Without strong bones, we wouldn’t be able to run, jump, or stand up straight. But even in those of us who take great care of our bodies, our bones do gradually start to age and thin out beginning in our 30s. How can we prevent deterioration and promote good bone health? By eating a diet high in calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. Most adults should aim to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. And if you’re over the age of 50, you’ll need to be taking in a bit more—closer to 1,200 milligrams. When considering how to fill your plate, here are ten foods to consider for boosting bone health.
Some people understandably can’t stand the thought of eating tiny whole fish, but just a couple of sardines are packed with more calcium than a cup of milk. They’re also flush with vitamin D and phosphorus which help with bone building and strengthening the bone matrix. If you puree them with artichokes or olives you can make a nice, salty pesto for sandwiches.
Many adults aren’t big milk drinkers. If that’s the case, yogurt is another good source of calcium. The average single-serving container of yogurt has 187 mg of calcium. Just keep it as plain and natural as possible. There are far too many brand-name varieties that pack in tons of sugar and other sweeteners.
Cheese is one of those foods that’s relatively easy to fit into your diet because it goes with so many different things. A wedge of cheese with fruit or crackers is an easy snack, or it can be shredded to top a salad, soup, veggies, or any savory meal you like. If you’re lactose intolerant, cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss are all good options, or try lactose-free cheese from any specialty supermarket.
4. Dark leafy greens
You probably already know that dark leafy greens are diet all-stars when it comes to an entire alphabet of vitamins (A, C, E, and K, that is), but did you know that they can also be calcium powerhouses? Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard and turnip greens are all good choices for promoting bone strength.
This versatile form of bean curd is enriched with calcium as well as plant-based chemicals known as isoflavones, which are thought to strengthen bones. Soy products like tofu are associated with reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women. Eat a half-cup serving for more than 400 mg of calcium.
To help your body absorb all that good calcium, you need an adequate amount of vitamin D, and fatty fish like salmon can deliver it. The omega-3 fatty acids may also promote bone health.
Like salmon, walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein, both of which are a boon for bones. But consumers should be aware that too much of a good thing can be bad. Too much protein has been linked with negative bone outcomes, but that mostly goes for animal proteins, and the chances of you overconsuming on a well-balanced diet are very low. Still, it’s something to keep in mind when making food selections.
We’ve long been hearing about the health benefits of almonds, and their wholesome qualities apply to bone health given their high levels of potassium to help defend against calcium loss and resulting osteoporosis. A small, single-ounce serving has 80 mg of calcium as well. Some people even massage their babies with almond oil in hopes that it will support strong bones.
9. Red peppers
Of all the colorful peppers, red peppers are the best source of vitamins A, C, and K. Vitamin C is especially important to good bone health because it helps to produce collagen and maintain normal function in osteoblast cells for bone hardness.
10. Sweet potatoes
Another food that’s been growing in popularity over recent years, sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins C, D, magnesium, potassium, and iron, all of which contribute to overall bone health.
Bonus: Fortified foods
These days, even foods without calcium naturally occurring in them are being given an extra health boost by being fortified with the essential mineral. Many orange juices, breads, and cereals fall into this category, so read labels and educate yourself on what packaged foods might be decent sources of calcium.