, unlike some of the animal-based proteins including red meat. Plant-based proteins also provide antioxidants, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals that help support spinal health.
Omega-3 fatty acids – salmon, seaweed, and flaxseeds may also be great choices for boosting the health of your back. These choices are sources of omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation while improving tissue and bone health throughout the body. You can also take an omega-3 supplement like fish oil to increase your intake.
Omega-9 fatty acids – although omega-9 fatty acids are produced in the body naturally and may not be an essential addition to your diet, they can provide health benefits when it comes to your back. Foods including avocado and avocado oils, pecans, olives and olive oil, and cashews offering omega-9 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation in the body while increasing energy and improving mood.
Deep green vegetables – foods such as spinach, kale, and broccoli provide nutrients that help reduce back pain by decreasing inflammation in the spine. Similarly, carrots and peppers can bring down substances in the blood that are related to inflammation, ultimately helping with back pain.
Other vitamins and minerals – ensuring you’re getting enough calcium in your diet is also beneficial to spinal health. Calcium is known for keeping bone mass at a healthy level, and foods like milk, yogurt, and leafy green vegetables are great sources. However, calcium may not be enough to help your bones remain strong. Adding in magnesium is also key, as it also aids in maintaining bone density. You can get magnesium from fish, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
Foods to Avoid
While it’s helpful to know what foods to include in your diet for a healthy back, it’s just as beneficial to know what you might want to steer clear of when possible. Foods high in saturated fats, such as fast food or highly processed snacks, can cause inflammation. The same is true for foods or beverages high in sugar.