We’ve been told to drink a ton of milk or take a calcium supplement for strong bones. However bones are made up of so much more than just calcium, and dairy in excess isn’t the best for overall health. Here is a list of foods and moves for strong and flexible bones ~ bones that don’t break!
Yes, bones need calcium - however, this is a short story gone wrong. What bones need is MINERALS - 12 main minerals and 64 trace minerals. Main minerals include boron, calcium, chromium, iron, silica, selenium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. So, which foods will give you the most minerals and nutrients to support bone?
1. Dark leafy greens: Collard greens, swiss chard, kale, bok choy, turnip greens
These dark leafy greens contain not only calcium, but the nutrients that help the body absorb calcium into the bone too: vitamin K and magnesium. They also are anti-inflammatory and alkaline-forming, both are crucial for bone health and disease prevention. Leafy greens contain vitamin C which is essential for the formation of the collagen matrix. The collagen matrix gives bones their structure and flexibility. Flexible bones are not prone to breaking.
Recipe tip: Southern-Style Collard Greens Cooked with Ham Hock and Vinegar:
The vinegar helps release calcium from the ham bones, making it a calcium-rich super food!
2. Sardines with Bones:
Those edible bones are an excellent source of highly bioavailable calcium. Plus the sardines contain protein to support collagen formation, and healthy fats. They're versatile enough to be enjoyed on crackers, salads, on pasta, or straight!
3. Wild-Caught Salmon:
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is important for so many reasons- including protecting against bone loss by increasing bone reabsorption. Omega-3s are also crucial for heart health, mental health, cognitive health, joint health and immunity to name a few. A diet rich in healthy fats, like salmon, increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from food- vitamins A, D, E, and K. Eat the skin for extra vitamin D and the small edible bones for more calcium!
Liver is highly concentrated with preformed vitamin A, a necessary nutrient for bone remodeling. Bones are constantly being “remodeled” in the body, that is bone cells are broken down and rebuilt with new cells. Opt for hormone-free and pasture-raised meats.
Tip: can’t stand liver? Then try liver pate.
5. Carrots and Red Bell Peppers:
Vegetables that are brightly colored red, orange, and yellow are bursting with carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A. They are also high in vitamin C. Both nutrients are essential for bone formation. Purchase organic peppers as conventional peppers contain high levels of pesticides.
6. Wild Blueberries:
Wild blueberries pack a ton of antioxidants in a tiny package. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress, which lowers risk of bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis. Sprinkle them on your coconut yogurt or blend them into a smoothie. If wild berries aren’t available, purchase organic berries.
7. Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, flax seeds, chia, pumpkin:
Nuts and seeds are rich in so many of the nutrients that play a role in bone health. As we learned HERE there are so many nutrients involved in bone health! Almonds and sesame seeds are the richest of the group in calcium. Flax seeds are especially helpful in balancing estrogen, which prevents bone loss. Nuts and seeds also contain magnesium, healthy fats, protein, fiber, and zinc. They contribute to overall health. Bones are not independent~ overall health is bone health!
10. Bone broth
Bone broth is rich in calcium and l-glutamine. L-glutamine is healing for the walls of the intestines. The gut healing effects from bone broth can help us better absorb the nutrients from our food. Bone broth also contains collagen and protein, both needed for forming bones. Make your own bone broth from free-range grass-fed meaty bones, or try Designs for Health PurePaleo Protein Powder.
9. Fermented foods: Kimchee, Sauerkraut, water kefir, coconut yogurt
The gut microbiome is essential for metabolizing nutrients from our food. With dysbiosis, an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut, nutrients are not properly absorbed from our food. Dysbiosis can contribute to many different health conditions, including bone-related conditions like osteoporosis. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, balancing the good bacteria. Fiber-rich foods like nuts, seeds, and vegetables provide food for the good bacteria- also preventing dysbiosis.
10. Sea vegetables and sea salt:
Use unrefined sea salt for all the minerals! Celtic sea salt is the best option. Sea veggies such as wakame, nori and kombu have an array of minerals for bones. Plus, they provide antioxidants for overall health
A word on dairy:
Yes, dairy is high in calcium, however excess dairy in the diet can be acid-forming and inflammatory. Both of which do not provide the best environment for bone health. Some people can be lactose-intolerant (lacking the enzyme lactase to break down lactose in dairy) or sensitive to dairy (experiencing digestive symptoms as well as systemic delayed effects like eczema, joint pain).
Foods that have just as much calcium as dairy include wakame, agar, nori, kombu, sardines, collard greens, almonds, spinach, sesame seeds, kale, broccoli, walnuts, black beans and lentils.
Interested in food sensitivity testing to see if you have dairy sensitivity? Consider scheduling a FREE 15-Minute discovery call.
It’s always best to find balance with dairy - not at every meal. Choose grass-fed organic dairy and raw if you can.
Walking outside in the sun:
You might have heard that you need to do weight-bearing exercise for bone health. Good news- Walking is a weight-bearing exercise! Your own body weight makes it weight-bearing. Sun exposure is also crucial for bone health because sunlight is the best form of vitamin D, one of the most important nutrients for bone health. Try to get 30 minutes of activity daily, and 20 minutes of sun exposure without any sunscreen.
You may likely need vitamin D from a supplement in the fall and winter months. If so, always get Vitamin D with Vitamin K, never alone. Talking to a functional nutritionist can help you find the best dosage.
Flexible bones are just as important as strong bones (ever try bending a flexible tree branch?). Yoga creates flexibility in the muscles and joints, helping prevent injury. It is also weight-bearing with your own body weight. It is highly adaptable- you can modify poses to fit your level of strength, flexibility, or to accommodate injuries.
What to Avoid:
Soda contains phosphoric acid which leaches calcium out of bones!
High alcohol intake (more than 1 drink daily for women and 2 drinks for men) is a risk factor for osteoporosis due to decreased mineral absorption into bones and magnesium deficiency.
Acid producing and highly inflammatory. Go for natural sugars from whole fruit. Make sure you’re eating enough fat and protein at meals to support satiety and prevent sugar cravings later.
Excessive caffeine intake can result in bone loss.
Calcium supplements that contain only calcium increase risk of kidney stones. Calcium oxide and sulfate also decrease stomach acid, which makes digesting and absorbing protein and minerals very difficult. Learn more about stomach acid HERE.
If you need extra support for bone health consider a quality supplement with several nutrients that impact calcium absorption, such as a vitamin D, K2 and magnesium. We personally love OsteoBen or OsteoForce by Designs for Health.
Need extra support with nutrition and supplements related to bone health? Book a free 15 minute call today.