Be Good to Your Bones
If you think drinking milk is the only thing you need to worry about you may be missing some of the connections between nutrition and bone health. Just like “the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone”, there are several nutrients that work together to maintain the health of your skeleton.
For example, everyone knows calcium is important, but did you know that the countries with the highest intake of milk have some of the highest incidence of hip fractures? It may be because milk contains other ingredients that interfere with bone health or it may be due to other factors. Regardless, there are lots of other great food sources of calcium like soy (edamame and tofu), sardines, cooked kale and collard greens, beans, prunes, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. Also seeds and nuts, especially almonds, sesame, and chia.
And did you know that calcium needs vitamin D to be properly absorbed? You can get vitamin D from foods like mushrooms, beef liver, eggs, and fish. If you eat none of these things, your body will still make its own vitamin D with a little sun exposure.
There are many other vitamins and minerals that contribute to bone formation. To quote an article published by the National Institutes of Health “the process of bone formation requires an adequate and constant supply of nutrients, such as calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, and fluoride.”
You may be wondering how you can be sure to get all of those? A diet of whole fresh foods including lean meats and fish, plus plenty of fruit, greens, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds should give you all the nutrition you need without resorting to supplements. Eating a lot of fast food and processed food will not.
Good nutrition goes a long way, but other factors affect your bone health. Smoking and too much alcohol can contribute to bone loss. Certain medications may also interfere with optimum bone health.
And exercise is important. Muscle strengthening exercises (gardening, lifting weights) and load bearing exercises like yoga and walking should be emphasized. These kinds of exercise stimulate bone formation and can help improve your balance to reduce the risk of falls and fractures.
May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month so it’s a good time to think about the health of your bones and what you can do to protect them. If you’re not bad to your bones, they will support you for a lifetime.