Foods That Strengthen Bone Marrow

Your bone marrow is predominantly found inside the long bones -- those of your legs and arms. It consists of fat cells, blood vessels and specialized cells that produce vital red blood cells, immune cells and clot-forming compounds. Your bone marrow relies on foods that contain specific nutrients to help keep it functioning and healthy. If you are recovering from a bone marrow illness, your doctor may recommend getting more of these essential vitamins and minerals and other nutrients.

A wooden bowl with spinach leaves. (Image: Anton Ignatenco/iStock/Getty Images)

Protein Builds and Repairs Cells

Protein-rich foods are broken down into amino acids, the building material for every cell in your body. You require an average of 46 to 56 grams of protein every day to help sustain healthy bone marrow and other tissues. Good sources include meat, poultry, fish, dairy foods, legumes and vegetables. Research published in 2002 in the "American Journal of Nutrition" notes that patients who undergo bone marrow transplant have enhanced protein and energy needs. The study recommends that patients get a daily amount of 1.4 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to help renew and repair the bone marrow.

Iron and Bone Marrow Function

A key function of bone marrow is to produce red blood cells -- the iron-containing cells that carry oxygen to every part of your body. You must get iron from your daily diet -- approximately 10 to 20 milligrams every day. If you are pregnant, you will need 27 milligrams of this mineral daily. The University of Utah notes that your body only absorbs about 10 percent of this dietary iron, most of which is used by your bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Animal sources such as liver and organ meats, poultry, fish and shellfish contain heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by your body. Plant foods such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds give you less readily absorbed nonheme iron.

Folic Acid for Red Blood Cell Production

Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that the B vitamin folic acid is also essential for your bone marrow to produce red blood cells. A deficiency of this nutrient can lead to megaloblastic anemia, in which the bone marrow produces large and abnormally developed red blood cells. It also results in fewer red blood cells, depriving your body's cells of adequate oxygen and nutrients. Adults require 0.2 to 0.4 milligram of folic acid every day from foods such as brown rice, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, chickpeas and fortified cereals.

Vitamin B-6 Helps Form Hemoglobin

Your bone marrow also requires vitamin B-6 -- pyridoxine -- to form hemoglobin, the substance inside red blood cells that binds to oxygen. Like other B vitamins, it also plays a role in producing energy to sustain every cell in your body, including the bone marrow. You must get 1.2 to 1.4 milligrams of this vitamin from your diet every day. Good sources include poultry, fish, eggs, whole grains, milk, potatoes and fortified cereals.

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