Eating for Bone Health – a good read from one of my readers

9 May

I love it when my readers want to share valuable information with others.  Please enjoy this interesting article about the importance food has on bone health, contributed by one of my readers, Jenni Upton.

Eating for Bone Health

Weight-bearing exercise—including both cardiovascular and weight training—are great for helping your body maintain build and maintain bone density, but exercise is definitely not the whole story when it comes to bone health. Your diet is just as important, and even more so, because if your diet doesn’t include enough of essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, all the exercise in the world won’t do your bones any good. If you’re already following a clean eating lifestyle, you may already be getting all the nutrients you need. If not, you might be surprised to find that eating for bone health is not difficult at all, even if you’re vegetarian or vegan.

Bone Health and Bone Density

Maintaining bone density is always important, but it gets even more important as you get older, especially for women, who have a much higher risk of osteoporosis than men. When bones lose density they become weak and brittle, and have a much greater risk of fracturing and breaking, as a result of even minor injuries. While the root cause of osteoporosis is low bone density, there are multiple factors that can cause the disease to develop. Common risk factors include nutrient deficiencies, smoking, heavy consumption of alcohol or caffeine, lack of weight-bearing exercise, and autoimmune disease.

Healthy Bones Need Healthy Food

Clean eating is definitely the best and easiest way to help maintain bone health and high bone density. With a good clean diet you should get plenty of calcium, but just as important, plenty of all the other vitamins and minerals that your bones need to stay healthy: magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and potassium among them. Even if you’re getting plenty of calcium in your diet, a deficiency in any of these nutrients may lead to low bone density and osteoporosis later in life.

Calcium is the main mineral that bone is made of, but magnesium is deposited in bone too, and both minerals are essential for bone formation and maintenance of bone density. Vitamin D can be considered essential too, as it helps the body absorb calcium (including supplemental as well as dietary calcium). Vitamin K has two functions in bone health: it reduces excretion of calcium from the body, and it also helps osteoblasts—the cells that deposit calcium and magnesium in bone—to function.

So, where to get your daily supply of these essential nutrients?

Adults need a minimum of 1000 mgs of calcium a day (around 1200-1300 for women who are pregnant or lactating, or who are post-menopausal). Dairy products are high in calcium, but there are plenty of non-dairy sources too. Green leafy vegetables like bok choi and spinach are high in calcium, and some nuts, including almonds, are also high in calcium. Legumes, figs, blackstrap molasses, blackeyed peas, and seaweed are good sources too.

Most of these same foods are also excellent sources of potassium and magnesium. White beans, bananas, potatoes and acorn squash are high in potassium, and almonds, beans, nuts, brown rice, and oats are good sources of magnesium. Adults need 300-400 mg of magnesium a day, and at least 4,700 mg of potassium. (That seems like a lot of potassium, but most vegetables are very high in this mineral—for example, one cup of cooked spinach has 840 mg, and a cup of cooked broccoli has 460 mg.)

Vitamin K is an easy one, especially for clean eaters—it’s in almost all vegetables, as well as meat, fish, and eggs. As for vitamin D, few foods are natural sources; only egg yolks, liver, and saltwater fish contain this vitamin. If you prefer to avoid sun exposure, supplements are typically the best option if you need more vitamin D.

How important are Bone Health Supplements?

If you’re eating clean and including plenty of fresh vegetables and plant proteins in your diet, it’s likely that you’re also getting plenty of the vitamins and minerals your bone needs to maintain bone density. However, that’s not necessarily the case for everyone—some medications and medical conditions can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb or store certain nutrients, for example. Even if you’re a clean eater it’s worthwhile taking a close look at what you’re eating, just to make sure. If you do decide to take supplements, make sure that you’re not focusing only on the obvious ones, like calcium—remember that other minerals and vitamins are important for bone health too, and choose your supplements accordingly.


Andrew Weil. “Supplements for Bone and Joints.” Accessed May 3, 2014. Dietary supplements.

Centers for Disease Control. “Calcium and Bone Health.” Accessed May 3, 2014. Minerals important in bone health.

Cooking Light. “Seven Principles of Clean Eating.” Accessed May 3, 2014. About clean eating.

Kwikmed. “Complete Video Guide to Osteoporosis and Bone Health.” Accessed May 3, 2014. Science and research.

National Instituteof Arthritisand Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Bone Health for Life.” Accessed May 3, 2014. Osteoporosis and prevention.

The Synergy Company. “Bone Renewal.” Accessed May 3, 2014. Dietary supplements for healthy bones.


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