For many, bone density holds cause for concern: Osteoporosis is a diagnosis none of us wants to hear. But there are steps you can take to support greater bone health. Food Matters health practitioners researched down to the marrow to discover natural remedies, tips, and tricks to keep your bones in tip-top shape. Read on.
Why You Need Strong Bones
Bones are the support beams that keep your body upright, so it’s in your best interest to keep them strong and healthy. They also play a large role in protecting organs, anchoring muscles, and storing calcium, which ultimately determines how well we function.
As part of their natural formation, bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt in tiny amounts. Typically, until the age of 30, when peak bone mass is reached, new bone creation outweighs bone loss. When this balance shifts, issues such as osteoporosis can occur if the right habits aren’t in place.
Factors that impact the rate and amount of bone loss in your older years include genetics, diet, and how much bone built up in your body during when you were a teen. Although many things can be out of your hands, there are things you can do to support a healthy future for your bones.
7 Ways to Strengthen Bones
1. Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
You have heard it from your mother (and from us) that greens will make you grow big and strong. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of vitamin C, which stimulates the production of bone-forming cells in addition to protecting bone cells from damage. Studies also show that an increase of vegetables in your diet increases bone mineral density.
Further research showed that eating your vegetables, onions in particular, reduces the risk of fracture by more than 20 percent, versus those who never consume onions. So an onion a day could keep the doctor away — just be sure to carry some breath mints.
Kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, and spinach are great additions to your bone-building diet, as they contain vitamin K, which has been shown to support healthy bones.
2. Add Potassium to Your Diet
Potassium is the quiet achiever when it comes to protecting the health of your bones. Its ability to neutralize bone-depleting metabolic acids that eat away at bone are key in fighting the elimination of calcium by the body. In the presence of nutrient-rich potassium compounds, bones are able to reabsorb minerals and reduce the amount of mineral loss through urine.
A variety of population-based studies now support the association of a high-potassium based diet with positive bone density.
Bananas are particularly rich in potassium as well as magnesium. They are essentially the guardian protectors of bones.
3. Drink Less Alcohol and Caffeine
We know how hard it can be to start the day without our double-shot latte or finish the day without a stress-relieving glass of vino, but did you know that what you drink could affect your calcium absorption?
Studies show that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day increases urinary calcium excretion and decreases calcium absorption, which can adversely affect your bone density. Alcohol affects the pancreas and liver, and their absorption of calcium and vitamin D.
Try swapping coffee for herbal tea or wine for kombucha for a whole host of benefits.
4. Find a Supplement That Works for You
We’re not just talking calcium supplements. Bones are made up of calcium as well as magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, and vitamins K and D, and finding the right balance of all these elements to support good bone health can prove difficult for some. Supplements are a great way to fill in nutrient gaps in your diet. If you choose to supplement your diet, we recommend a professional-formulated bone-building supplement that contains both magnesium and calcium. Talk to your doctor or health care professional about how much you should take; the recommended daily allowance for women over 30 is 320 milligrams of magnesium and 1000 milligrams of calcium.
5. Get Some Vitamin D
You know it’s important to be sun smart, but a burst of vitamin D can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered. Many American women are vitamin D deficient, which can lead to weak and brittle bones. Vitamin D works hand in hand with calcium to support bone health, and when these are out of balance you can do more harm than good. A great way to combat a vitamin D deficiency is to break out of the office during lunchtime for a fast-paced stroll in the sun.
6. Milk It
Though dairy is controversial, it is still considered by doctors as a great source of calcium. And now there are myriad calcium-rich milk alternatives, so even those who shun animal products have options. Other great calcium-rich foods are low-fat cheese, natural yogurt, tinned sardines and salmon, almonds, and tofu. These awesome bone-supporting foods are jam-packed with other nutrients that support and maintain bone density.
7. Get Moving
Beyond what you do or don’t eat, weight-bearing exercise is key in building strong bones. Think: brisk walking, jogging, tennis, basketball, and strength training of all kinds.
A version of this article originally appeared on foodmatters.com. It has been reprinted with permission.