It’s inevitable that when we reach a certain age, our bones become weaker and lose density. Osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone,” is a disease that results in a sustained loss of bone density. Low bone density is quite common; it affects 54 million Americans, with one out of every two women over the age of 50 likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Women are more likely than men to experience osteoporosis, but men can experience it, too. One out of every four men over 50 is likely to break a bone from osteoporosis.
Whether or not an individual develops osteoporosis depends on genetics, gender, age, medical history, and lifestyle choices. But the latter is the only factor within our control. Smoking, inactivity, and high alcohol consumption can affect bone health, but one of the most impactful lifestyle choices that can reduce the risk of osteoporosis is committing to a well-balanced diet.
Though it’s impossible to guarantee a life without hip surgeries and bone-related hospital visits, there are certain foods that can improve calcium absorption, bone density, and bone strength by providing adequate amounts of essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamin D, and magnesium. However, some foods, such as animal proteins, can have adverse effects on bone health by leaching calcium — you want to be wary of that. So in order to give your bones the strength they need, these critical nutrients need to come from the right sources. Fight back against osteoporosis with these nine foods.
Vitamin K is abundant in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The essential vitamin is necessary for the mineralization and strengthening of bones. One serving of Brussels sprouts contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin K — and there are tons of simple dishes that can help you to incorporate this vegetable into your diet.
If you’re looking for more sources of calcium besides just dairy, try cooking with collard greens. Calcium from leafy greens like collards is actually more easily absorbed by the body than calcium from dairy products. Kale has calcium, too, so you get even more benefit from your kale smoothie than you thought!
They might not be vegan, but figs are a sweet and chewy treat! You can cook with them, eat them dried, or just snack on them raw. They’re also beneficial for your bones. Five medium-sized dried figs contain double the calcium and five times the magnesium of a cup of cooked kale. Magnesium improves the firmness of bones and is necessary for converting vitamin D into an active form.
Some cereals can be super sugary, but others are a sweet, healthy treat! Eating fortified cereal is a quick and efficient way to provide the body with particularly hard to find vitamins and minerals. For example, Total, a fortified cereal manufactured by General Mills, contains 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of 12 essential vitamins and minerals. Breakfast cereals also have the added benefit of being consumed with milk, which is not only naturally rich in calcium but is also fortified with vitamin D that’s necessary for the absorption of calcium.
Lentils and other vegetable proteins reinforce bone integrity and also help in calcium absorption. They are a smarter source of protein than animal products in terms of your bone health, because animal proteins have been found to leach calcium from bones. The adverse effects of animal proteins have been cited as an explanation to why the United States has such a high rate of osteoporosis despite the fact that its population consumes so much calcium. Try replacing meat for a meal or two with these innovative lentil dishes.
Sweet potatoes contain two bone-strengthening nutrients: potassium and magnesium. Potassium helps balance the body’s acidity, which prevents calcium from leaching out of the bones. It’s also great for your blood pressure — which is why you might want to consider eating some potassium with a sodium-heavy meal.
There is a growing body of evidence that tofu and soy-based products can help with optimal bone health. Soy contains estrogen, a hormone that maintains bone growth and maturation, and which is critical for post-menopausal women. One osteoporosis study in Hong Kong found that even among pre-menopausal and perimenopausal women, soy protein intake “was a positive predictor of total body bone mineral content.” Here are some unusual ways to incorporate tofu into your diet.
Calcium and protein are the two most influential nutrients for bone growth, and yogurt possesses both. A study that tracked more than 3,000 participants for between 10 and 20 years showed that consumption of yogurt (along with other low-fat dairy products) was linked to higher bone mineral density. However, the same study also found that a high intake of cream (over a long period of time) could adversely affect bone health. Another pro of eating yogurt — it has probiotics. That means it’s good for your gut, as are these other healthy foods.
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