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Bone-Building Foods

Eat your way to better bones

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Bone-Building Foods

If your idea of bone-building foods starts and ends with a glass of milk, it's time to go global and expand your culinary horizon. The narrow focus on dairy foods as the only source of bone-building nutrients is rapidly changing to encompass a broader perspective.

If your idea of bone-building foods starts and ends with a glass of milk, it’s time to go global and expand your culinary horizon. The narrow focus on dairy foods as the only source of bone-building nutrients is rapidly changing to encompass a broader perspective.

Bite into a homemade Mexican bean burrito. Saut? hearty helping of Chinese broccoli and tofu. Blend up some Greek hummus. All are great sources of bone-building nutrients.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2000 examined dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism in women aged 44 to 55. They found a distinctly positive link between fruit and vegetable intake and bone health.

A year later the Framingham Osteoporosis Study conducted by the Center on Aging at Tufts University examined the effect of fruits and vegetables on bone health. Their results, published in 2001, strongly support high intakes of fruits and vegetables to mediate the body’s acid-base balance.

Fruits and vegetables provide key nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, which are critical to the mineral balance required for bone maintenance. For optimal bone-mineral density, the study’s authors recommend a balanced diet with ample fruits and vegetables with an adequate (but not too high) protein intake.

Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Eating Well for Optimum Health (Random House, 2001), also supports a decrease in dietary protein as a mainstay of bone health. Weil recommends consuming 50 to 100 grams of protein each day, primarily from vegetable sources such as beans. Two additional dietary changes for bone health include eating soy foods regularly and eating broccoli and leafy greens for their vitamin K, which protects bone health.

More Bone-Building Dos and Don’ts

Dr. Weil suggests several other dietary changes for overall bone health:

  • Don’t drink too much alcohol. Excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of bone fractures because alcohol has a diuretic effect, which induces urinary calcium loss. Too much alcohol can also decrease absorption of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium.
  • Do limit sodium intake. Less salt equals less bone loss.
  • Do curb your coffee habit. More than two cups of coffee a day may contribute to accelerated bone loss.
  • Do eat sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, walnuts, and freshly ground flaxseed.

There are many things about aging we can’t change. Fortunately, bone health is not one of them. We can deliciously eat our way to better, stronger bones.

PDF Table of Calcium Counts

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