The best foods for stronger bones
Posted on August 12 2019
There’s more to boosting your bone strength than a glass or two of milk. Calcium-rich foods are one way to help build stronger bones, but that doesn’t mean dairy is the be-all and end-all of bone health. There are other key foods and nutrients that can support your bones, too. If you’re after a natural way to build your bone health, try adding a few of the following to your daily diet.
You probably already know that fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, are good for your heart health. However, salmon is also a powerhouse of bone-building nutrition. In addition to being chock full of protein and omega-3 fats, both of which support skeletal health, salmon is also rich in vitamin D, which is key for proper calcium absorption.1 Both canned and fresh salmon offer up all the vitamin D you need per day in just one portion, making it the perfect option for a boost of the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Add some salmon to your stir-fry for a change, or marinate and skewer some for a fresh twist at your summer BBQ.
2) Pumpkin seeds
A great source of healthy fats, magnesium, iron and zinc, these crunchy seeds are brimming with nutrients. All seeds are great snacks for their magnesium content, but pumpkin seeds outshine the rest, with just one tablespoon offering up more than 40mg of this essential mineral. Magnesium plays a key role in converting vitamin D into its active form that promotes calcium absorption, making it an important nutrient for healthy bones.2
Zinc is another essential for bone support, as it’s needed to produce the matrix of collagen protein threads which are important for bone mineralization. Basically, it helps make up the mineral portion of your bones, as well as helping to prevent any breakdown. Pumpkin seeds pack around 1mg of zinc per tablespoon, making a handful a seriously healthy snack. Roast them with olive oil and spices, and use as an addition to salads or soups for some bone-healthy nutrition.
We might go on about the health benefits of leafy greens, but they really do pack a nutrient punch. Kale is a great dietary source of calcium and contains very little fat, making it a lighter alternative to dairy sources of calcium like cheese and milk. One cup of raw kale (about 70g) also contains more than 6 times the RDI for vitamin K, which is key for bone health. It’s involved in the production of proteins in bone, so is important for strength. Without vitamin K2, your body won’t properly utilize calcium, so getting enough is a must.3
Working kale and other nutrient-dense greens into your diet is easy enough when you how to prepare them. Sautee kale with a little olive oil, or try blending it into a smoothie for a drink that’s bound to do your body some good.
Walnuts are another impressive nutrient source that offer up a variety of health benefits. Essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3s, are great for bone health as they help increase the amount of calcium your body absorbs and deposits in your bones. Omega-3 is also known for boosting collagen production, which results in improved bone strength.4
Not only are walnuts packed with nutrients, they’re also an excellent source of boron, manganese and copper. You only need tiny amounts of these trace minerals, but not getting enough can have significant effects. Boron is involved in bone metabolism and vitamin D activity, whereas manganese is essential for the synthesis of connective tissue in your cartilage and bones. Copper plays a key role in the development and maintenance of bones and joints, because it’s active in an enzyme that produces both collagen and elastin.5 So, all three are pretty important for supporting your bones.
Just a few walnuts go a long way, and they’re easy enough to work into your meals. Try chopping a few and adding to your morning cereal, or sprinkle on a salad for some added texture. Like all nuts, they’re fairly high in calories, but they’re also satisfying, so a small amount can fill you up easily.
What to remember
Your bones are literally the support system of your body, so taking care of them is essential. You can keep them strong with the right balance of nutrients, particularly calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K. Getting enough of these via your diet is pretty much your best line of defense when it comes to preventing problems further along the line. So, take note of the best foods to boost your bone health. Your body will thank you in the long run.
1 Christakos, S., Dhawan, P., Porta, A., Mady, L. J., & Seth, T. (2011). Vitamin D and intestinal calcium absorption. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 347(1-2), 25–29.
2 Zittermann A. (2013). Magnesium deficit an overlooked cause of low vitamin D status?. BMC medicine, 11, 229.
3 Maresz K. (2015). Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 14(1), 34–39.
4 Hankenson K.D., Watkins B.A., Schoenlein I.A., Allen K.G.D., Turek J.J. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Enhance Ligament Fibroblast Collagen Formation in Association with Changes in Interleukin-6 Production. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000;223(1):88–95.
5 Pepa, G. D., & Brandi, M. L. (2016). Microelements for bone boost: the last but not the least. Clinical cases in mineral and bone metabolism : the official journal of the Italian Society of Osteoporosis, Mineral Metabolism, and Skeletal Diseases, 13(3), 181–185.