Health Watch: Food for bone health
No matter what your age, bone health is important. Strong bones help prevent osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and break easily. Often considered an “elderly” concern, osteoporosis prevention begins at an early age and continues throughout your lifetime. Bone mass develops rapidly between the ages of 10 and 20 and peaks at age 30. Building and maintaining strong bones depends on calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity.
Foods for strong bones
The best way to build strong bones is naturally through eating foods that enhance bone health rather than depending exclusively upon calcium supplements. This is particularly true since a recent study questioned the use of routine calcium supplements, suggesting they may play a role in promoting heart disease. Although more studies are needed to confirm this association, why take the chance when you can add bone building foods to your diet? Here are some of the best foods to eat for strong bones:
Milk: Milk is the most likely source of calcium. Milk is a good source of vitamin D because it is fortified, but cheese, yogurt and ice cream are generally not fortified and contain very little vitamin D. Choose non-fat or 1 percent milk. Avoid the others because of their saturated fat and cholesterol content.
Pumpkin (dhubba) seeds: When you think of bone-building minerals, you probably think of calcium. Our bones are largely made of calcium, but other minerals form a strong frame, too. In fact, 50 percent of the body’s magnesium resides in our bones. Research shows that a low magnesium intake is linked to bone fragility and calcium loss, most likely because poor magnesium status alters calcium metabolism. Nuts and seeds of all types are good sources of magnesium, but pumpkin seeds outshine the rest.
Walnuts: These nuts are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid and hence deserve their own category. Bones aren’t a hard, brittle skeleton like many people think. Actually, they’re living organs with live cells and body fluids. Every day, bone cells break down and build back up. That’s how they remain strong and repair after a break. Alpha-linolenic acid leads to a reduction in bone turnover, and a shift in the balance of bone degradation/formation toward formation.
Red peppers: New research shows that a high intake of carotenoids (antioxidants such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) may protect against bone loss as you age. Red peppers are a good source of beta-cryptoxanthin and lycopene.
Carrots: They are also a good source of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and betacryptoxanthin. Roast them with olive oil or have a juice or add to smoothies.
Tap water: Famed for its role in dental health, fluoride is also a component of your bones and adds to their density. Many communities add this mineral to their drinking water to help prevent dental decay. If you drink only bottled water, you may not be getting adequate fluoride to protect your teeth or your bones.
Beans: Beans give you a good boost of magnesium and even some calcium. If you’re a bean eater, you might also reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity.
Fish: Calcium may be the chief bone-forming mineral, but it’s nothing without its sidekick vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption. A small serving of salmon gives you 90 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D. As with low intakes of vitamin K, vitamin D deficiency is linked to hip fracture.
Leafy greens: Your salads and steamed greens are packed with bone-building nutrients, particularly calcium, magnesium and vitamin K. Vitamin K is critical in the formation of bone proteins. Research shows that too little of this fat-soluble vitamin increases your risk of hip fracture, but eating enough vitamin K decreases urinary calcium losses. One cup of raw or a half-cup of cooked greens provides several times the recommended intake of 90 micrograms per day.
And finally, don’t forget exercise. Studies suggest that keeping active is every bit as important for building strong bones. Daily active play in the sunshine will boost your vitamin D as well.