Even though weight management is the most highlighted characteristic of diet, it doesn’t only affect your weight. The food you eat provides nutrients to your body necessary for the proper development and functioning of tissue and organs, as well as your bones.
According to 2011 research in Canada, your skeletal system needs minerals and vitamins from early childhood to create bone mass which should reach the highest point when you are 30 years old. Strong and healthy bones help you stay upright, move, and protect your internal organs.
By the time you are 40 years old, the bones have already started losing their mass since the body is not creating any new one. This can lead to conditions like osteoporosis unless you start giving your bones nutrients from an early age and throughout your life.
When it comes to your skeletal system, each meal on your table can play a significant role in preserving your bone mass and health. Here are the most important foods and diet for bone strengthening you should include in your lifestyle.
1. Eat calcium-rich food more
Calcium is the main mineral in the bones that protects their structure and strength. For example, based on a 2017 study, calcium and vitamin D taken together can lead to stronger bones in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000 mg on average, with 1,200 mg for women and 1,300 mg for teens.
However, the way the body absorbs this mineral may vary from person to person. Because of this, it’s advised to have calcium-rich food with every meal throughout the day. Although dairy is the best source of calcium, like cheese, yoghurt, and kefir, you can also get it from seeds, sardines, and lentils.
2. Focus on getting enough vitamins D and K
Making sure you have enough vitamin D in your body is imperative to have healthy bones. This nutrient helps the body absorb calcium and protects you against diseases that weaken your skeletal system. While the most efficient way to build vitamin D deposits is sun exposure, you can also do it with food and supplementation. To avoid vitamin D deficiency and stay in optimal health, you should have up to 2,000 IU daily in supplements, as well as eat more liver, cheese, and fatty fish.
When it comes to vitamin K, this nutrient modifies osteocalcin — a protein that participates in the formation of bones. After modification, this protein can bind to bone minerals and preserve the calcium deposits in the skeletal system. Vitamin K is found in meat and eggs to some extent. A soybean product called natto and other fermented foods contain MK-7, one of the two most common forms of vitamin K. A Japanese study concluded that MK-7 in food significantly contributed to vitamin K status in the body when administered to healthy women.
3. Introduce magnesium and phosphorus to your diet
Besides being full of calcium, some nuts are also rich in magnesium and phosphorus. Magnesium is a mineral that preserves the calcium deposit in the bones and helps them absorb it. On the other hand, 85% of your bones and teeth contain phosphorus. Peanuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, and walnuts are the most commonly used nuts in the human diet and an easy source of these minerals.
Other great sources of magnesium are avocados, bran cereal, brown rice, edamame, pumpkin, and soy milk. When it comes to phosphorus, you can find it in dairy products, lentils, whole grains, and a small amount in fruits and vegetables.
4. Cut back on sugar
A study review from 2018 found that sugar can lower the levels of calcium and magnesium in the body by causing their excess elimination through urine. Consuming high amounts of sugary food can also decrease the amount of vitamin D and prevent intestinal absorption of calcium.
But that’s not all. It can also be responsible for the reduction of osteoblast proliferation and cause a higher production of lactic acid and activation of osteoclast, compromising the formation of bones. All this points out that sugar can increase the risk of osteoporosis by pulling calcium from your bones and compromising their health.
5. Don’t skip the vegetables
Vegetables are a great option to have a healthy skeletal system. They are full of vitamins, like vitamin C that has antioxidant properties and protects the cells. One of the main characteristics of vegetables is the ability to improve bone density by providing calcium and other minerals to your body.
If you want to have more foods and diet for bone strengthening, you should eat more yellow and green vegetables. This is especially beneficial for women over 50 who are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and losing bone mass. Based on a 2015 study from New Zealand, post-menopausal women who ate more broccoli, parsley, cabbage, and other vegetables full of antioxidants, conserved more calcium and experienced less bone turnover.
6. Consume beans for bone strengthening nutrients
Beans are full of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, as well as protein and fiber. Because of this, beans are great for people on vegetarian and vegan diets to help them preserve their bone health.
For example, one cup of black beans has 84 mg of calcium, the same amount of magnesium, and 259 mg of phosphorus. One cooked cup of white beans has 13% of calcium RDI, while the same amount of wing beans has 24%.
7. Replace dairy with fortified foods
If you are lactose-intolerant, you can eat fortified foods with calcium and vitamin D to reach the recommended daily values. Cereals and juices are the best options to replenish what you lost by not eating dairy products.
Fortified soy, rice, and almond milk, as well as tofu with calcium sulfate, are an excellent way to replace milk and cheese. Other calcium-rich foods are canned pink salmon and sardines, both with bones, as well as English muffins, canned beans, and orange juice.
8. Have fatty fish for omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fatty acids can have anti-inflammatory properties and keep your bones healthy as you age. You can consume them through supplements and oils, but they are also available in fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel.
However, plant-sourced omega-3 fats have also shown promising results in increasing bone formation. Therefore, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are an excellent way to add these beneficial acids on the days when fish is off the menu.
9. Get enough protein
Since around 50% of your bones is made from protein, this nutrient should be an essential part of your diet. If you don’t consume enough protein, your body may not be able to absorb enough calcium to keep your bones healthy.
Those who get more calories from protein can keep their bone mass when on a weight loss program, according to the 2011 research. The recommended amount of protein for the average person is up to 100 g per day, but that depends on age, gender, and weight.
10. Add bone-strengthening seeds to meals
Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber are all the beneficial ingredients of seeds. Ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds are an excellent addition to breakfast meals and soups. If you want to introduce more of these seeds to your diet, use them in salads, roasted or fresh.
One ounce of sesame seeds has 280 mg of calcium, 101 mg of magnesium, and 181 mg of phosphorus. Also, making a chia pudding by leaving these seeds to soak in milk overnight is a great way to start the day with a healthy meal for the bones. Only one tablespoon of chia seeds will give you 46 mg of calcium, 51 mg of magnesium, and 105 mg of phosphorus.
11. Avoid extremely low-calorie diets
Cutting down on calories to an extreme can be bad for the bones. Diets that have less than 1,000 calories can degrade bone density in people with normal and increased weight. All this can happen regardless of being physically active and performing resistance training. To have a healthy skeletal system, you should have at least 1,200 calories every day, obtained from food rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals useful for bone health.
12. Be careful with supplements
Sometimes diet is not enough to boost bone health and you have to fortify it with supplements. According to the 2016 findings, calcium and vitamin D supplements may not make a lot of difference in the prevention of bone fractures in healthy individuals. However, taking calcium through food doesn’t seem to be problematic and experts suggest that a glass of milk every day can be enough to keep the skeletal system healthy.
The best approach before taking any supplement is to consult with your physician and see what kind of supplementation they recommend. A lot can depend on the state of your bones, age, gender, and overall lifestyle so taking supplements on your own may bring more harm than benefits.
When you consider foods and diet for bone strengthening, think of ingredients that have high amounts of vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein. If you want to learn more about how to keep your bones healthy, check out Your Plan for Natural Scoliosis Prevention & Treatment (5th Edition) the newest guide for a stronger spine. Only through professional care and advice can you change your habits, improve your diet, and live a healthier lifestyle that will make your bones stronger and enhance the quality of life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Kevin Lau is a pioneer in the field of non-surgical scoliosis correction he has treated thousands of scoliosis patients who visit him from around the world. He combines university education in Doctor of Chiropractic and Masters in Holistic Nutrition with a commitment to practicing natural and preventive medicine. Dr. Lau aims to empower scoliosis patients with the knowledge and tools to prevent and correct scoliosis through all stages of life.