When you think of the most important nutrients to stave off osteoporosis and promote strong, healthy bones, calcium and vitamin D immediately come to mind. However, these aren't the only bone-boosting nutrients out there.
While reaching for foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and egg yolks, will help protect the bones you have and regain bone mass you've lost, you also need these nutrients on your plate if you want to achieve optimal bone health…
Three bone-boosting nutrients that belong on your table
A number of studies have shown that a tiny protein called osteocalcin is key to bone health. However, up until now, researchers haven’t properly understand why. Finally, biomedical engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the United States have an explanation: “When we loaded these bones to simulate the weight that you bear when walking, we could see nano-size pores opening throughout the bone to give it the flexibility to support you as you move,” says Deepak Vashishth, PhD, head of the biomedical engineering department at Rensselaer. “These pores contain osteocalcin.” Leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of osteocalcin – think kale, parsley and bok choy.
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When you consider that one-third of your bone mass it protein, it makes sense that you need to eat plenty of it to keep your bones healthy and strong. “This is probably the most important bone-health nutrient after calcium and vitamin D,” says Micol Rothman, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in the United States. “Research suggests that people on higher-protein diets may build back more bone, possibly due to the anabolic action of protein on bone mass, which helps it strengthen and grow, though more randomised trials are needed,” Dr Rothman adds. Up your protein intake by consuming more white-meat poultry, lean beef, pork tenderloin, seafood, milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs and beans.
You might only associate collagen with beautiful, youthful skin, but it’s in fact a top nutrient for strong bones, too. “The calcium and other minerals make up the cement, but that rope-like structure is formed from collagen, which gives bone its resiliency and flexibility,” explains Mone Zaidi, MD, PhD, director of the Bone Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. In order to produce collagen, your body needs lots of vitamin C. “When vitamin C levels get dangerously low, we develop scurvy, which makes bones brittle,” Dr Zaidi warns. And studies show that if you consume plenty vitamin-C rich foods, like guavas, black currants, red and green peppers, kiwis, oranges, strawberries and papayas, you’ll tend to have more bone mass and fewer fractures.
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