Aging, arthritis or lack of regular exercise can contribute to a lack of flexibility. Joint and muscle health directly influence flexibility and, according to nutritionists at the University of Hawaii, can be affected by your vitamin intake. Moderate doses of specific vitamins have also been found to alleviate arthritis-related discomfort and help maintain bone strength, as well as improving flexibility. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can provide the vitamins your muscles and joints need to stay healthy and flexible.
Vitamin D works with calcium to protect joints and build bone strength, both of which can lead to improved flexibility. Vitamin D is often added to dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, and is also found in fish and fish oils. Your body can also make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, though make sure to use sunscreen if you are going to be outdoors for a while.
Several B-vitamins may offer increased flexibility. Vitamin B-3, or niacin, is found in tuna, mushrooms, seafood, asparagus, tofu and sunflower seeds. Some studies suggest that niacin can greatly reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis, according to Nathan Wei, M.D., a board-certified rheumatologist. Vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid, is provided by foods such as eggs, soybeans, wheat germ, whole grain cereals, lentils and peanuts. Vitamin B-6 is found in meat, fish, nuts, legumes and bananas.
Vitamin C is “essential for making specific proteins that are part of joint cartilage” and can be “an especially important nutrient for joint health,” according to the University of Hawaii. Foods high in vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, citrus, dark leafy greens, mangoes, red peppers, spinach and strawberries.
Like vitamin C, vitamin E contain antioxidants, which some research suggests can help with joint health, notes the University of Hawaii. Vitamin E can help alleviate leg cramps and pain associated with osteoarthritis by relieving inflammation. According to the Alive website, vitamin E also prevents internal scarring and helps repair connective tissues. Foods naturally rich in vitamin E include nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and safflower seeds; whole grains such as wheat germ and whole wheat flour; dark green, leafy vegetables such as chard, mustard greens and turnip greens; and avocados.