Our bones tend to remain strong through early adulthood. As we age, however, our bones tend to become thinner. And when a woman enters menopause, she loses additional bone. Men and women alike, however, can get osteoporosis, a disease characterized by breaking bones. It happens when you make too little bone, lose too much bone, or both.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 54 million Americans have osteoporosis. About 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men ages 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Good news you can control. The foods that you eat -- as well as other lifestyle habits -- can affect your bones. To build strong bones, several key nutrients play a pivotal role, including calcium and vitamin D. Calcium supports the structure of your bones while vitamin D improves calcium absorption. Other key nutrients to build strong bones include vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.
To boost bone health, include these five foods in your diet.
When we think about calcium, we tend to think milk, and for good reason. An 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk contains under 100 calories and around 300 mg of calcium, and 30 percent of the calcium recommendation for a 50-year-old. If you are not a milk drinker, try blending it with your favorite fruit and making a smoothie. Choose a brand that is fortified with vitamin D to get additional bone-health benefits.
Eating a serving of yogurt each day is a great ways to get your daily intake of calcium. Yogurt is portable, tasty, and packed with nutrients. Yogurt also contains probiotics, shown to promote gut health. Yogurt makes for a great breakfast option and also an easy snack. While Greek yogurt contains less calcium than regular yogurt, I tend to prefer it due its higher protein content helping to promote satiety, a feeling of fullness. Even if you are lactose intolerant and have a hard time digesting milk, you can probably eat yogurt without a problem.
While most of us know that dairy products are good for our bones, we rarely think of fruits and vegetables as being linked to bone health. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is healthy for a multitude of reasons, one being that it contributes to stronger bones. Produce contributes antioxidants and polyphenols, in addition to vitamin K, magnesium and potassium, shown to promote skeletal health.
Greens such as turnip greens, bok choy, and kale are also rich in calcium. Turnip greens are one of my favorites: one cup cooked contains nearly 200 mg calcium, and 20 percent of the calcium recommendation for a 50-year-old. These greens are also chock full of other nutrients including vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, and fiber. Sautee them with a little olive oil, add them to a salad or smoothie, or add chopped turnip greens to veggie casseroles.
Got prunes? Move over milk. Prunes, also known as dried plums, may help strengthen bones, prevent bone loss, and perhaps even reverse bone loss due to osteoporosis. In fact, research found that eating just 5-6 medium prunes per day may do the trick. Prunes also contain plenty of fiber (helping our digestive help), vitamin C, and are alkalizing to the body, which may help to protect our bones.
While we know that fatty fish, including salmon and sardines, are good for our heart (thanks to its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids), believe it or not, fatty fish have also been linked to skeletal health. In addition to being an excellent source of protein and omega-3s which help support skeletal health, salmon is rich in vitamin D which improves calcium absorption and bone health. A 4-ounce serving of cooked salmon contains around 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D, the recommended intake for adults under 70 years old. While we can get vitamin D from sunlight, nearly half of Americans are deficient in this vitamin, and few foods are naturally rich in this bone-protecting nutrient.
Still think your diet is low in calcium and vitamin D? Try taking a supplement. While I recommend that you get your nutrients from foods, if your diet is low in calcium or vitamin D, a supplement may help fill the gap.
While you can take calcium in pill form (citrate or carbonate are preferred), if you are the type to forget to take it, try ending your lunch or dinner with an Adora, a yummy chocolate supplement. Each wafer provides 500 mg calcium and 500 IU of vitamin D. Be sure to stop at just one. Additional calcium will not provide any added benefits for bone health. In fact, too much calcium can lead to kidney stones and other problems. So proceed with caution, and as I like to say, practice moderation.