Foods for Bone Health
Osteoporosis means “thinning of the bone.” Bone is living tissue that is constantly absorbed and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the removal of old bone exceeds the rate of new bone formation. As we age, our bone mass is lost faster than it is created.
Osteoporosis affects men and women. White and Asian women, particularly those who are post-menopausal are at the highest risk. There are a number of additional risk factors, including family history, frame size (those with a smaller body frame are at greater risk), hormone levels (too little estrogen or testosterone, too much thyroid hormone), corticosteroid medications, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol use and smoking.
Some medications and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss and strengthen weak bones. Diet is essential—get adequate amounts of the following key nutrients to help prevent and treat osteoporosis.
Calcium is a critical nutrient for osteoporosis prevention and management. Our bones are mostly made up of calcium (about 99%), so we need to get enough. If our diet is low in this mineral, our body will rob calcium directly from our bones. Be careful about calcium supplements, as they are linked to kidney stones.
Dairy/protein sources: cheese, frozen yogurt, milk, plain and Greek yogurt
Plant sources: bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, dark leafy green vegetables, kale, white beans
Other protein sources: almonds, sardines with bones, soybeans, soy milk, tofu
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, a cell protector and immunity booster. It also supports calcium absorption. There is research suggesting calcium is more effectively absorbed in an acidic environment.
Plant sources: bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, oranges, tangerines, pineapple), guava, kale, mangoes, papaya, tomatoes, watermelon
Calcium is ineffective without its partner, vitamin D, which (among many jobs) increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium by up to 80 per cent. Vitamin D helps calcium move from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to our bones. Vitamin D is just as critical as calcium in terms of preventing our bones from being robbed of calcium. We can get vitamin D from sun exposure. Vitamin D supplementation is often needed due to the lack of it in the foods we commonly eat and lack of sun exposure.
Dairy/protein sources: milk, soy milk, ricotta cheese yogurt
Plant sources: mushrooms
Other protein sources: beef liver, egg yolks, flounder, herring, mackerel, sardines, sole, tuna, salmon
Vitamin K helps to form osteocalcin, which is a type of protein found in our bones. High intake of vitamin K has been linked to a lower risk of fractures. Those who take blood-thinning medication should check with their doctor to find out how much vitamin K is suitable as it is a natural blood thickener.
Plant sources: all types of lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, parsley, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, endive, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, watercress
Magnesium aids bone growth. It also helps our body absorb calcium by affecting how much calcium is available for building and maintaining bone. Magnesium requirements can be obtained through supplementation and diet.
Plant sources: amaranth, artichoke hearts, cashews, flaxseeds, millet, peanuts, spinach, starchy beans, sweet potatoes
Protein sources: almonds, quinoa, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), soybeans, tempeh
Potassium increases calcium balance, bone formation and bone mineral density. Foods that are rich in potassium have been shown to keep our bones strong and healthy.
Dairy/protein sources: milk, yogurt
Plant sources: apricots, artichokes, avocado, bananas, beets, broccoli, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, kale, lentils, lima beans, mushrooms, oranges, plums, prunes, spinach, starchy beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, raisins, watermelon
Other protein sources: almonds, fish, peanuts, pistachios, soybeans, soy milk, sunflower seeds