What to eat for bone health
So far in our November bone health series, we’ve covered osteoporosis and how you can help prevent it through supplements and exercise. Last, but not least: foods for bone health.
As you may remember from our supplement focus, optimal bone health requires a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Here’s a quick refresher on why these are so important, and some other vitamins and minerals you should be eating regularly to build healthy bones:
Top vitamins and minerals for bone health:
Calcium is a mineral and the major component of bones. In fact, your skeleton is where 99% of your body’s calcium goes.
This vitamin is responsible for helping your body absorb the calcium you eat and ensure the correct remineralization of bones.
Vitamin K is another crucial vitamin for modulating bone metabolism, helping increase bone density and prevent fractures.
Vitamin C helps your body form collagen, which is the foundation bone mineralization is built on.
People with low magnesium levels are at greater risk for osteoporosis — about 60% of this essential mineral is found in bone tissue.
Boron is a trace element that helps play a role in bone growth and maintenance by supporting your body’s synthesis of other bone-health nutrients.
It’s also worth noting that potassium improves calcium metabolism, and protein is a crucial building component of bone, so make sure you’re getting enough potassium and protein as well.
Knowing this, you can see why eating lots of vegetables is so beneficial for your bones.
The best foods for bone health
These are super rich in calcium (more than dairy!), vitamin C as well as vitamin K, boron, and several minerals.
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
Dried fruits are a good source of many bone-building nutrients including calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, and boron, as well as antioxidants.
Vitamin C is what citrus fruits are best known for, plus, their citric acid helps make the calcium in your diet available to your body, and helps with calcium retention.
Beans and peas (or legumes):
- Most beans and peas are high in protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as well as boron!
- Butter beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Edamame (soybeans)
- Kidney beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Split peas
Nuts and seeds:
Nuts are packed with nutrients, but some are better for bone health than others due to their high concentration of calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Certain Animal products:
Vitamin D — the crucial form D3 produced by the body’s synthesis of sunlight — is found in very few foods, most of which are animal products. And while non-fortified milk is low in Vitamin D, it’s another natural (though contested) source of calcium.
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- Dairy products
- Egg yolks
Other foods that are great for your bones:
- Avocado: raw avocado contains several nutrients known for bone health like vitamins K and C and boron
- Mushrooms: the only non-animal life to convert sunlight to vitamin D
- Sweet potatoes: high in magnesium and potassium
- Tofu: often calcium-enriched, and with soy isoflavones, which may be helpful for stronger bones
How much calcium do I need for bone health?
Calcium is hands-down the number one nutrient when it comes to healthy bones. Wondering how much calcium, exactly, you should be consuming? Walk away from this series with facts you can use: refer to the chart below from the Institute of Medicine, presented by the International Osteoporosis Foundation, to know how much calcium you should have.
|Age||Calcium Recommended daily Intake (mg/day)|
|51-70 years||Females 1200
|Over 70 years||1200|