Our bones support us through every step of life's journey – literally. That’s why it’s vital to nourish them, starting with what we put on our plates. We’ll show you that it is possible to not only indulge our taste buds but also lay a strong foundation for the longevity and vitality of our bones.
Embracing a diet rich in bone-building foods is a cornerstone in fortifying our bones against the passage of time – from osteoporosis to fractures, the risks of brittle bones become more apparent as we age. But luckily, there are a number of things we can do to reduce the damage and maintain our bones as long as possible. Women in particular are more vulnerable to osteoporosis after menopause due to the drop of oestrogen – a hormone with more functions than many of us realise, including supporting bone health. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects millions worldwide, and it occurs when bones become weak and brittle, making them more prone to fractures. A whopping 4.74 million Aussies over 50 have osteoporosis or poor bone health with an increase of over 30% in cases between 2012 and 2022 – and that number is only set to rise. But, despite there being a number of factors particularly relating to women’s risk for osteoporosis, this disease is certainly not limited to women. Men make up around 30% of fractures related to osteoporosis and osteopenia – the latter of which defines a loss of bone mineral density.
So, let’s take a look at some bone-healthy foods we should be eating – plus we unpack a few simple activities we can all do to build up our body.
These humble drupes – yeah, almonds aren’t technically nuts, rather they’re known as drupes (true story!) – might not be the first place you go to for your calcium fix, but you might be surprised to learn of their impressive mineral content. Almonds contribute to bone building and help prevent bone loss through their rich nutritional profile, providing several key nutrients essential for maintaining bone health. Here's how they play a role in supporting your bones:
Calcium Content: Almonds are a good source of calcium, a mineral vital for the formation and maintenance of strong bones. Calcium is a primary building block of bone tissue, and a consistent intake of this mineral helps prevent bone loss and supports overall bone density.
Magnesium Support: Magnesium is another essential mineral found in almonds that plays a crucial role in bone health. It works in tandem with calcium to ensure proper bone mineralization. Magnesium helps convert vitamin D into its active form, which, in turn, aids in calcium absorption. By promoting calcium absorption, magnesium supports the development and maintenance of healthy bones.
Phosphorus Contribution: Phosphorus is a mineral that forms a structural component of bones, working alongside calcium to provide strength and rigidity. Almonds contain phosphorus, and including them in your diet helps maintain the balance of this mineral for optimal bone health.
Vitamin E Antioxidant Benefits: Almonds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that plays a role in protecting bones from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can contribute to inflammation and damage to bone cells. By providing antioxidant support, vitamin E in almonds may help maintain the health of bone cells and tissues.
Protein Content: Almonds also contribute protein to the diet. While not as high in protein as animal sources, plant-based proteins, including those from almonds, play a role in overall bone health. Protein is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that forms the structural framework of bones.
It's important to note that while almonds offer valuable nutrients for bone health, a comprehensive approach to bone care involves a well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, and sufficient intake of other bone-supportive nutrients like vitamin D and vitamin K.
Yoghurt is considered a powerful food to combat osteoporosis and promote bone health due to several key nutritional components:
Calcium Content: Yoghurt is a rich source of calcium, a fundamental mineral essential for bone health. Calcium is a primary building block of bone tissue, and an adequate intake is crucial to prevent bone loss and maintain bone density. Consuming yoghurt regularly helps meet the body's calcium requirements, contributing to the formation and maintenance of strong and healthy bones.
Protein Contribution: Yoghurt is a good source of protein, and protein is crucial for bone health. Proteins form the structural framework of bones, providing the matrix upon which minerals like calcium are deposited. Including sufficient protein in the diet supports the synthesis of collagen and other proteins necessary for bone strength.
Probiotics and Gut Health: Yoghurt often contains live, active cultures of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. These probiotics contribute to gut health, and emerging research suggests a connection between gut health and bone health. A healthy gut microbiome may enhance nutrient absorption, including calcium and other minerals important for bone formation.
Vitamin D Absorption: Yoghurt is sometimes fortified with vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a critical role in calcium absorption. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and utilise calcium efficiently, contributing to its incorporation into bone tissue. Adequate vitamin D levels are essential for optimal bone health.
Bone-Friendly Nutrients: Yoghurt contains other bone-friendly nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Phosphorus, like calcium, is a mineral that contributes to the formation of bone structure. Potassium is involved in maintaining the acid-base balance in the body, which influences bone health. Magnesium is important for bone mineralisation and supports the conversion of vitamin D into its active form.
It's important to choose yoghurt varieties that are low in added sugars and additives – after all, the sugar-packed varieties are hindering your body’s nutrient absorption, not to mention the blood-sugar spikes they cause.
Cheddar cheese is a good source of calcium, a crucial mineral for bone health, contributing to the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. Regular consumption of cheddar cheese helps ensure an adequate intake of calcium, contributing to bone density and strength. But it’s not all about the calcium! Here are a few other ways cheddar can help you stay healthy:
Protein Contribution: Cheddar cheese provides a notable amount of protein. Protein is essential for the synthesis of collagen and other structural proteins in bones. Including protein-rich foods like cheddar cheese in your diet supports the overall structure and strength of bones.
Phosphorus Support: Cheddar cheese contains phosphorus, another mineral important for bone health. Phosphorus, along with calcium, contributes to the mineralization of bone tissue. These minerals work in synergy to maintain the structural integrity and strength of bones.
Vitamin D Presence: Some cheddar cheese products, depending on their origin and farming processes, contain vitamin D, and other are fortified with the vitamin. It’s a crucial nutrient for calcium absorption and utilisation in the body – AKA healthy bones! Adequate levels of vitamin D contribute to the incorporation of calcium into bone tissue, supporting bone health.
Fats and Nutrient Absorption: Cheddar cheese contains fats, including saturated fats. While it's important to moderate saturated fat intake for overall health, some fats are essential for nutrient absorption. The fats in cheddar cheese can aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin D, which is vital for bone health.
It's essential to enjoy cheddar cheese and other dairy products as part of a balanced and varied diet. Moderation is key, especially considering the caloric and fat content of cheese. Individuals with specific dietary needs or concerns should consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalised advice on incorporating cheddar cheese into a bone-healthy diet.
Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans and is known for its slimy texture – but don’t be put off by its smell! It’s a mild-tasting dish that adds heartiness to any meal, from omelettes to fried rice and even soups. While not as commonly consumed in Western cultures, it’s an absolute shame so many are missing out on the powerful benefits natto has to offer:
Vitamin K2 Content: Natto is exceptionally rich in vitamin K2, a form of vitamin K. Vitamin K2 plays a crucial role in bone metabolism by assisting in the regulation of calcium within the bones. It helps to activate proteins that bind calcium to the bone matrix, promoting bone mineralization and strength. Adequate vitamin K2 intake is associated with a reduced risk of fractures and improved bone density.
Protein and Amino Acids: Natto is a good source of plant-based protein. Proteins are essential for bone health, providing the building blocks necessary for bone structure and maintenance. Additionally, natto contains all essential amino acids, further supporting the body's protein needs.
Calcium and Magnesium: While not as high in calcium as some dairy products, natto still provides a notable amount of this essential mineral. Calcium is a key component of bone structure. Natto also contains magnesium, another mineral important for bone health, as it works in conjunction with calcium in bone formation.
Isoflavones: Natto contains isoflavones, which are plant compounds with antioxidant properties. Some studies suggest that isoflavones may have a positive impact on bone health by reducing bone resorption and promoting bone formation. They may also contribute to the overall health of bone cells.
Probiotics and Gut Health: The fermentation process involved in making natto results in the production of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support gut health. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to improved nutrient absorption, including minerals like calcium, which is essential for bone health.
Cardiovascular Benefits: Beyond bone health, natto has been associated with cardiovascular benefits. Some research suggests that vitamin K2 in natto may help prevent arterial calcification, contributing to overall cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular health is interconnected with bone health, as both systems rely on proper mineralization processes. It's important to note that natto has a distinctive taste and texture that may not appeal to everyone. However, for those who enjoy it, incorporating natto into a well-balanced diet can offer a unique set of nutrients that support bone health. As with any dietary changes, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian, especially if there are specific health concerns or dietary restrictions.
Beyond the Plate: Ways to Build and Protect Strong Bones
As we journey through life, the resilience of our bones becomes a foundation for strength, mobility, and overall well-being. While a calcium-rich diet lays the groundwork, bone health extends beyond the plate to encompass a spectrum of lifestyle choices and physical activities. In this exploration, we unveil the multifaceted approach to building and maintaining strong bones, with a spotlight on the pivotal role of resistance training and other bone-building activities. Let's delve into the holistic strategies that empower us to cultivate skeletal vitality and stride confidently through the years.
Resistance Training: The Backbone of Bone Health
Resistance training, also known as strength or weight training, stands as a cornerstone in the pursuit of strong bones. Engaging in weight-bearing exercises like lifting weights, using resistance bands, or performing bodyweight exercises stimulates bone formation. This mechanical stress prompts bone cells to remodel and adapt, resulting in increased bone density and strength. Aim for a well-rounded resistance training routine that targets major muscle groups to fortify your skeletal framework.
Weight-Bearing Cardiovascular Exercise: Step into Bone Resilience
Cardiovascular exercises that involve weight-bearing activities, such as walking, running, and hiking, play a vital role in promoting bone health. The impact of your feet hitting the ground generates forces that stimulate bone remodelling. Incorporate weight-bearing cardio activities into your routine to enhance bone density, cardiovascular fitness, and overall endurance.
Flexibility and Balance Training: A Holistic Approach
Activities that enhance flexibility and balance contribute to overall bone health by reducing the risk of falls and fractures. Practices like yoga and tai chi not only improve balance and flexibility but also engage muscles and bones in a gentle yet effective manner. Integrating these activities into your regimen fosters a holistic approach to skeletal well-being.
Vitamin D-Soaked Sunshine: Nature’s Bone Booster
Step outdoors and bask in the sunlight to harness the natural bone-boosting power of vitamin D. Sunlight activates the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin, a crucial nutrient for calcium absorption and bone health. Aim for safe sun exposure, especially in the morning or late afternoon, to ensure your body produces an adequate amount of vitamin D.
Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight: A Balancing Act
Maintaining a healthy body weight is key to supporting bone health. Both excess weight and insufficient weight can impact bone density. Strive for a balanced weight that aligns with your body's needs, as it positively influences bone strength and reduces the risk of fractures.
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