Food & Diet
Foods That Prevent Loss of Bone Mass
Loss of bone mass can happen due to many factors and some, such as age, cannot be controlled. However, there are certain factors that can be influenced, and it is our duty towards ourselves to do whatever needs to be done to prevent our bodies from losing bone mass. One of the things we can do is change our eating habits and lifestyle. It is very important that we get calcium through the foods we eat because it is an essential mineral needed for the body to be able to function properly. Calcium is what builds our bone tissues, and if we don’t eat enough of it, our body takes it from our bones, which makes them grow weak and lose mass.
Loss of bone mass and strength can lead to extreme fragility of the bones (condition called osteoporosis), which are then very likely to easily break. The most common bone fractures of this kind happen in the wrist, hip and spine, and it can seriously affect a person’s mobility, as well as independence because they are unable to do common things without the help of others.
Luckily, there are changes in nutrition that we can introduce to prevent this scary thing from happening. Besides eating foods high in calcium, it is important to eat foods high in vitamin D as well. Other than that, regular exercise would help a lot to preserve the strength of bones and their mass, while smoking and drinking alcohol are habits that should be avoided as much as possible, because their consumption can lead to bone damage.
Good sources of calcium that should be introduced into your diet are the following foods:
- Low-fat dairy. This group includes milk, yogurt, cheese and even ice cream. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, dairy products are the most easily available sources of calcium that we can take in through food, and 2-3 servings (which would be a glass of milk or yogurt, or a slice of cheese) is enough to achieve the necessary daily level of calcium that will keep the bones strong and healthy and prevent them from losing mass. Besides calcium, dairy products also contain good levels of protein and other nutrients that are beneficial for bone and overall health. A study that was being conducted for 3 years and which included healthy young women between the ages of 30 and 42 showed that introducing dairy products into the daily diet prevented loss of bone in the spine, and slowed bone mass decrease which was particularly visible in comparison to those respondents who didn’t increase their intake of calcium.
- Green vegetables, such as broccoli, curly kale and bok choy are also good food sources of calcium and are important for building and maintaining strong bones. One serving of kale (around 110 g), for example, has the same amount of calcium as one cup of milk. Broccoli and bok choy are not far behind. Green vegetables are said to be the best foods to maintain strong bones because the body absorbs the most calcium from them, around 50%, while it only takes 32% from milk.
But it is not only calcium that protects your bones from damage and loss of mass. Vitamin K is also a nutrient that is very important for healthy bones, and green vegetables are a good source of it.
- Foods fortified with calcium are not the primary choice, but can be a good replacement for the naturally calcium-rich foods when you get bored of them. Fortified orange juice has nearly the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk. Check the labels of the products you buy regularly, and you will see that many breakfast choices, such as cereal, chocolate milk and biscuits, are enriched with calcium.
- Whole canned fish with bones, especially sardines, are another great source of calcium, especially since you eat the fish bones that have all the calcium necessary for your bones to build properly. Three ounces of sardines equals somewhat more calcium than a glass of milk.
- Nuts and seeds, besides containing decent levels of calcium, also contain magnesium which is a mineral without which bone tissue couldn’t be properly formed. These foods also contain plant protein which is very important for our overall health, but also for healthy bones, particularly after the age of 70. However, the proteins from plants shouldn’t be the only sources of protein (except if you are vegan), and meat should be added to the diet to ensure that enough quality protein is taken in. Nuts and seeds, as well as beans and whole grains benefit bone health for more than the mentioned reasons. The phytate that is contained in plant foods is also known as a substance that prevents the absorption of some minerals, but in the case of bone health they are beneficial. It protects bone health by not allowing the bones to break down and increases the mineral density in bones, according to Lopez-Gonzales AA, et al, the authors of Phytate levels and bone parameters: a retrospective pilot clinical trial.
- Vitamin D is very important for the body to be able to absorb calcium. There are two ways to get this vitamin, first – from sun exposure, and second – from food. There are good levels of vitamin D found in dairy products, saltwater fish, and egg yolks. Taking in this vitamin in these two ways is the best option, but older, inactive people who spend their days inside sometimes need to take vitamin D supplements because they are unable to get it in other ways.