Foods and dietary tips for bone strengthening

Weight management is one of the most highlighted objectives of diet, but dietary intake does not only affect your weight. The food you eat provides nutrients to your body necessary for the proper development and functioning of your tissues, organs and bones. According to a 2011 research from Canada, your skeletal system needs minerals and vitamins from early childhood to create bone mass, which should reach its highest point when you are 30 years old. Strong and healthy bones help you to stay upright, move and protec your internal organs. By the time you are 40 years old, your bones will start losing their mass as the body does not create any new ones at that age. This can lead to conditions like osteoporosis unless you start giving your bones nutrients from an early age and, indeed, throughout your life. When it comes to your skeletal system, each meal on your table can play a significant role in preserving your bone mass and health. Here are some of the most important foods and dietary tips for bone strengthening that you should incorporate into your lifestyle for a healthy skeletal system.

Eat More Calcium-rich Food

Calcium is the main mineral in bones that protects their structure and strength. According to a 2017 study, calcium and vitamin D taken together can lead to stronger bones in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Recommended daily intake for calcium in men is 1,000mg, with women
recommended to take about 1,200mg, while teenagers will require about 1,300mg per day. The way our body absorbs this mineral may vary from person to person. Because of this, it is advisable to have calcium-rich food with every meal throughout the day. Although dairy food (e.g. cheese, yogurt and kefir) is the best source of calcium, you can also get this mineral from seeds, sardines and lentils.

Introduce Magnesium and Phosphorus into your Diet

Besides being full of calcium, some nuts are also rich in magnesium and phosphorus. Magnesium is a mineral that preserves the calcium deposit in our bones and helps them absorb calcium. On the other hand, 85% of our bones and teeth contains phosphorus. Peanuts, pecans, almonds, cashews and walnuts are among some of the most commonly consumed nuts and they are an easy source of these minerals. Other great sources of magnesium include avocados, bran cereal, brown rice, edamame, soy milk and pumpkin. For phosphorus, you can find it in dairy products, lentils, whole grains, and a small amount in fruits and vegetables.

Focus On Getting Enough Vitamins D and K

Making sure you have enough vitamin D in your body is imperative to having healthy bones. This nutrient helps the body absorb calcium and protects you against diseases that weaken your skeletal system. While the most efficient way to build vitamin D deposits is through exposure to the sun, you can also do so with food and supplementation. To avoid vitamin D deficiency and stay in optimal health, you should have up to 2,000 IU daily in supplements, while consuming more liver, cheese and fatty fish. Vitamin K modifies osteocalcin – a protein that participates in the formation of bones. After modification, this protein can bind to bone minerals and preserve the calcium deposits in the skeletal system. Vitamin K is found in limited quantities in meat and eggs. A soy bean product called natto and fermented foods contain MK-7, one of the two most common forms of vitamin K. A Japanese study concluded that MK-7 in food significantly contributes to vitamin K status in the body when administered to healthy women.

Consume Beans For Bone Strengthening Nutrients

Beans are full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, protein and fiber. Because of this, they are great for preserving bone health for people on vegetarian and vegan diets. For example, one cup of black beans has 84mg of calcium and magnesium, and 259mg of phosphorus. One cooked cup of white beans has 13% of calcium RDI, while the same amount of wing beans has 24%.

Have Fatty Fish for Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can keep your bones healthy as you age. You can take them through supplements and oils, but they are also available in fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel. Plant-sourced omega-3 fats have also shown promising results in increasing bone formation. Flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts are an excellent way to take in these beneficial acids on days when fish is off the menu.

Get Enough Proteins

Proteins should be an essential part of your diet as around 50% of your bones is made from protein. If you do not consume enough proteins, your body may not be able to absorb enough calcium to keep your bones healthy. According to a 2011 study, people who get more calories from protein can keep their bone mass while they are on a weight loss program. The recommended amount of protein for the average person is up to 100g per day, but that depends on age, gender and weight.

Add Bone-Strengthening Seeds to Meals

Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber are among the beneficial nutrients found in seeds. One ounce of sesame seeds has 280mg of calcium, 101mg of magnesium and 181mg of phosphorus. Ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds are an excellent addition to breakfast meals and soups. If you want to introduce more of these seeds into your diet, use them roasted or fresh in salads. One great way to start the day with a healthy meal for the bones is by making a chia pudding. You can do so by leaving chia seeds to soak in milk overnight. Just one tablespoon of chia seeds will give you 46mg of calcium, 51mg of magnesium and 105mg of phosphorus.

Replace Dairy with Fortified Foods

If you are lactose-intolerant, you can eat fortified foods with calcium and vitamin D to obtain the recommended daily intake. Cereals and juices are the best options to replenish the nutrients you may be missing out on due to nonconsumption of dairy products. Fortified soy, rice, almond milk and tofu with calcium sulfate are an excellent way to replace milk and cheese. Other calcium-rich foods include canned pink salmon and sardines (both with bones), English muffins, canned beans, and orange juice.

Cut Back on Sugar

A study review in 2018 found that sugar can lower the levels of calcium and magnesium in the body by causing their excess elimination through urine. Consuming high amounts of sugary food can also decrease the amount of vitamin D and prevent intestinal absorption of calcium. That is not all. Sugar is also responsible for the reduction of osteoblast proliferation, and can cause a higher production of lactic acid and activation of osteoclast, compromising the formation of bones. All these point to the effects of sugar increasing the risk of osteoporosis by pulling calcium from your bones and compromising your bone health.

Do Not Skip Your Vegetables

Vegetables are a great way to build a healthy skeletal system. They are full of vitamins, including vitamin C which has antioxidant properties and protects the cells. One of the main characteristics of vegetables is their ability to improve bone density by providing calcium and other minerals to
your body. For bone strengthening, you should eat more yellow and green vegetables. This is especially beneficial for women over 50 who are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and losing bone mass. Based on a 2015 study from New Zealand, post-menopausal women who ate more broccoli, parsley, cabbage and other vegetables full of antioxidants, conserved more calcium and experienced less bone turnover.

Avoid Extremely Low-Calorie Diets

Cutting down on calories to an extreme level can be bad for the bones. Diets that have less than 1,000 calories can degrade bone density in people with normal and increased weight. This can happen regardless of the person being physically active and performing resistance training. To have a healthy skeletal system, you should have at least 1,200 calories every day, obtained from food rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals useful for bone health.

Be Careful With Supplements

Sometimes, your daily diet may not be enough to boost bone health and you have to fortify it with supplements. However, according to findings from a 2016 study, calcium and vitamin D supplements may not make a lot of difference in the prevention of bone fractures in healthy individuals. On the other hand, experts have suggested that a glass of milk every day can be enough to keep the skeletal system healthy. The best approach before taking any supplement is to consult with your physician and see what kind of supplementation they recommend. A lot can depend on the state of your bones, age, gender and overall lifestyle. Taking supplements on your own may sometimes bring more harm than benefits.

Bone Strengthening

When you consider the objective of bone strengthening, think of foods that have high amounts of vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and protein. Only through professional care and advice can you change your habits, improve your diet, and live a healthier lifestyle that will make your bones stronger and enhance your quality of life.

Dr Kevin Lau
Chiropractor, Nutritionist,
App Developer and Author
Founder, ScolioLife™

Dr Lau is a pioneer in the field of non-surgical scoliosis correction. He has treated thousands of scoliosis patients who visit him from around the world. He combines university education in Doctor of Chiropractic and Masters in Holistic Nutrition, with a commitment to practicing natural and preventive medicine. Dr Lau aims to empower scoliosis patients with the knowledge and tools to prevent and correct scoliosis through all stages of life.