Superfoods for Strong Bones
Did you know that bones are living, active tissues that are constantly being remodeled?
More than 99% of our body’s calcium is held in our bones and teeth; however, bones are mostly made of collagen.
Understanding how to strengthen bones and improve bone health helps to understand what precisely healthy bones need. There’s a wide range of delicious foods for bone health that may preserve or even improve bone mineral density. And that’s because these foods contain certain key nutrients that are involved in our bone growth and composition.
Bones are made up of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and other minerals, as well as the protein collagen.
So, what are these key nutrients that healthy bones need?
I’m so glad you asked! Strong, healthy bones need calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium, and the protein collagen. Read on below to see which foods we can eat to get these nutrients from.
Well-Known Bone Health Nutrients
This mineral helps to build bones, as well as protect bone density and strength.
We tend to think dairy is the greatest source of calcium. Still, you can actually get plenty of calcium daily by eating lots of leafy green vegetables (swiss chard, kale, spinach, collard greens, etc.) or by eating bone-in fish. Sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses, almonds, and herbs such as garlic, oregano, parsley, and fennel contain a decent amount of calcium.
So, do your bones a favor by trying out new salad combinations, or try adding greens to your next smoothie.
2. Vitamin D
This hormone (did you know it’s actually a hormone?!) is needed in sufficient quantities in order for the body to absorb calcium properly.
Low levels increase the risk for lower bone density and greater bone loss. It’s difficult to consume enough vitamin D from food sources, but we can increase levels of vitamin D through sun exposure and with a vitamin D supplement. It’s so important to supplement with vitamin D, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere.
Shout out to Canada!
3. Vitamin K2
This vitamin plays a role in bone formation and in ensuring proper absorption and utilization of the calcium we eat.
You can find good amounts of vitamin K2 in quality dairy fat like ghee and butter. Egg yolks also contain vitamin K2 as well as fermented foods such as unpasteurized sauerkraut. If you’re looking for a new breakfast idea, scramble up a couple of eggs in butter or ghee with some dark leafy greens (a nod to calcium) and add two tablespoons of unpasteurized sauerkraut to top it off.
In your first meal of the day, you’re already consuming calcium and vitamin K2-rich foods.
Magnesium is another mineral that is essential for bone health. Magnesium is one of the key minerals that make up the structure of the bone matrix, and it will be pulled from the bones if blood magnesium levels drop. Magnesium deficiency is a known risk factor for osteoporosis.
So what are the best food sources for magnesium?
Enjoy pumpkin seeds, dark leafy greens like spinach and swiss chard, fish, avocados, dark chocolate, molasses, figs, and of course, bananas.
What many people forget about the structure of bones is that around 25-30% of the dry weight of bone is made of collagen proteins.
In order to have good collagen formation, you need amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine. While our bodies can produce glycine, proline, and lysine from any dietary protein, there is some evidence that these amino acids can be considered “conditionally essential.” Thus, we would benefit from consuming them in our diets.
One of the best and simplest ways to do this is by consuming bone broth regularly. Homemade broth also provides all of the necessary vitamins and minerals for building bone, as well as the proteins collagen and glucosamine for healthy joints and cartilage
Which Foods Will You Try?
Now let’s bring this all together.
It may seem like quite a few new foods to add to your eating habits, but here are some ways to do that:
- Add in dark leafy greens to scrambled eggs, smoothies, or stir fry.
- Spend time outside in the sunshine and supplement with vitamin D during the winter months.
- Cook foods in ghee or butter and add 2 tbsp of unpasteurized sauerkraut to your meals.
- Enjoy dark chocolate!
- Start or end your day with a cup of bone broth.
You got this!
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