Sticks and stones may break your bones … but so will inadequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.
After reaching peak bone mass in your 30s, new bone is made at a slower rate and you start to lose more bone mass than you gain.
So how do you keep all 206 bones in the body healthy? A big part of it it getting a daily dose of calcium and other needed vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin K and magnesium).
If you’re not getting enough daily calcium, you’re increasing your risk of fractures and contributing to premature bone loss and reduced bone density.
So what's the key to getting enough of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs?
As Hippocrates famously stated“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food". Below we'll go over the best foods for improving bone health.
The Best Foods For Bone Health
Below we've put together a list of the best foods for supporting your bone health. Check out our list of the top ten best bone-building foods!
Salmon seems to be the answer for everything health-related. It’s the powerhouse of fish. Not only is salmon packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, it’s a great source of calcium in non-dairy form.
Alaskan wild-caught salmon is low in mercury and lead, making it a good choice among the various types of salmon available.
Did you know that canned salmon, typically sockeye or pink salmon from Alaska, is one of the best ways to get calcium? Salmon cakes, anyone? Plus, canned salmon is way more affordable than buying fish over the counter.
It’s recommended that we eat fish twice a week (1). Another great source of calcium is found in a can of sardines. A can of sardines has even more calcium than a can of salmon. This is good news for the sardine lovers out there.
This tart, pink fruit is not just a fruit that your grandparents used to eat for breakfast. It’s part of a breakfast for champions, and it’s great for bone health.
High in antioxidants, grapefruit may increase bone quality/density and “play an important role in the complex metabolism of bone structure” (2).
Grapefruit consumption was studied by researchers at Texas A&M who found that the increased calcium and magnesium found in grapefruit pulp and juice lead to decreased rates of osteoporosis (3).
This is important because “almost half of all women in the U.S. over the age of 50 will suffer from a fracture due to osteoporosis in their lifetime" (4).
Grapefruit is also low in calories and high in nutrients, including vitamins C and A. So make sure to add this healthful fruit to your diet!
3. Leafy Greens & Cabbages
Collard, mustard and turnip greens. Bok choy. Kale. Cabbage. Swiss chard. Spinach. All are great green sources of calcium, magnesium, and other vital nutrients for bone health.
“A half cup of Chinese cabbage or a cup of bok choy provides almost as much absorbable calcium as a glass of milk,” sayslicensed dietician Monica Reinagel (5).
Spinach is probably the least effective source of calcium of all the leafy greens because it is high in oxalates, some of which can prevent calcium absorption. It’s recommended to lightly boil or steam spinach to help remove some of the oxalates.
Greens are also high in vitamin K. Vitamin K1 is in leafy greens (plants), andvitamin K2 is found in animal products and fermented foods.
“The main function of vitamin K is to activate the calcium-binding properties of proteins,” according to Healthline. “K1 is mostly involved in blood clotting, while K2 helps regulate where calcium ends up in the body.”
4. Sweet Potato
This spud isn’t just a Thanksgiving side dish anymore. Baked sweet potatoes have the most calcium of all the potatoes in the land. But don’t forget to eat the skin, because it’s where the nutrients live.
You could cut the whole potato into cubes or wedges, season them, and bake them in the oven. Consider it a healthier version of a french fry.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are calcium-rich foods as most of us know. Yogurt is one of the best ways to get your daily recommended intake of calcium. Depending on the brand of yogurt you eat, it could have more calcium than a glass of milk and less fat than a chunk of cheese.
However, high-calorie, sugary yogurt isn’t the best choice compared to eating plain yogurt. Plain yogurt is very versatile too. You can use it instead of sour cream, add it to a smoothie, or just eat it with berries and dried fruit. The amount of calcium in Greek yogurt is less than regular yogurt.
If you like plums, you’ll probably like the dried version known as prunes. Prunes are also known to be healthy for bones. A study by Florida State University showed that postmenopausal women who ate 10 prunes a day had significantly higher bone density than a control group who ate only apples (6).
Bones become stronger because prunes have antioxidants called polyphenols that aid in slowing down the rate of bone loss as we get older. Prunes are packed full of bone-building nutrients good for bones, including vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and boron.
7. Almond Butter
Almond butter is a tasty alternative to peanut butter. Almonds have magnesium, which is a good nutrient for building healthy bone tissue and strong teeth, and reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Almonds are the only nuts to provide a high source of calcium. Almond butter is lower in fat and higher in protein than peanut butter. Almond butter also has no cholesterol.
You don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to eat a pressed block of soybean curd — or tofu as it’s more commonly known. Tofu is packed with protein and calcium - this is an added benefit because protein helps aid in calcium absorption.
Just a half-cup of tofu provides almost a full day’s recommended daily intake of calcium. That's a winner, especially if you eat a more fruit and veggie based diet.
Grab a glass of orange juice with calcium added and make some scrambled eggs, and you’re set for breakfast. High in both calcium and vitamin D, eggs are a good food for improving bone health.
Calcium builds strong bones and vitamin D helps with calcium absorption. Avitamin D deficiency occurs in more than 40 percent of Americans and is linked to osteoporosis, among other health problems.
The yolk is where all the good stuff is because it contains the greatest concentration of nutrients.
Simple oatmeal has a lot going for it. Old-fashioned oats have iron, B complex vitamins, calcium, magnesium and manganese, to name a few.
Oats have just the right amount of minerals to promote bone density. Instead of water, add a splash of milk or almond milk, and use regular oats instead of instant oatmeal.
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When it comes to good bone health, you’ll benefit the most from a diet that’s balanced with plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, dairy, eggs and oats. Most vitamins and minerals you need come in food form, so it may not be necessary to take supplements.