Add These Foods To Your Grocery List for Strong Bones
Jenna Mueller, Nutrition Graduate Student
"Including foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other essential vitamins and minerals in your diet is most beneficial for maintaining bone density."
Can you remember the last time that your doctor told you to make sure you are prioritizing your bone health? The last time somebody told you to eat and exercise for optimal bone augmentation was most likely when you were a growing child. However, maintaining bone density throughout our lives is incredibly important, especially when it comes to osteoporosis prevention.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is defined as a decrease in bone density resulting in micro-architectural deterioration; predisposing affected patients to fractures. Affecting an estimated 200 million people each year, osteoporosis is one of the most common bone diseases. As we age, our risk for osteoporosis drastically increases. However, diet and exercise are detrimental to preventing this bone disease. (1)
Osteoporosis in Post-Menopausal Women
Peak bone mass typically occurs in the mid-20s for adult women, which is essential for bone health. For other bones in the body, such as the radius, the peak will occur around age 40. However, by age 70, peak bone mass has usually decreased by 30-40% (2). Many factors play a role in this loss of bone, with hormonal changes being one of the primary factors for women. Studies show that estrogen deficiency happening during menopause is the likely cause of increased bone loss in menopausal women (2). Unfortunately, one in two women will have osteoporosis after menopause (3). Although there is no way to stop this estrogen depletion, there are many ways to prevent osteoporosis from occurring through diet alone.
Osteoporosis in Men
Although osteoporosis is more common in older women, it is still prevalent in men, especially as they age. Like women, men will experience peak bone mass during their mid-20s, but it is generally higher. As men age, however, the loss of testosterone and estrogen can also play a role in decreased bone density. Men should still focus on preventing osteoporosis as the risk increases with age for both men and women. Factors that may also influence the increased risk of osteoporosis include genetics; chronic diseases, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis; low levels of sex hormones; smoking and excessive alcohol consumption; weak muscles; and aging (4).
How does diet play a role in the prevention of Osteoporosis?
Beginning in early childhood, eating foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, phosphate, and other vital nutrients for bone health is crucial to maximizing peak bone density in later years. However, continuing to prevent the deficiency in these vitamins and minerals is essential in later years when bone density naturally decreases. With supplementation alone, individuals will rarely get enough of these nutrients to keep healthy bones, which is why it is essential to consume foods to aid in osteoporosis prevention.
So how can you prevent osteoporosis daily? Including foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other essential vitamins and minerals in your diet is most beneficial for maintaining bone density.
Add these foods to your grocery list!
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, with 99% stored in our teeth and bones to give them strength and structure. Therefore, calcium consumption is vital for the growth and maintenance of bone density. Some foods to include in your diet with high calcium content are:
1. Dairy foods
Hard cheeses (Parmesan, Romano, Cheddar, Part-skim mozzarella, Ricotta)
3. Fortified cereals (*look for low-sugar & high fiber)
Or whole grain oats
4. Fortified soy milk
*For lactose intolerance
Reduce amount per serving
Hard cheeses that are lower in lactose
Lactose free milk: soy, rice, almond
Vitamin D is another critical nutrient for the prevention of osteoporosis. vitamin D is essential for efficient calcium absorption in the small intestine. However, sunshine alone is not a reliable source of Vitamin D when it comes to bone mineral density preservation, which is why we need to be consuming this vitamin as well. Some foods to include in your diet with high Vitamin D content are:
1. Fatty fish
White fish (Trout, Halibut)
2. Dairy (as stated above in calcium section)
3. Eggs (*yolk)
4. Fortified cereals (as stated above in calcium section)
5. Fortified Orange juice
*Vitamin D supplementation is common because of little sources
Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body next to calcium and is just as important to consume for supporting bone augmentation and maintaining density. Furthermore, calcium and phosphorus need a 1:1 ratio for bone mineralization. Some foods to include in your diet with high phosphorus content are:
Low-fat/ non-fat yogurt
Low-fat/ non-fat milk
Full fat cottage cheese
3. Red meat
Organ meats (liver, brain)
Jenna Mueller is a graduate student at San Diego State University pursuing her dual master's degrees in exercise physiology and nutritional sciences. "My goal is to become a Registered Dietitian after completing my master's from San Diego State. I am passionate about all things health, wellness, and fitness related, and I hope to one day work in Sports Nutrition. Growing up as a dancer, I know the need for proper fueling and the importance of vitamins and nutrients that come from our food, and I love to help others discover this as well."