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Foods That Can Improve Your Bone Health

Bone health is something most people take for granted predominately because we know that bone is a living tissue that constantly rebuilds and repairs itself.

As children, milk is one food that is devoured on a daily basis and the richest in calcium for the body keeping bone tissue growing and strong. As we age, our tolerance to digest dairy decreases as the body reduces the production of the Lactase enzyme in the gut, it is this enzyme that is responsible for the quick break down of dairy products, so when production is reduced and dairy food hits the colon, it takes much longer to break down, causing flatulence and discomfort.

Once we cross the age of fifty, our bones begin to lose density and become porous. This decrease in density leads to weak bones, putting us at a risk of breaking bones, minor fractures as well as developing the bone disease called osteoporosis. Though this is true for all people as they approach their seventies, research finds that women are at a greater risk than men.

As you might know, the human body cannot produce calcium; it has to be absorbed through calcium rich foods. The combination of dairy and Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from the food we eat, other nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C are also essential for bone health and strength. All are essential to keep osteoporosis at bay.

How much calcium we need to optimize bone health is relative and depends on your age and sex —

MEN: 1000mg a day 51 to 70 years.

WOMEN: 1200mg a day 51 to 70 years.

After 70 years 1200mg for both men and women

(The National Institute of Health)

As I mentioned earlier, with age comes intolerance for dairy, and the thing with supplements is, you really do not know whether or not the body is absorbing it at all or to what extent. Even though no single food comes close to the levels of calcium that dairy food offers, fret not, you could incorporate and combine foods that contain calcium to get your daily quota.

Here are some foods to make part of your daily diet to ensure you keep your bones healthy —

Beans —

Beans of all kinds are a stellar source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, all minerals the body needs to build and maintain strong bones and make energy.

To prepare- dried beans for cooking, add six cups of water for each two cups of beans. Let water come to a boil and then boil beans for three minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak overnight. Cook as desired.

Serving size: 80 raw Calcium content: White beans: 132 mg; red beans: 93 mg

Tofu, made from soybeans, is packed with calcium and magnesium, two minerals that help your body build and maintain strong bones. It is a rich source of protein. Proteins are made up of chemical building blocks called amino acids and our body uses amino acids to build and repair bones and muscles.

To prepare- you get tofu either firm or silken, make as a stir-fry or Thai curry or even tofu burji. It serves as a great low calorie dessert- puree tofu with sugar free orange marmalade.

Serving size: ½ cup Calcium content: 126 mg

Vegetables —

Broccoli – According to a recent survey by Green Giant, broccoli took the number 1 spot as America’s favorite vegetable, broccoli has easily absorbed calcium, vitamin C and other healthful nutrients, essential for bone formation and prevention of bone-density loss.

To prepare– Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked, if you prefer cooked broccoli to raw, be sure to retain most of its calcium content by steaming or sautéing instead of boiling.

Serving size: ½ cup raw Calcium content: 112 mg

Sweet potatoes, This tuber, a specialized storage root that grows below the soil, is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining healthy bones and cartilage, the strong connective tissue that protects joints and bones. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with magnesium, a mineral that reduces the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.

To prepare- store them in a cool, dry area with good ventilation as refrigeration can bring on a hard center and unpleasant taste. Make air fried chips, or chaat as healthy option anytime snacks.

Serving size: 1 cup mashed Calcium content: 76 mg

Fruit —

Oranges are packed with vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, which may help increase bone density, especially in the spine. Vitamin C is crucial to the production of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body and a major component of bone, it also boosts the absorption of calcium from food, speeding up recovery from fractures.

To prepare- Orange best eaten as a fruit with its fiber, the rind contain natural oils for the body use as a garnish on salad or in marmalade.

Serving size: One medium-size orange Calcium content: 55 mg

Prunes or Dried plums, though best known to help constipation, one study concluded that eating five or six prunes a day for six months resulted in preservation of bone at the hip. Fractures can occur in any bone but are most common in the bones of the hip, spine and wrist.

To prepare: their natural sweetness can sweeten any dish; its low GI makes it a healthy choice. Pop one as dessert or chop a few into fine bits and scatter on a green salad, or mash into a sharp cheese and spread on crackers for a between-meals snack.

Serving size: ¼ cup (5 prunes) Calcium content: 20 mg

Dried figs are a good source of both calcium and potassium, minerals that work together to help prevent osteoporosis. Dried figs contain healthy plant-based nutrients (phytochemicals) as well as chemicals that can help prevent cell damage (antioxidants).

To prepare: Cut the figs into chunks mix them with other dried fruits and nuts to make your homemade trail mix.

Serving size: 60 grams (about 2 ounces) Calcium content: 96 mg

Nuts —

Almonds provide calcium and phosphorus both very important minerals for the formation and strength of bones. More than 85 percent of the phosphorus in the adult body is found in the bones. Both calcium and phosphorus work together to form and keep healthy bones and teeth as well as energy levels, nerve cells and brain function.

To prepare: soak almonds overnight; remove skin as it contains tannins, which prevent absorption of nutrients. Eat as your first protein of the day. Carry along as a snack or substitute for croutons on a salad for that crunch.

Serving size: Just under ½ cup, about a handful Calcium content: 75 mg

To conclude —

Most of the calcium is stored in your bones, the remainder in blood, muscle and other tissue.

Taking charge of your bone health from a young age will hold you in good stead as you approach your golden years. Include these foods to keep a lifelong spring in your feet.

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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