The Ultimate Guide to Foods for Healthy Bones

The Ultimate Guide to Foods for Healthy Bones

Bones and skeletons form the integral structure of the human body. Our bones provide structural support, help us in locomotion, and even safeguard our brain, heart, and other vital organs from harm. Since they serve various body functions, we should constantly check our bones’ health. If we don’t include regular exercises in our daily chores or don’t follow healthy eating habits, our bones may get fragile. Fractures are very painful and often need some kind of surgery to heal. So, we should not take bone health lightly as it might sometimes lead to long-term health issues.

There are numerous things we can do to maintain the health and strength of our bones. For example, a healthy diet plays a vital role in maintaining healthy bones. Therefore, your diet should include proteins, vitamins, and minerals to help regenerate bones. In addition, we can keep our bones healthy by eating calcium and vitamin-rich foods, exercising regularly, and following a healthy lifestyle.

Factors that Affect Bone Health

Bones constantly remodel with resorbing old bones, followed by the formation of new bones. However, our bones take about ten years to renew in the body entirely. That is why paying attention to bone health is essential in growing children and adults.

As per research, several factors affect bone growth and maintenance. These factors can be genetic as well as environmental.

Heredity

Bone health, one of the essential aspects of human vitality, depends on heredity. Since we inherit genes from both parents, we all have the genetic potential for several issues. However, there are a lot of genes involved, and their interactions aren’t fully understood.

For example, some enzyme related genes are responsible for bone production in the body. So, heredity plays an essential role in bone growth and overall development.

Hormones

The endocrine glands produce hormones, triggering specific effects in certain cells. Several hormones play a crucial role in bone formation and maintenance. Growth hormone, thyroxine, parathyroid hormone, and insulin aid cell division, calcium metabolism, energy production, and protein synthesis. Estrogen and testosterone imbalance aid in the termination of bone growth.

As per research, growth hormone plays a vital role in overall bone development. Growth hormone levels rise during childhood and reach their highest point during puberty. These hormones encourage bone and cartilage growth throughout this stage of development. Growth hormones govern fat, muscle, tissue, and bone in our bodies. In addition, they manage other components of our metabolism, including insulin action and blood sugar levels, throughout our lives. However, growth hormones reduce from middle-age onwards.

Research proves that the thyroxine hormone is responsible for overall skeleton development, efficient fracture healing, linear growth, and maintenance of bone mass. Furthermore, the parathyroid hormone increases calcium reabsorption from the bones to the blood. It also helps extract calcium from the small intestine and kidneys.

Physical Exercises

People often neglect exercise, but it is as essential as a healthy diet. Exercises hold the key for pre-adolescence bone development. They also maintain bone strength when we grow older. Bone is a living tissue that changes over time in reaction to pressures. It adjusts to frequent exercise by adding more bone strength and density.

As per research, active participation in physical activity should start from prepubertal ages. Additionally, it should continue throughout pubertal growth to achieve the maximum peak bone mass possible. Participation in high-strain sports like gymnastics or weight-bearing physical activities, or sports like football or handball, is strongly advised to increase peak bone mass.

Bones lose calcium faster than it restores if this stress is not there (which is not harmful). You do not have to perform rigorous exercises compulsorily; it can be as simple as walking beside daily activities. In the absence of exercise or in patients confined to their beds, bones become thinner and more fragile.

Nutrition

Good nutrition is a vital part of bone development. It ensures that the body receives a sufficient amount of nutrients like proteins, vitamins, and minerals to follow the process of bone recovery and regeneration with ease. Whenever the term “strong bones” comes up, our brain often revolves around calcium. But along with calcium, many other nutrients also help build strong bones.

Nutrients are the raw components that help produce bones. As per studies, calcium, phosphorus, and protein are essential elements of the bone matrix. Your small intestines require vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus effectively. Although vitamins A and C are not a part of your bone, we need them to form the bone matrix (ossification). 

Your bones cannot grow appropriately without these and other nutrients. Therefore, malnourished children grow slowly and may not achieve their height genetic potential because their bodies are deficient in these nutrients.

Calcium

Calcium is the most vital mineral for bone health. It is a mineral that makes up the majority of the bones. Old bone cells go through a cycle of breaking down and regeneration. That is why it is critical to eat calcium-rich foods regularly to maintain bone structure and strength.

As per research, our body cannot produce calcium. We can only obtain it by eating calcium-rich foods or taking calcium supplements. If you can’t fulfil the daily calcium requirement from foods or supplements, the body will absorb calcium from the bones to make up the difference. Between the ages of 25 and 35, bone density peaks and decreases as you grow older. 

Osteoporosis is a “silent” illness in which you lose bone mass. As a result of weak bones, fractures become more likely. It poses significant health hazards. Osteoporosis is the second most prevalent cause of death in women, primarily 60 and older. It often does not recover after a fall. Men are also at risk for osteoporosis, but they get it 5 to 10 years later than women. In most cases, you may avoid osteoporosis. Obtaining adequate calcium in the diet is an excellent place to start.

A significant portion of calcium intake should come through the foods and supplement with low-dose calcium supplements only if necessary. That is because our body absorbs more calcium from food than calcium from supplements.

Vitamin-D

Vitamin D is essential for the maintenance of healthy bones and muscles. Our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium properly. Therefore, it is necessary for good bone health. Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets in children, which causes bone weakening, bowed legs, and other skeletal malformations like slumped posture.

Vitamin D helps in absorbing calcium in the intestines and also ensures the complete renewal and correct mineralisation process of bones. In addition, vitamin D aids in absorbing phosphorus and calcium from the diet. It is also critical for people who have osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D, when taken combined, help women after menopause to create stronger bones.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral for bone health. It affects bone mineral density directly, due to which there is less probability of fractures and osteoporosis. Unfortunately, most individuals never get enough magnesium in their diets, mainly if they consume many processed foods deficient in magnesium.

Because magnesium and calcium work together so closely, it will benefit more if you consume both of these nutrients in an accurate ratio for them to perform appropriately. A 2:1 calcium-to-magnesium ratio is a decent rule of thumb. For example, if you take 1000mg of calcium, you also need to take 500mg of magnesium. Bone fractures were 44% less common in men with greater magnesium levels.

Several other nutrients like phosphorus, zinc, potassium, vitamin-A, etc., are essential for good bone health.

Adequate Daily Nutrient Intake

These values may vary according to the physiological condition of an individual, such as osteoporosis, pregnancy, lactation, etc.

  • Calcium: 1000-1200mg/day
  • Magnesium: 300-400mg/day
  • Vitamin D: 700-800 IU/day
  • Potassium: 4000-5000mg/day
  • Phosphorous: 700-800mg/day

Foods For Healthy Bones

A healthy diet helps develop strong bones at a young age and keep them healthy throughout life. A nutritious diet is just one of the building blocks for strong bones, including regular exercise and avoiding specific osteoporosis risk factors.

1. Dairy Products

Dairy products are a good source of calcium, protein and phosphorus. Our bodies need them for optimum bone growth. It includes milk and products made from milk, such as curd, cottage cheese (paneer) and dried milk. They are among the richest and best sources of calcium to include in the diet.

As per studies, dairy products are excellent sources for our calcium requirements. In addition, dairy products are full of essential nutrients that significantly impact bone development. These nutrients include calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, potassium, and other micronutrients and macronutrients.

Our bodies excrete calcium regularly through urine. The bones will lose calcium over time if the dietary intake does not compensate for what is lost, making them less dense and more susceptible to break. The required daily intake of nutrients essential for healthy bone health can be easily met by having three servings of dairy products every day. As a result, you can enhance bone health and lower the chance of fractures later in life.

2. Nuts and Seeds

  • Cashews are a good source of iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and folate. All these nutrients are vital for bone health. 
  • Almonds are high in good fats, protein, and calcium. In addition, they’re also a good source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that benefits your skin, hair, nails, and immune system. Soaked almonds are the best. You can use them in salads and smoothies.
  • Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They also have calcium, magnesium, vitamin D12, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and folate. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids benefits bone health. This macronutrient may help increase calcium levels in the bones, lowering the risk of arthritis and osteoporosis. 
  • Flaxseeds are also abundant in a-linolenic acid and calcium, which can help maintain good bone health.
  • Sesame seeds are a good source of calcium along with healthy fats which helps to strengthen bones.

3. Green Vegetables and Fruits

Leafy green vegetables, such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, amaranth, spinach, and kale, are incredibly healthy. They are a good source of calcium and vitamin K. In addition, various fruits and vegetables provide minerals and vitamins that our body needs to build and maintain bone mass. Some fruits and vegetables that help balance the body’s acidity levels also contain magnesium, vitamin K, and calcium. That makes it easy to eat enough to improve bone health.

Vegetables like spinach, avocados, sweet potatoes, and fruits like bananas and blackberries are magnesium-rich. As a result, they play a significant role in digestion and calcium absorption. According to research, consuming green leafy vegetables can provide you with more than sufficient amounts of calcium. In addition, vegetables like broccoli, green peas, and fruits like pomegranate and grapes are rich in Vitamin K. Vitamin K helps the body make the proteins it needs to form bones. It also affects the bone-building process by controlling the osteoblasts and osteoclasts. These are the cells that create and rebuild the bones.

4. Beans

Beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and edamame, are high in magnesium and phosphorus. These are a good source of an essential, well-known mineral for bone health. Calcium strengthens the bones by increasing bone mass and prevents bone loss, relieves anxiety, and aids sleep.

White beans (northern, cannellini, or navy) and whole soybeans are exceptionally high in calcium. In addition, adzuki beans are also a good source. Although other varieties like black and pinto beans also supply some calcium, not as much as white beans.

5. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great source of other nutrients like selenium and potassium. According to a study, selenium helps to protect the bone marrow, and potassium helps increase bone mineral density. Therefore, you can enhance your bone health by eating more of these foods. 

6. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, rainbow trout, and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help strengthen bones. In adults, omega-3 fatty acids increase bone growth and protect against bone loss. Fatty fish also have vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption. In addition, fish oil supplements minimise bone loss in women, which may aid in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Foods that Harm the Bones

Small dietary decisions you make throughout the day help you get healthy bones. However, since calcium and vitamin D-rich diets aid to strengthen bones, some foods can harm bones. The following lists foods that can impair bone health and should be limited or avoided altogether, depending on the bone condition.

Salty Foods

Overconsumption of salty foods may lead to loss of calcium from the body. According to research, increased sodium concentration in the body can lead to calcium loss. Sodium present in salty foods is responsible for causing the excretion of calcium from the kidneys. In addition, the body requires sodium and potassium in a particular proportion for optimal bone development. But, consuming more sodium than potassium creates an imbalance of too much sodium and less potassium. As a result, it causes progressive bone loss, leading to osteoporosis. Therefore, limiting salty foods and choosing foods that are salt-free or low in salt can help to improve bone health.

Sugary Snacks

Sugar consumption negatively affects bone health. Sugary snacks can make the bones more vulnerable to osteoporosis, damage, and fracture later in life. However, it is not compulsory to avoid sugar entirely; instead, use natural sugar in moderation.

Research suggests that overconsumption of sugar has a potential risk for osteoporosis. Dietary sugar is the cause of excessive excretion of magnesium and calcium through urine. Sugar also reduces the intestinal capacity to absorb calcium from the blood by lowering vitamin D. 

Red Meat

The consumption of red meat has many side effects for people with osteoporosis. Animal protein from foods like red meat can drain calcium from the bones and decrease bone marrow if consumed in excess. Therefore, frequent meat consumers are significantly and independently associated with osteoporosis.

Raw Spinach

Even though green vegetables are good sources of calcium, they contain oxalate, which prevents the proper absorption of calcium. Not every green vegetable has oxalates, but raw spinach, kale, and swiss chard are a few vegetables that have a high concentration of oxalates that hinder calcium absorption. So, to reap the best benefits of green vegetables, try eating them along with some calcium-rich foods like milk, curd and paneer that your body can absorb easily. According to research, calcium absorption is higher from milk than from spinach. 

Caffeine

You find caffeine in coffee, teas, and some soft drinks. Too much caffeine reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium, harming bone health. For an estimated understanding, consuming 100mg of caffeine will cause the loss of 6mg of calcium from the body. If consumed with sugary foods, caffeine harms bone health more, particularly in women after menopause. In addition, consuming more than 400mg of caffeine per day will make the bones weak and brittle, and according to research, it can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. 

Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated beverages, such as sodas and soft drinks, can negatively impact bone health. These drinks include phosphoric acid, which raises blood acidity levels. Because of that, the body soaks out calcium from the bones to lower blood acidity levels. Unfortunately, it leads to a calcium deficit. This calcium deficit causes bone mineral density to drop by a significant difference and increases the risk of fractures. 

Conclusion

Healthy bones are essential at every age. Despite this, people tend to take strong bones for granted because symptoms often don’t appear until advanced bone loss has occurred. Inclusion of all these foods in an adequate amount will give healthy bones. But, diet alone is not enough. Exercise should also be a part of the daily regime.

In addition, you should get a certain amount of sunlight for wholesome benefits. Moreover, understanding how nutrition, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors affect bone mass, much better makes it easier to keep the bones healthy and free from injuries like fractures.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Which fruit is best for bones?

A. Several fruits help improve bone health. However, the best fruit that helps aid healthy bone growth is Figs. 2 dried figs provide approx. 25- 28 mg of calcium. Other fruits that help bone development are blackberries, jackfruits, bananas, guava, and grapes.

Q. How do I make my bones stronger?

A. You can make your bones stronger by eating foods rich in nutrients like calcium, potassium, vitamin K, and magnesium. In addition, spending some time under the sun will help obtain sufficient Vitamin D.  However, being physically active is among the best habits to practice.  

Q. Why do bones get weak?

A. Several factors contribute to bone weakness. For example, calcium deficiency is one of the common factors responsible for it. It also leads to osteoporosis, a bone health issue. Additionally, age, genetics, lack of physical exercise, and nutrient deficiency also contribute to bone weakness.

Q. Are eggs good for bones?

A. Yes, eggs contain high protein content. Additionally, egg yolks are also rich in vitamin D. It is necessary for calcium absorption and bone health. So that makes eggs a food that helps improve bone health.

Q. Which food is rich in calcium?

A. Our bodies may get calcium from several foods rich in it. These foods include dairy foods like milk and cheese, green leafy vegetables, and foods containing fortified flour. In addition, beans and lentils are also the best sources.

Q. Is banana good for bones?

A. Yes. Banana contains several essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper and magnesium, which help you get healthy bones. However, the potassium in bananas is their most significant benefit, creating a pH-balancing line of defence to protect your bones.

Q. What is the best vitamin for bones?

A. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and process calcium. Together, vitamin D and calcium are the cornerstones of healthy bones. They work together to strengthen your bones and help prevent bone issues.

Q. Does walking increase bone density?

A. Yes, walking is very effective for osteoporosis, a bone disorder. It improves hip and femoral neck bone density. Walking three to five miles per week can help maintain bone health. Brisk walking for even 30 minutes a day can be sufficient.

Q. Is drinking milk good for your bones?

A. Yes, dairy products are excellent for improving and maintaining healthy bones. Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. In addition, they are full of essential nutrients that significantly impact bone development. These nutrients include calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, potassium, and other micronutrients and macronutrients.

Q. Does running increase bone strength?

A. Yes. Running, jumping ropes, jogging, and other weight-bearing exercises stimulate the bones by putting on more stress and delivering more bone-strengthening benefits. These are some of the higher impact activities you should regularly do.

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