The foods you eat are also important for your bones besides being necessary for your organs, muscles, and overall health. Understanding and choosing foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients is crucial to bone health. Regularly consuming various nutrient-rich foods in your diet can have major benefits for your skeletal structure. Suppose your diet lacks sufficient amounts of these nutrients despite a balanced intake of dairy, fish, fruits, and vegetables. In that case, you might want to consider including multivitamins or supplements in your diet.This article will explore the foods that keep your bones healthy to prevent diseases like osteoporosis.
Maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet builds and preserves healthy bones throughout your life. Adequate calcium is essential for stronger bones, and vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium effectively. Neglecting bone health can lead to several health conditions like rickets and osteoporosis, increasing the likelihood of bone fractures later in life. However, you can avoid this by maintaining your diet, obtaining all the necessary nutrients for your bones, which should be complemented by regular exercise, and avoiding osteoporosis risk factors.
Calcium Requirements to Boost Bone Health and Avoid Osteoporosis
Adults require 700mg of calcium daily, which they can get from a diverse and balanced diet.
Excellent sources of calcium include:
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Green leafy vegetables, specifically- broccoli, cabbage, and okra (excluding spinach)
- Soya beans
- Calcium-fortified plant-based drinks (like soya beverages)
- Bread and products made with fortified flour
- Fish with edible bones, such as sardines and pilchards
Vitamin D Requirements to Improve the Body’s Calcium Absorption
Adults require 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D daily. Obtaining sufficient vitamin D from diet alone can be challenging, with most vitamin D being synthesized through sunlight on our skin. From late March/April to September’s end, short daily sun exposures without sunscreen are effective for vitamin D production. However, when sun exposure is limited in autumn and winter, taking a daily vitamin D supplement is advisable.
Special Considerations for Babies and Children:
- For specific vitamin requirements for babies and children, refer to paediatric vitamin guidelines.
- Groups at Higher Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Certain population segments are more prone to vitamin D deficiencies and should take a daily 10-microgram (400IU) supplement throughout the year. These groups include:
- Individuals who spend limited time outdoors, such as the elderly, housebound, or care home residents
- Those who wear clothing covering most of their skin outdoors
- People with darker skin tones, like those of African, African-Caribbean, or South Asian descent
Reliable sources of vitamin D:
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
- Egg yolks
- Vitamin D-fortified foods (some margarines, breakfast cereals)
For people diagnosed with osteoporosis, doctors might prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements, along with osteoporosis medications, especially if dietary calcium intake is insufficient.
Foods that Keep Your Bones Healthy
Ongoing studies suggest that certain foods like olive oil, soybeans, blueberries, and those rich in omega-3s, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil, might boost bone health. While conclusive evidence linking these foods to bone strength is yet to be revealed, their overall health benefits make them worthy additions to your diet. Interestingly, moderate consumption of certain alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, and tea might also benefit bone health. However, more research is necessary to understand this connection fully.
Milk and dairy products
Low-fat and non-fat dairy options like milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium. Many dairy products are also rich in Vitamin D, making these foods the best source of nourishment for your bones.
Salmon and fatty fish
Fatty fish varieties, including salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, especially those with bones, are good sources of vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Including fish in your diet will not only improve your bone health but boost your immunity and cognitive abilities as well.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Leafy greens such as collard, turnip, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage, dandelion, mustard, and broccoli are packed with calcium.
- Spinach, beet greens, okra, tomatoes, artichokes, plantains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, collard greens, prunes, and raisins offer magnesium.
- For potassium, turn to tomato products, prunes, raisins, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, papaya, oranges, orange juice, bananas, and plantains.
- Good sources of vitamin C include red and green peppers, oranges, grapefruits, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, papaya, and pineapples.
- Prunes and dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, and Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin K.
All of which are essential for good bone health.
Beans and other legumes are a great source of calcium, magnesium, fiber, and other nutrients but also contain phytates, which can hinder calcium absorption. Soaking beans for several hours and then cooking them in fresh water can reduce phytate levels.
Meat and Other Protein Sources
Adequate protein isn’t only required to build muscles but also to help maintain stronger bones. Many older adults may not consume enough protein, negatively affecting bones. Diets high in protein, especially from meat, can cause calcium loss. Balancing this with calcium-rich foods, like dairy, is vital for bone health.
Certain brands of juices, breakfast items, soy milk, rice milk, cereals, snacks, and breads may be fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Tips To Improve Bone Health, Prevent Bone Loss, and Osteoporosis
1. Avoid Oxalate-rich Foods
Foods high in oxalates, such as spinach, hamper calcium absorption. Other oxalate-rich foods include rhubarb, beet greens, and certain beans. While these items have their own health benefits, they should not be relied upon as primary calcium sources.
2. Limit Wheat Bran Consumption
Wheat bran, particularly in its 100% pure form, has high phytate levels that can hinder calcium absorption from other foods consumed simultaneously. For instance, combining milk with 100% wheat bran cereal may limit calcium absorption from the milk. But wheat bran in other forms, like bread, is usually less significant in hindering calcium absorption. If you’re taking calcium supplements, consider having them a few hours before or after consuming 100% wheat bran.
3. Avoid Excess Sodium to Keep Bones in Good Health
High-sodium diets can cause calcium loss and subsequent bone weakening. Limiting processed and canned foods and added salt is recommended. Foods high in sodium can be identified on the Nutrition Facts label, indicating 20% or more for the % Daily Value.
4. Calcium Sources for Vegans
Unlike non-vegans who primarily obtain calcium from dairy products, vegans must rely on alternative sources. These include:
- Soya beans
- Calcium-set tofu
- Sesame seeds and tahini
- Brown and white bread (calcium is added by law in the UK)
- Dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, figs, and apricots
- Fortified plant-based drinks like soya, rice, and oat
Vitamin D is scarce in a vegan diet without fortified foods or supplements. Sunlight in spring and summer remains the primary source of vitamin D. Other vegan-friendly vitamin D sources include fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals, plant-based drinks, and supplements.
5. Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Vegan Diet
Vegan women, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, should ensure they receive adequate vitamins and minerals for their child’s healthy development. It’s important to provide a varied diet for babies and children on a vegan diet to support their growth.
6. How to Maintain Bone Health during Menopause
During menopause, women experience rapid bone loss due to the significant reduction in estrogen production by the ovaries, which normally helps protect bones. While there are no specific calcium or vitamin D guidelines solely for menopause, maintaining a healthy diet rich in calcium, along with exposure to summer sunlight and taking vitamin D supplements, can lessen the rate of bone loss.
7. Do not Consume Vitamin A in Excess
Studies have suggested that too much vitamin A might increase the risk of bone fractures. Regular liver eaters, a rich vitamin A source, are advised to limit consumption and avoid supplements with retinol, particularly those at risk of osteoporosis, such as postmenopausal women and the elderly. Their retinol intake should not exceed 1.5mg (1,500 micrograms) per day.
8. Alcohol Causes Bone Loss
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to bone degradation. It’s advised to moderate alcohol intake.
9. Caffeine Reduces Calcium Absorption
Caffeine in coffee, tea, and soft drinks might reduce calcium absorption. As such, drinking more than three cups of coffee daily can hinder calcium absorption, leading to bone weakening and gradual bone loss. These should be consumed in moderation.
10. Soft Drinks Contribute to Bone Loss
Studies suggest that colas may be linked to bone loss but not other soft drinks. The concerns with colas are the caffeine and phosphorous content, which may contribute to bone weakening. The debate over phosphorous intake continues, with some experts suggesting it’s harmful only when calcium intake is inadequate. Replacing soft drinks with milk or calcium-fortified beverages can help balance potential calcium loss from these drinks. Besides these foods that keep your bones healthy, there is much more you can do to ensure a good diet that will improve overall health.