Nutrition plays a key role in building and keeping bones strong. Researchers estimate that one in two women, and one in five men older than 65 years of age will sustain bone fractures caused by osteoporosis. Many of these are painful fractures of the hip, spine, wrist, arm, and leg, which often occur as a result of a fall.
Bone cannot build optimum strength without optimum nutrition. Whatever your age or health status you can help lower your risk of bone loss by eating a diet rich in the nutrients that keep your bones healthy and strong.
Whenever you think about bones loss, you naturally think of calcium. But there are other nutrients just as important to good bone health–magnesium, phosphate, and Vitamins D and K can help maintain bone. Because you lose nutrients everyday your body needs a continuous supply. It is always better to get your nutrition from food, but with busier lifestyles today many people rely on multi-vitamin and mineral supplements.
Calcium–According to WebMD the top 10 calcium rich foods are: Cheese, Yogurt, Milk, Sardines with bones, Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli, fortified cereal or orange juice, soybeans, fortified soymilk and tofu. Always check labels for the highest percentage of DV (daily value). Another good source for vegans would be white beans or chickpeas.
Magnesium–Every organ in the body needs the mineral magnesium. It also contributes to the makeup of teeth and bones. Most important, it activates enzymes, contributes to energy production, and helps regulate calcium levels, as well as copper, zinc, potassium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients in the body.
Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient that helps form strong teeth and bones, metabolizes fats and carbohydrates, and creates proteins within the body. Fish, shellfish, lean meat, chicken, or turkey contain adequate amounts of this mineral.
Nuts also are a good source of phosphorus–almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts. Brazil nuts top the list, with just 10 average-sized nuts providing around one quarter of the daily requirement of phosphorus, as well as the mineral selenium.
Good vegan sources include lentils, beans, and whole grain breads and cereals
Vitamin D—the most common source of Vitamin D is sunlight as it promotes synthesis in the skin. Without it, your body cannot get calcium from the foods you eat. Experts recommend ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week on the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen. Since this is not always possible, a Vitamin D3 supplement may be useful. Check your multivitamin first as many contain the recommended amount of 400 IU’s. Recent research states that higher amounts, up to 2000 IU’s can prevent fractures.
Some of the same foods that contain healthy quantities of Omega 3 EFA’s aslo contain Vitamin D. Salmon, sardines, catfish, and tuna contain good amounts of this vitamin, as well as milk and eggs.
Vitamin K—Toss a salad– Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that vitamin K deficiencies are linked to brittle bones and high fracture rates. They studied one food in particular containing vitamin K that really made a difference in bone density–lettuce.
In the study women who ate a cup of lettuce, which contains about 146 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K, at least once a day, lowered their risk of hip fracture by 45 percent. All leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, and spinach are excellent sources. Toss up a healthy salad, spritz in with olive oil, and use your favorite flavored vinegar.
Natural food sources of vitamin K are the best way for your body to absorb this nutrient. If you are considering a supplement talk with your doctor first if you are currently taking aspirin or another anticoagulant to fight blood clots.
Like muscles, bones need exercise to stay strong. No matter what your age, exercise can help minimize bone loss while providing many additional health benefits. Doctors believe that a program of moderate, regular exercise (3 to 4 times a week) is effective for the prevention and management of osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, dancing, and weight lifting are probably best. Programs that emphasize balance training, such as tai chi and yoga should be emphasized.
Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, and don’t forget get to discuss supplements with your health care provider. They can cause toxic reactions when used with certain medications or interfere with certain medical conditions.
I have to admit it took some thought to combine all these bone healthy nutrients for this week’s recipe, but I did it! Check out this White Bean and Tuna salad.