Did you ever do the experiment where you placed a chicken bone or an egg in a glass of vinegar and let it sit overnight? Do you remember what happened? The next day the chicken bone bent like a piece of licorice, and the eggshell was soft. The acidity of the vinegar drew out all the minerals.
That’s what happens to a lesser extent in our bones. Our bodies try to balance acidic, alkaline, and mineral levels to keep running smoothly.
It’s one reason a healthy bone-building diet is so important.
How can I make my bones stronger?
Your body contains over 200 bones that perform many roles.
Your bones provide structure, organ protection, and anchor your muscles. They also act as a storage facility for calcium and other minerals.
The minerals stored in your bones determine your bone health. Higher amounts of minerals mean stronger and healthier bones. Every day, our bones store minerals for strength or make withdrawals that lead to weakness.
The rate of withdrawals and deposits naturally changes with age.
Most people achieve peak bone mineral density in their late 20s and 30s. The body stockpiles more minerals than it uses from birth to young adulthood. But after age 35, this ratio reverses. Bone mineral density decreases, silently, without warning.
A loss of bone mineral density is known as osteoporosis. This condition often results in back pain, loss of height, and curvature of the upper back. Broken bones in the spine, hips, ribs, and wrists can also happen. One in three women and one in four men over the age of 35 may experience weakness in their bones.
You may not be able to stop mineral withdrawals, but you can slow the process.
Making sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals each day, doing weight-bearing exercises, and living a healthy lifestyle will help.
The right exercises can help you stop bone loss.
Have you ever wondered why weight-bearing exercises keep our bones strong?
During exercise, muscles, which are attached to the bones, cause stress when they work to maintain balance or lift weight. This stress causes tiny cracks or fissures in the bone tissue. When this happens, the body’s bone-building cells rush in to repair the damage—building and strengthening the bone tissue in that area.
Walking is an excellent exercise for strong bones.
Other weight-bearing exercises include dancing, hiking, jogging, running, or jumping rope. Climbing the stairs, playing tennis, walking the golf course, cross-country skiing, and of course, strength training also are also great ways to add activity to stimulate bone growth.
Building back muscles helps support vertebrae strength.
Following a core-strength-building program helps keep backs strong and healthy through the years. These stabilizing muscles are essential for many lifestyle movements.
Yoga, Tai Chi, the plank, and other core-strengthening exercises help maintain balance. Bone strength becomes more important as we age. Being able to catch ourselves and prevent falls helps prevent life-changing fractures.
A strong core also helps us sit and stand with proper posture.
Practice sitting in an “L-shape” rather than the “C-shape.” Sitting with a rounded back can cause compression fractures in the vertebrae if a person has weak bones. Training ourselves to sit up straight can keep our backbones healthy and strong for our lifetime.
Can you test for bone loss?
Yes, you can.
Talk to your primary care provider about getting a bone mineral density test or DEXA Scan. This painless test measures the minerals in the bones. The scan takes just a few minutes.
Knowing the current state of your bones is key for health as you get older.
If you have an immediate family member who suffered from bone weakness caused by low bone density, talk to your health care provider about having a bone mineral density test.
The scan will compare your bone mineral density with a T-score with the strength of a healthy 30-year-old adult. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), the World Health Organization rates bone mineral density using T-scores. A lower score means lower bone density.
- Above -1.0 shows normal bone density
- Between -1.0 and -2.5 indicates low bone density or osteopenia
- Below -2.5 receives a diagnosis of osteoporosis.
According to NOF, men 50 years old or older are more likely to break a bone because of osteoporosis than they are to get prostate cancer. The organization also notes that one in two women and up to one in four men will break a bone in their lifetime because of osteoporosis.
Even men between the ages of 35 and 50 are showing increased signs of bone weakness. Some scientists credit the rise in popularity of non-weight-bearing sports as a reason.
Weakness can be related to the vitamin and mineral deficiencies most people in America experience.
Which foods increase bone density?
Study after study has proved that fruits and vegetables are significant to bone health. Some experts say we should eat at least eight cups a day—and go for bold colors and robust flavors. But it’s not just fruits and vegetables; it’s the right kinds of fruits and vegetables.
When we started this article, we mentioned an experiment using vinegar (acid) that leaches minerals from bones and eggshells. Unfortunately, this same chemical process can happen in our bodies when we eat too many acidic foods.
Keep your pH in balance.
All foods sit somewhere along the pH spectrum between acid (pH level 1-6) and alkaline (pH level 8-14).
When we balance our pH levels nutritionally, between 7.365 and 7.45 according to Mind Body Green, our bodies won’t have to work as hard.
Most experts measure plain water as neutral, placing it squarely in the middle of the pH scale as a 7. All other foods and beverages either tip the scale on the alkaline or acid side.
Higher on the alkaline side are plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Grains, legumes, tomatoes, and citrus fruits are more on the acidic side.
Animal-based foods, meats, poultry, and dairy also are more acidic.
Unfortunately, nutritional labels don’t display the acidic or alkaline content in foods, but they do list ingredients.
Reading the labels and understanding the pH values of the ingredients can help you make wiser choices at the grocery store. For instance, most processed foods are loaded with phosphate compounds for taste and texture, which push them into the acidic category.
We need to eat both acidic and alkaline foods for health.
For instance, we need protein for muscle development, strength, and cognitive function, but too much of a good thing can cause problems.
According to the late Vicky Newman, MS, RDN, who was a chief research dietitian at the University of California-San Diego, a way to determine a person’s protein needs is to divide the pounds of body weight by 2. This number is equal to the grams of protein a person needs each day. For instance, a 200-pound man needs 100 grams of protein each day. A 150-pound woman needs about 75 grams.
One way to ensure we’re getting enough is to eat protein-rich meals for breakfast and lunch and a light protein meal for dinner.
The best foods for health, and the easiest to identify, are whole, organic produce, grass-fed meat, and pastured poultry. These foods are naturally higher in vitamins and minerals than their commercial farmed counterparts. Eating fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish in their natural state will help your bones and your overall health.
Take a Goldilocks approach to salt.
Too little salt and your body will break down and resorb your bone cells to extract sodium. Too much, and your body will break down bone cells to reduce sodium levels in your body. When bone is resorbed, calcium and magnesium levels are lost. This loss leads to lower bone density.
Blood sugar control is vital for bone health. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is associated with high blood sugar levels, are at a higher risk of fracture. High blood sugar levels interfere with bone formation and healing.
Seven vitamins and minerals our bones need to bulk up.
Now let’s take a deeper dive into the specific vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to build strong bones.
1. Vitamin D tops the list because it is the catalyst your body needs to absorb other essential bone-building minerals.
The body makes Vitamin D from the skin’s exposure to the sun. But in northcentral Wisconsin, sometimes it’s challenging to get enough. In the winter, we cover up with clothing; in the summer, we cover up with sunscreen. Yet, without vitamin D, our bodies cannot absorb calcium effectively.
Adults between 19 and 70 years of age need at least 600 international units (IUs) per day. Recommendations increase to 800 IUs per day for people 71 years old and older.
Excellent sources of vitamin D include salmon, trout, whitefish, and tuna. Mushrooms, cheese, eggs, and D-fortified foods, such as milk and cereals, are also good sources of this crucial vitamin.
Studies have shown that children and adults with low vitamin D levels have lower bone density and are more at risk for bone loss. A simple blood test can test for deficiency.
2. Calcium is critical for bone health.
Most adults need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Women who are older than 50 years of age need 1,200 milligrams. Dark leafy green vegetables from the cabbage family, like kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, and similar leafy vegetables, are healthy sources of calcium.
But don’t depend on the calcium in dark greens like spinach and beet greens. These greens also contain oxalate, which blocks the body’s ability to absorb calcium. If you take calcium supplements, allow at least two hours between the time you take your supplement and eat your spinach salad.
Other foods high in calcium include canned fish with edible bones, like sardines, dairy foods, and tofu made with calcium salts.
3. Magnesium helps your body use Vitamin D and promotes calcium absorption.
According to one physiological review, the body uses magnesium for more than 600 enzymatic reactions. It is involved in metabolism, muscle, heart, and brain health, relaxation and sleep.
But today, many people over the age of 17 are magnesium deficient. That’s not good news for bone health.
If the body doesn’t have enough magnesium to function correctly, it mines this crucial mineral from your bones, making them brittle.
Magnesium is another reason to eat dark green leafy vegetables along with peas, legumes, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
4. Potassium is another mineral bones need for health.
Fortunately, most plant foods–especially, avocadoes, spinach, bananas, prunes, dates, sweet potatoes, and legumes contain potassium. An adult needs 2,600 to 3,400 milligrams per day based on guidelines released in 2019.
5. Vitamin K helps bones hold onto minerals.
Studies show bone mineral density increases when adults consume at least 1,500 mcg of vitamin K every day. Leafy green vegetables contain Vitamin K1, while fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, and eggs contain Vitamin K 2.
6. Boron is essential for bone growth.
This mineral gives the body more time to absorb vitamin D. We need just 3 mg a day. Boron improves wound healing, reduces inflammation, increases protective antioxidant enzymes, and protects against the effects of pesticides and heavy metal toxicity.
Boron is found in many plant foods. However, the levels of boron seem to vary based on the boron in the soil and water where the plants were grown.
7. Surprisingly, vitamin C is also important for bone growth.
Vitamin C stimulates bone-forming cells while slowing bone resorption. It also plays a role in collagen synthesis, which is part of the bone-building process. Increasing the amount of vitamin C you consume may help lower the risk of hip fracture and osteoporosis.
Should I take supplements?
The use of chemical fertilizers, genetically modified (GMO) foods, and pesticides, has reduced the vitamin and mineral content in much of our food supply.
If you are not getting enough of the bone-building vitamins and minerals, a supplement may help. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist before adding supplements to your routine.
Minimize the influence of bone-growth factors you can’t control.
Your body type, ethnicity, age, family history, and the foods you ate as a child all play a role in bone health. Medications used to treat chronic medical conditions can also have a negative effect. And while you cannot change any of these factors, you can minimize their impact through exercise, a healthy diet, and healthy lifestyle choices.
Be aware of eight lifestyle habits that are bad for your bones.
1. Eating too many salty snacks. Salt increases the acid in the body and causes dehydration. To counteract salt’s impact, the body pulls calcium out of the bones and removes it from the body through urine.
2. Sitting, binge-watching tv, and reading too much. A sedentary lifestyle does not help the body build strong bones.
3. Too much inside time. Staying out of the sun reduces the body’s natural process of making vitamin D.
4. Too much sunscreen. Sunscreen is important for preventing skin cancer. But sunscreen also blocks the very rays of the sun that the body needs to manufacture vitamin D.
5. Drinking too much alcohol. Beer, wine, and hard liquor interfere with calcium absorption.
6. Drinking too much caffeine. Soda, caffeine, and other caffeinated beverages may be linked to a loss of calcium.
7. Smoking or vaping. If you smoke or vape, quit to lower your health risks and improve your bone health.
8. Some prescriptions. Talk to your pharmacist and ask them about the medications that you are taking, especially if you take anti-inflammatory or anti-seizure medications.
In summary, we need to support our bones with healthy lifestyle choices.
If you take care of your bones, they will support you for a lifetime. Eat a bone-healthy diet that includes at least eight cups of fruits, vegetables, and legumes a day, along with protein and other calcium-rich foods.
Include weight-bearing and strength-training exercises in your routine. These exercises stress your bones and promote bone growth. Improve core strength, balance, and posture to reduce the risk of falls.
Ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin K, Boron, and Vitamin C to build mineral-dense bones. Then ask your provider if you need to take a supplement.
Talk to your health care providers about your medication’s effect on bone health.
Making healthy lifestyle choices over time will help you keep your bones strong. Strong bones and healthy muscles can help you live a long and active life.
Boosting Bone Health to Prevent Injury and Speed Healing – Research on Aging — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUZ8aEcrkZw