Ever wondered how to improve bone health to avoid osteoporosis? It’s not so strange if you haven’t because most people don’t really think about their bones until there is a problem. In a society that’s obsessed with muscle, it’s easy to forget about the bones, but our bones are integral to our health. And lucky for all of us, there are the lifestyle and dietary changes we can make to ensure we improve bone health.
To understand how to improve bone health, it helps understanding some bone basics.
The first thing you need to know is that when we are children our bones grow, meaning that if we break a bone, it easily heals. Then when we hit 19 or so, we’ve reached approximately 95 percent of our peak bone mass. We still can continue building some bone mass in our 20s, but by the time we reach 30, we start losing bone density instead. In fact, once most people in the United States reach 40, they will lose about 0.5% of bone mass every year. (1)
This isn’t great news as it can lead to osteoporosis, in other words, low bone mineral density and the deterioration of bone tissue.
So, how do you know if you’re losing bone density? You don’t. There are no symptoms, apart from when you suffer an osteoporotic fracture, which, on average, one in three people will experience.
The good news? You can help prevent osteoporosis.
How to Improve Bone Health
1. Bone Remodeling
While your bone density reaches its peak around the age of 30, your skeleton keeps being remodeled (or rebuilt, if you prefer). How? When there is an impact (such as working out, walking, etc.) your bones seek to compensate for that by building new bone. To do so, you need the right nutrients in your bloodstream, or your body doesn’t have the right building blocks to build strong bones. (2)
2. Getting Enough Calcium
Calcium is a biggie where a bone is concerned, as it’s a vital building block for creating bone. However, it’s not quite as easy as just eating calcium.
For the body to absorb calcium, it needs vitamin D. Also, substances known as phytates and oxalates bind up minerals, so even though sweet potatoes and spinach contain calcium, it’s much harder for the body to absorb the calcium in those particular foods.
If you are looking for good sources of calcium, consider dairy products, Chinese cabbage, Chinese mustard greens, bok choy, kale, and tofu with added calcium. (1)
3. Consuming Vitamins
Vitamin D, which is formed when your skin is exposed to sunlight, is crucial for the absorption of calcium. You find vitamin D in oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified milk. A lot of people are deficient in vitamin D, though. So, if you don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, consider eating a vitamin supplement that contains the daily recommended allowance of vitamin D. Also, bear in mind that you need magnesium to absorb vitamin D. (2)
Another vitamin you need for bone health is vitamin C, which is found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is important as it stimulates the production of bone-forming cells and may help protect bone cells from damage. (4) (5)
Vitamin K2 also may be needed for bone health and can be found in animal livers and fermented foods such as cheese and natto (a Japanese product). (8)
Getting enough vitamins and minerals, in general, is important as you need the rest of your body to function properly to support your bones.
4. Eating Plenty of Vegetables
In addition to being a great source of various vitamins, it seems eating vegetables, herbs, and fruit, in general, can be great for reducing bone turnover and avoiding urinary calcium loss. (6)
Onions are one vegetable you definitely want to include in a diet to prevent osteoporosis. One study found that women who ate onions at least once a day had a bone density that was five percent greater than women who consumed onions once a month or less. (7)
5. Balancing Your Hormones
High thyroid hormone levels may cause a loss of bone mass in women, as can low estrogen levels. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass. (2)
If you want to improve bone health, you may want to get a check-up at your local medical center. A check-up also can help establish if you suffer from any vitamin deficiencies.
6. Eating Enough Protein
There has been some controversy over protein as consuming too much appears to lead to acidity in the blood, which in turn leads to calcium draining from the bones. On the other hand, not eating enough protein has been shown to decrease calcium absorption and may cause a loss of bone density. It seems the consensus is to eat large, but not excessive, amounts of protein if you want strong bones. (4)
To help improve bone density, bone strength, and bone size, while reducing bone turnover, various studies have found that weight-bearing and resistance training is important. (4)
In other words, to ensure your bones are happy, you need to start exercising.
8. Stabilize Your Weight
If your calorie intake is less than 1,000 per day, that can negatively affect your bone health, as can gaining and losing weight. For optimal bone health, maintaining a stable, healthy weight is your best option. (4)
Thin people may be at greater risk for osteoporosis. So, if you are skinny, it’s particularly important to look after your bone health. (2)
9. Drugs and Alcohol
Overconsumption of alcohol (more than two drinks a day) and smoking tobacco may adversely affect your bones, as may certain medications. If you are taking any kind of medication, be sure to find out if it may affect your bone health. (2)
Some people swear by bone broth, and studies have shown it may help reduce inflammation, but is it good for bone health? One study showed that collagen, which forms part of bone broth, has a positive effect on joint pain in athletes. However, there’s no research to suggest that bone broths improve bone health in general. That said, bone broths are nutritious, and if you cook the bones with the right vegetables, you also will get several vitamins that are necessary for bone strength. (3) (9)
To improve your bone strength and bone health it’s important to eat a diet rich in vegetables, get the vitamins and minerals you need, consume plenty of calcium, and have a good intake of protein. In addition to this, it’s necessary to do some strength and resistance training and avoid over-consumption of alcohol and smoking.