You are your best ally when it comes to building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. What you eat plays an important role in determining your bone health. Specifically, consuming adequate amounts of calcium (1000 mg for adults ages 19-50) and vitamin D (600 IU for adults ages 19-70) is essential for strong bones. Magnesium and vitamin K are also important for bone health. Here are some tasty sources.
In addition to other nutrients, like beta carotene, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens are very high in vitamin K. Vitamin K serves many functions within the body, but mounting scientific research has linked this important nutrient with bone health. Recent studies indicate that vitamin K may help prevent bone resorption and adequate dietary intake is likely necessary to prevent bone loss. Just 1/2 cup of leafy greens, cooked, can contain more than 500% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin K.
Important health note: Misuse of vitamin K in supplement form can produce toxicity, and if you are taking the blood thinning drug Coumidin or any other anticoagulant drugs please check with your doctor before increasing or decreasing your vitamin K intake. When obtained from food sources, 500% of the DV may sound like a lot, but vitamin K consumed through food rarely produces toxicity.
Just one ounce of almonds (a small handful–about 24) provides about 20 percent of your daily magnesium needs. The mineral magnesium provides many functions within the body, and one of them is to help keep bones strong (50 percent of body magnesium is found in bone). Eating a variety of foods can help to ensure adequate magnesium intake. Women over 30 should aim for 320mg of magnesium daily, while men need 400 to 420mg. These numbers are easy to obtain from a variety of legumes, nuts, whole grains, and dark leafy vegetables (spinach and quinoa are especially good sources).
Almonds make a terrific snack on their own (just remember to watch portion size; one ounce of almonds contains about 164 calories, 3.4 grams fiber, and 15 grams fat, though only 1 gram saturated fat). They’re also great as a topping for cereal, yogurt, or salads.
Salmon is one of the best natural sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a critical role in building and protecting your bones. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, and studies show that people with low levels of vitamin D have lower bone density or bone mass. They are also more likely to break bones as they age. Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, but you can get it from sunshine, and more foods are being fortified with this very important nutrient.
Just 3.5 oz. of cooked salmon supplies about 90 percent of your daily vitamin D needs. What’s more, salmon is a great source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Try to have at least one salmon dish every week.
Calcium can help to build stronger, denser bones early in life and keep bones healthy as we grow older. It is a mineral that is essential for life, yet the majority of Americans do not get adequate calcium on a daily basis.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium. Many brands contain about 40 percent of daily calcium needs based on an 8-oz. serving. (We recommend low-fat and fat-free.) Plus, yogurt is a tasty and versatile food. Have it for breakfast topped with two tablespoons of granola, as a snack on its own, or create a terrific healthy dessert parfait!
A great non-dairy source of calcium is tofu. Just one-half cup of firm tofu fortified with calcium has about 20 percent of the daily recommendation for calcium. (Not every tofu is made this way, so look for labels that declare it’s a good source of calcium.) Tofu is also a good source of protein and a wonderful addition to any stir-fry.
No surprise here, milk is another excellent source of calcium. An 8-oz. glass of milk contains about one-third of your daily calcium needs. (Skim or low-fat is best.) Most brands of milk are fortified with vitamin D too. If you’re not a dairy fan or are unable to tolerate lactose, look for a fortified soymilk, or try a lactose-free milk. Don’t like milk by itself? Try it in a fruit smoothie.