As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Just like every other part of your body, the health of your bones also depend on the food that you intake. Bones are actually growing tissue made up of bone cells, minerals and collagen. As you age, you start to lose more bone mass than what is formed in the body. When too much bone density is lost, it results in a condition known as osteoporosis. There are lots of things that you can do to protect your bones and keep them strong and healthy. Regular exercise, a well-balanced diet and avoiding habits like smoking and excess alcohol intake are factors that can help protect your bones.
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are two important nutrients that are essential for building strong and healthy bones. About 99% of the total amount of calcium in your body is located in your teeth and bones. You lose calcium daily through sweat, urine, skin, nails etc. It is important to maintain an adequate supply of this mineral through the foods you eat because your body is incapable of producing calcium on its own. When the body does not get enough calcium, it resorts to pulling out the calcium from your bones, which can lead to bone loss and low bone density. Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are excellent sources of calcium.
Vitamin D, on the other hand, not only protects your bones, but is also essential for your body to absorb calcium. Just like calcium, if your body does not get enough vitamin D, you start to lose bone mass and bone density, leading to breakage of bones. Sunlight, supplements and foods like fatty fish, vitamin D fortified milk, orange juice and cereals etc. are good sources of vitamin D.
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Exercise for healthy bones
Exercise is extremely important not only for overall health and well-being, but also for building stronger bones and maintaining bone density. High impact weight bearing exercises such as dancing, jogging, hiking, aerobics, climbing stairs etc. help to build strong bones. Those who cannot do high impact exercises can opt for low impact weight bearing exercises, which include low impact aerobics, using elliptical training machines, using treadmill etc.
The other type of exercise that helps maintain strong bones is muscle strengthening exercises. These include resistance exercises such as lifting weights, using weight machines, yoga, Pilates etc. Non-impact exercises such as posture exercises, balance exercises, functional exercises increase muscle strength and lower the chances of broken bones. They also help improve the posture, balance and mobility. Before embarking on an exercise program, make sure to consult a healthcare provider.
Foods that prevent osteoporosis
As mentioned earlier, it is important to eat a well-balanced diet in order to build and maintain strong bones. Understanding the foods that are bone healthy is the first step to take care of your bones and protect them. Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D is essential to prevent osteoporosis. Here are some of the foods that are considered to be good for your bones:
The number one food that helps keep away osteoporosis is milk because it is rich in the bone healthy mineral calcium. Studies indicate that drinking milk strengthens the bones and reduces the risk of age related bone loss and fractures due to osteoporosis. Other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt are also good sources of calcium. (read more about health benefits of milk.)
Green peas are an excellent source of vitamin K, which play a major role in activating osteocalcin, a protein that helps bind calcium in bones. They are also rich in nutrients like vitamin B6 and folate that prevents the excess formation of homocysteine, an amino acid that can prevent the formation of a proper bone matrix.
In addition to being a delicious vegetable, asparagus is also rich in a wide variety of nutrients that promote healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. It is a good source of bone strengthening nutrients such as vitamin K, B vitamins such as folate, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2, vitamin C and vitamin D. Asparagus also contains a potent antioxidant known as glutathione that protects the bones against the damages caused by free radicals. According to studies, glutathione helps in increasing the production of osteoblasts as well as inhibit osteoclast production.
Broccoli is a wonderful source of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin K, all of which are essential in maintaining strong and healthy bones. It is also rich in vitamin C that helps in the better absorption of calcium.
When it comes to whole grains, oats are one of the best that helps prevent osteoporosis. It is rich in many of the minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc that promote healthy and strong bones. Therefore, having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast is a great way to keep away osteoporosis. Oat straw is also found to be good for the bones. It contains silica that that has been found to strengthen bones.
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Parsley another leafy vegetable or herb that is associated with healthy bones because of the presence of high levels of vitamin K and folate. It is also a good source of fluoride and boron, both of which prevent the thinning of bones.
Cabbage is another member of the cruciferous family that is rich in a wide variety of nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, and calcium. This vegetable is considered to have the highest amount of boron, an important mineral that increases the levels of estrogen the blood and help preserve the health of the bones.
The bioactive compounds found in green tea have been found to be effective in preventing bone loss and lowering the risk of osteoporosis. According to studies, the flavonoids in green tea stimulate the functions of the osteoblasts, thereby increasing the bone mineral density.
Fatty fishes like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are rich sources of vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids. As mentioned earlier, vitamin D is essential for binding calcium to the bones. The bones of sardines and salmon are also high in calcium. Omega 3 fats slow down the rate of bone breakdown by stimulating bone mineral deposits.
Fennel is an aromatic herb that supports bone health in many ways. It is an excellent source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese that are essential for increasing the bone mineral density. Moreover, fennel also contains a phytoestrogen known as anethole that also plays an important role in maintaining bone health by preventing the fall in the levels of estrogen.
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Soy and soy products
Soy and soy products such as tofu, soy cheese, soy flour, soy nut, soy milk, tempeh and soybeans are great sources of calcium and vitamin D. This combination of calcium and vitamin D in soy helps in significantly improving bone mineral density. It also contains other minerals such as magnesium and potassium that can enhance the bone mineral density. Fermented soy milk product such as tofu contain copper, in addition to the other minerals that helps in promoting bone mineralization and hence are considered to be excellent for preventing osteoporosis. Soy and soy products also contain soy isoflavones such as daidzein and genistein that have estrogenic properties. These isoflavones help prevent the lowering of estrogen levels during menopause.
Studies reveal that an apple a day may keep away osteoporosis. Scientists have a discovered a flavonoid known as phloridzin that is unique to apples. This flavonoid has the ability to prevent bone loss associated with menopause by increasing bone density and improving inflammation markers. Apples are also rich in vitamin C and a wide variety of bone benefitting minerals, flavonoids and polyphenols.
Seeds and nuts
Seeds and nuts are rich in magnesium, an important mineral that plays a key role in strengthening the structure of the bones. Magnesium helps to neutralize the acids that are formed in the body as a result of metabolism. It also helps your body to absorb calcium.
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Potassium is an essential mineral that supports bone health in a number of ways. It helps to increase the formation of bones, increases bone mineral density, improves the absorption of calcium and reduces the reabsorption of bones by neutralizing metabolic acids. Foods like white potatoes and sweet potatoes are high on potassium content and hence their consumption on a regular basis is beneficial in preventing osteoporosis.
Many people think that staying healthy is all about preventing diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. However, your bones also require extra care and attention because conditions like osteoporosis can debilitate you and make your life difficult. Making healthy food choices is the best way to prevent bone loss and the occurrence of osteoporosis.