Building healthy bones is extremely important. Minerals are incorporated into your bones during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Once you reach 30 years of age, you have achieved peak bone mass. If not enough bone mass is created during this time or bone loss occurs later in life, you have an increased risk of developing fragile bones that break easily. Fortunately, many nutrition and lifestyle habits can help you build strong bones and maintain them as you age. Here are the best foods for your bone.
Best Foods For Your Bone
There’s a reason dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese always come up in conversations about bone health: They’re loaded with calcium, the main nutrient that contributes to bone strength and structure, according to the NIH. Both a cup of fat-free milk and a cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, according to nutrient estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Whether you choose full- or nonfat dairy products will depend on your personal preference. “If somebody’s trying to lose weight, they may want to stick with lower-fat products,” says Sandy Allonen, MEd, a registered dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
If you’re going the nonfat route, choose foods that have been fortified with fat-soluble vitamins that are key for building strong bones, per American Bone Health, namely vitamin A and vitamin D. “When you pull out the fat, you also pull out the fat-soluble vitamins,” Allonen says.
Nuts contain some calcium, but they also offer two other nutrients essential to bone health: magnesium and phosphorus. Magnesium helps you absorb and retain calcium in the bones, Allonen says. Meanwhile, phosphorus is a key component of bones — roughly 85 percent of the phosphorus in your body can be found in your bones and teeth, according to the NIH.
There are plenty of nut varieties to choose from, including walnuts, peanuts, and pecans, but Allonen advises that almonds are always a good bet. One ounce (a small handful) of almonds is a good source of magnesium and provide some phosphorus, per the USDA.
Vegetables are great for your bones. They’re one of the best sources of vitamin C, which stimulates the production of bone-forming cells. In addition, some studies suggest that vitamin C’s antioxidant effects may protect bone cells from damage.
Vegetables also seem to increase bone mineral density, also known as bone density. Bone density is a measurement of the amount of calcium and other minerals found in your bones. Both osteopenia (low bone mass) and osteoporosis (brittle bones) are conditions characterized by low bone density.
A high intake of green and yellow vegetables has been linked to increased bone mineralization during childhood and the maintenance of bone mass in young adults. Eating lots of vegetables has also been found to benefit older women.
All kinds of beans, including black beans, edamame, pinto beans, and kidney beans, serve up a hearty dose of bone-building nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Plus, beans are typically high in fiber and protein, which may be especially helpful for those following a plant-based diet. And contrary to popular belief, eating a plant-based diet, which focuses on reducing animal products, such as meat and dairy, and increasing plant foods like produce, doesn’t have a negative effect on bone health. A vegan diet, which is one plant-based eating plan, isn’t associated with an increased risk of bone fractures if you eat enough calcium, notes past research. The NIH recommends that adults get between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, depending on your sex and life stage.
Plant foods like beans can help you reach that calcium target and provide additional nutrients. For instance, a cup of black beans, which offer 84 mg of calcium, are an excellent source of magnesium and phosphorus, according to the USDA. They are also an excellent source of fiber and are a source of plant protein.
Juice up a classic
It may go perfectly with pancakes, but orange juice doesn’t naturally contain much calcium. That said, it can still be a great way to increase your intake. How? Manufacturers often sell versions that have been fortified with calcium (look for it on the packaging). In fact, fortified orange juice has about the same amount of bone-building calcium as dairy milk.