Although our skeleton is out of sight, we shouldn’t keep it out of mind.
Strong and healthy bones are an essential part of a healthy body, allowing us to avoid osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures and breakages as we age.
Everyone knows that dairy products are rich in calcium, and calcium is good for our bones, and this is important because 99% of our body’s calcium is stored in our bones.
But the bigger picture of bone health includes a whole range of nutrients that work together to create strong bones that will last a lifetime.
Check out some of the 10 foods below that contain vital nutrients that boost bone health and keep you strong and healthy – some of them may surprise you!
While fish might not be the first food you think of when it comes to building bone strength, the under-appreciated sardine is a tiny powerhouse of bone building nutrition.
The healthy omega-3 fats found in sardines are not only beneficial for arthritis and heart disease, there’s emerging evidence that omega-3 fats may slow down bone loss, such as the kind that occurs in osteoporosis.
Sardines are also a good source of Vitamin D, which works hand in hand with calcium to build strong, correctly formed bones.
While we normally think of getting vitamin D from sunlight, sardines are one of the rare food sources of vitamin D, perfect for those of us who don’t get a lot of sun.
And don’t neglect to eat the tiny soft bones that come inside sardines.
These bones are a good source of calcium that’s an alternative to dairy, and their soft nature makes them safe to eat.
Sardines are also a source of phosphorus, another mineral that helps to strengthen bones.
These little fish sure pack a punch!
Try sardines on toast or crackers with a topping of your choice, or on salad with a garlic and herb vinaigrette for a delicious and healthy snack or lunch.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach are natural plant sources of calcium, but that’s not all.
Nature has expertly blended a host of bone healthy nutrients in our leafy greens, with magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin C and phytonutrients all provided together in spinach giving us a total package for bone health.
The little known Vitamin K is an especially important component of spinach, as a deficiency in this vitamin has been shown to lead to increased risk of bone loss.
Therefore, scientists are recommending us to maintain adequate levels of vitamin K in order to prevent the risk of developing osteoporosis and to decrease the risk of bone fractures.
Half a cup of cooked spinach provides 500% of your daily requirement of vitamin K, so you can be assured spinach will meet all your vitamin K needs.
There is some concern over the content of oxalates in spinach which can negatively affect bone health by leeching calcium out of the bones.
But lightly cooking, boiling or steaming spinach before eating helps to remove some of the oxalates and preserves the vital nutrients for a delicious and healthy accompaniment to your meal!
You mightn’t think of tofu as a calcium rich food, but in fact tofu and its main ingredient soya beans, are good sources of calcium.
Tofu is a versatile and highly nutritious food, which is also rich in protein, iron and other bone healthy minerals like manganese, selenium and phosphorous.
Tofu and soy milk, whether fortified with extra calcium or not are excellent sources of non-dairy calcium, providing a lactose-free alternative to milk with soy milk, tofu desserts and even ice cream based on soy.
One cup of firm tofu contains an incredible 832 mg of calcium, compared to 304 mg of calcium in a cup of regular milk.
Tofu comes in both firm and soft varieties, and is a delicious ingredient perfect for a stir fries and Asian style dishes.
Fry lightly before adding to fresh, crunchy vegetables in a stir fry, or add some brown sugar to soft tofu for a traditional Chinese dessert that’s not only delicious but good for your bones, too.
Nuts are not only delicious, but they are well-known for being tiny powerhouses of essential vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, so it’s not really a surprise that they’re good for our bones, too.
Almonds are a fantastic source of the bone strengthening mineral magnesium, providing 20% of the recommended intake, and they are also the only nuts to provide a source of calcium, too.
Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fats which also helps to preserve and strengthen bones.
Pistachios are another delicious nut variety that are high in magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6.
Nuts make an ideal mid-afternoon snack when the time between lunch and dinner seems to drag on and you need a pick me up to get through the afternoon slump.
A handful of mixed nuts once a day is a great way to incorporate a healthy snack that also assists with maintain bone strength.
As nuts are high in fiber and healthy fats they also keep you feeling fuller for longer, while providing healthy vitamins and minerals to nourish your whole body.
While eggs are not often thought of as an essential food for bone health, they do provide a source of non-dairy calcium, containing 21 mg of calcium per egg.
But more importantly, eggs are a rich source of vitamin D and are a total package of nutrients that contribute to an overall healthy body and healthy bones.
As mentioned before, our main source of vitamin D is usually sunlight, as our skin naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
But those of us with darker skin or who spend more time covered from the sun due to work, disability or clothing choice, may need extra dietary sources of vitamin D to make up for the lack of sunlight.
An egg contains 6% of your daily vitamin D, and while that might not seem like much, it’s an excellent source for such a small package, keeping in mind that it’s rare to come by food sources of vitamin D.
Just remember to eat the yolk of the egg, because this is where most of the vitamins and minerals, including the vitamin D.
Research has shown that up to 6 eggs per week are safe even for those with high cholesterol, so don’t let that fear get in the way of enjoying this tasty and healthy food.
This sweetly delicious and tangy citrus fruit packs a punch of vitamin C, another vitamin that plays a vital role in the complex process of bone health.
Vitamin C plays a crucial role in building collagen, an important component of bone that ends to deteriorate as we age.
Keeping our collagen levels up ensures healthy younger looking skin, smoothly functioning joints, and as our bone matrix is 90% collagen, it’s important for bone strength and structure, too.
Delicious on its own or in a fruit salad or even in a savory salad tossed with greens and nuts, this versatile fruit is bursting with flavor and nutrition.
The white variety of grapefruit and even oranges are also excellent sources of vitamin C, although the white grapefruit doesn’t include the added benefit of lycopene and it’s usually a little more bitter than red grapefruit.
However, oranges include beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A in the place of lycopene.
Enjoy these citrus fruits as a snack anytime for a vitamin C boost to strengthen bones and maintain your best health.
Prunes are simply dried plums and not only are they a delicious sweet treat ideal for an afternoon snack combined with nuts, but they are also – you guessed it – a surprisingly healthy food for bones.
A recent study by Florida State University has revealed the healthy effect of eating prunes on bones, showing that postmenopausal women who ate 10 prunes a day had significantly higher bone density than a control group who ate only apples.
This bone strengthening effect has been attributed to the presence of certain types of antioxidants in prunes called polyphenols that help to slow down the rate of bone loss as we age.
Normally our bone mass is being lost and replaced all the time, but as we age that amount of bone lost isn’t replaced as quickly by the amount of bone added.
This normally results in overall loss of bone over time, but it seems that prunes could change all that.
Prunes are also high in vitamin K which can help to slow bone loss.
In order to get the best results, it’s a good idea to consume a good portion of prunes each day to obtain the maximum benefits.
Prunes are delicious mixed in oatmeal or yoghurt, or pair perfectly with nuts for your afternoon or morning snack.
Tahini is a rich and tasty Middle-Eastern spread that is made of ground up sesame seeds.
With a creamy taste similar to very mild peanut butter, tahini is not only a delicious spread rich in healthy fats and ideal for sandwiches or salad dressing, it is also high in calcium and great for your bones.
Just one tablespoon of tahini provides 66 mg of calcium, in a delicious spread that’s dairy-free and soy-free.
It’s also rich in other nutrients that help to nourish the musculo-skeletal system, including iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and protein.
Calcium in tahini helps to strengthen bones, reduce anxiety and may even help to control weight.
It’s a good reminder that excellent sources of calcium can be found in more unconventional, yet delicious foods and you need not despair if you’re sensitive or allergic to dairy.
Tahini is a major component of the tasty chickpea dip hummus, which makes a nourishing and tasty snack that’s rich in calcium and protein, and pairs well with low fat flat bread, crackers or carrot sticks.
Onions for bone health – what?! Well, we said these were surprising foods didn’t we?
Actually this tasty addition to your favorite foods has amazing bone strengthening potential, thanks to a certain type of polyphenol it contains.
In fact, a recent study has shown that eating onions once a day or more may improve your bone mass by 5%, and in women over 50 it was shown that those who ate onions regularly had a 20% lower risk of suffering a hip fracture than those who didn’t eat onions on a regular basis.
While more research still needs to be done on this interesting food for bone health, it’s not hard to start including more onions in your diet, as they make a delicious addition and improve the flavor of a huge range of dishes, from soups to salads to stews, stir fries, roasts and sandwiches.
They can be used cooked or raw and come in a range of interesting varieties that add different flavor aspects, with white onions, brown onions and red onions being the most popular.
So while we wait for the rest of the research to come out, enjoy the savory taste of more onions in your diet – but try to avoid the tears!
Along with sardines, salmon is another form of nutritious oily fish that’s full of healthy fats and healthy bone nutrients.
In fact, fish intake in general has been correlated with better bone health, with even greater benefits attributed to the oily fish such as salmon and sardines for the bone-protection action of omega-3 fats and vitamin D also found in oily fish.
Both fresh and canned salmon provide these benefits to bones, but canned salmon provides the added bonus of leaving the salmon bones in where they are soft and edible, providing another alternative source of calcium.
The precious dietary vitamin D found in salmon also helps protect bone mass, with research showing that women who ate fish five to seven times a week had significantly more bone mass and higher vitamin D intake than those who ate it two or fewer times a week.
So whether you want to build up your bones before it’s too late or you are looking for alternative, non-dairy sources of bone strengthening minerals, try some of these surprising yet nonetheless delicious and nourishing foods for better health and stronger bones.