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8 Foods to Support Your Bone Health

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May is National Osteoporosis Month. People with osteoporosis lose bone tissue or do not produce enough bone tissue, causing bones to become brittle and increasing the risk of fractures.

It's estimated that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will develop osteoporosis in their lifetime.

Some of the factors related to your risk of getting osteoporosis—like genetics and hormonal shifts—are not in your control. However, your diet and lifestyle also play a role in bone health—and you can make changes in these areas that support your bones.

Along with adopting lifestyle practices, such as participating in weight-bearing exercise and avoiding smoking, consuming certain foods can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

Nutrients Needed for Healthy Bones

You might first think of calcium-rich foods as those that support bone health. While calcium does play an important role in supporting your bones, it is not the only key nutrient your body needs to keep your bones healthy.

Besides calcium, other bone-building nutrients include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Boron
  • Vitamin C
  • Copper
  • Protein
  • Zinc

Foods That Boost Bone Health

In addition to taking other proactive steps to preserve your bones, choosing foods that support bone health can help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Here are 8 foods to add to your diet (and a few to limit) to support your bone health.

Fortified 100% Orange Juice

You probably already know that 100% orange juice is packed with vitamin C (which supports cartilage formation), but it also naturally contains other nutrients that are key to bone health. Having a glass of 100% OJ will give you some potassium to support bone mineral density, and magnesium, which plays a role in bone health.

The results of three clinical trials showed that drinking citrus juices containing a specific carotenoid resulted in positive changes in bone activity (and 100% OJ is one of those juices).

Consuming 100% orange juice that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D can also give your bones some extra support.

Cranberries

Cranberries are a natural source of vitamin C—which your body needs to create collagen in the bone matrix.

Studies have also highlighted the role that natural polyphenols (nutrients that we get from plant-based foods) in berries play in bone health.

One study found that a cranberry polyphenol called proanthocyanidins (PAC) may help decrease bone breakdown. There is also a positive link between high cranberry intake and higher bone mass.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Drizzling olive oil on a dish can do more than just give it flavor. Olives, and olive oil, contain polyphenols—particularly oleuropein, tyrosol, and hydroxytyrosol.

A 2012 study found that men who followed the Mediterranean diet that included virgin olive oil (at least 50 mL/day) showed more markers of bone formation than men who ate a Mediterranean diet with mixed nuts (at least 30 g/day) or a low-fat diet.

Another study pointed to significant increases in bone mineral density in people who included more olive oil in their diet.

Milk

Calcium is the bone-building darling in a glass of milk, but the beverage also naturally contains other nutrients that benefit bone health, including vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Consuming dairy products may also reduce your risk of osteoporosis and lower your rate of bone loss. Aside from all the vitamins and minerals in the drink, milk also contains the natural sugar lactose, which increases calcium absorption in the human body.

Dairy milk also contains 8 grams of protein per serving. Protein intake can improve bone health, making milk a great addition to a bone-building diet.

Avocado

Adding an avocado to your toast, salad, or eggs can also support your bone health. 

Among the plethora of nutrients that the fruit provides, there's one in particular that you need for bone health: boron. This nutrient helps your body absorb magnesium and enhance vitamin D.

A half-cup of raw and cubed avocado contains 1.07 milligrams of boron, making it one of the richest sources of the key mineral that you can pick up in the produce aisle.

Tomatoes

The next time you order a pizza, ask for extra sauce. An antioxidant found in foods that are naturally red and pink—such as tomatoes, watermelon, and guava— may decrease bone loss.

Lycopene—the unique antioxidant that gives these foods their gorgeous red/pink hue—plays an important role in bone health. In the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, higher lycopene levels were linked to less bone loss in the spine.

Shiitake Mushrooms

All mushrooms contain some vitamin D. Similar to humans, mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D following exposure to sunlight or a sunlamp.

Along with vitamin D, shiitake mushrooms in particular also contain copper—another key nutrient for bone health. Lower serum copper levels have been associated with decreased bone mineral density in certain parts of the bone.

Prunes

Prunes, or dried plums, are famous for their gut health benefits, but they can also offer skeletal support. Prunes contain natural phenolic compounds that may play a positive role in bone health. 

Studies that included women found that prunes may enhance bone formation and stop bone breakdown. For men, one recent study showed that when they ate 100 grams of prunes (about 9 or 10 prunes) every day for 12 months, their bone mineral density increased.

Foods to Limit

Some foods are not bone health-friendly because they decrease calcium absorption or cause the body to lose calcium (for example, if they are consumed at the same time as dietary calcium).

Foods that you might want to limit to promote better bone health include:

  • Foods high in sodium
  • Spinach and other vegetables high in oxalates
  • Certain teas
  • Colas
  • Excessive alcohol
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