Having strong bones is important at every age, but particularly as we get older. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, roughly 54 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis and low bone density.
During childhood and adolescence, all of the minerals we eat in our food are incorporated into our bones and teeth. Once we reach the age of 30, we’ve pretty much achieved peak bone mass. If for some reason we didn’t create enough bone mass when we were young, or if we experienced bone loss later in life, then we have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis as we age.
The good news is, there are many nutrition and lifestyle habits you can incorporate to build strong bones and maintain them as you age.
Here are 6 ways you can build – and keep – strong and healthy bones.
- Focus on Strength Training
Aerobic exercises have their place and definitely help keep our heart healthy. But when it comes to our bones nothing beats strength training and weight bearing exercises. Studies in older men and women found that weight-bearing exercise increased bone mineral density, bone strength and bone size.
One great weight-bearing exercise is jumping on a mini trampoline. This is what NASA had astronauts do when they came back from a space mission. No gravity in outer space caused them to lose bone density, and so jumping on a trampoline when they returned helped them build that bone mass back up.
Lifting weights, either free weights, weight machines or using resistance bands is another excellent option. You can also focus on using your own body weight and performing exercises such as squats and pushups. If you’ve never performed heavy lifts or body weight exercises, it’s a good idea to start out working with a trainer who can ensure you have the proper form so you don’t sustain an injury.
Veggies are one of the best sources of vitamin C, which stimulates the production of bone-forming cells. Veggies, specifically green and yellow veggies, can help to remineralize your bones and make them stronger.
One major risk factor for developing osteoporosis in older adults is bone turnover. This is when your body breaks down old bone to form new bone. In a 3-months study of women who ate more than nine servings of veggies high in bone-protective antioxidants, a decrease in bone turnover was established.
You know you need to eat enough protein to keep enough muscle on your body. But did you know that roughly 50% of bone is made of protein?
Studies have found that low protein intake decreases the calcium absorption and also affects the rate of bone formation and breakdown. In studies, older women who consumed higher amounts of protein had better bone density.
- Eat Calcium-Rich Foods in a Specific Way
Calcium is the main mineral in your bones, so it’s important you eat enough of it each day. The RDI for calcium is 1,000 mg per day for the majority of people, though older women require 1,200 mg.
The thing that’s important to note is that the body can only absorb so much calcium at a time. So instead of getting all of your calcium in in one meal, it’s better to spread the calcium throughout the day so your body can easily absorb all it needs.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is focusing solely on calcium to ensure they have strong bones. But that is only one piece of the puzzle.
All of that calcium that you eat cannot be easily absorbed, even if you spread it out throughout the day, if you don’t get enough vitamin D. Studies have clearly shown that both children and adults with low vitamin D levels typically have lower bone density and are more at risk for bone loss.
Some people are able to get enough vitamin D through sun exposure and through foods such as cheese, liver and fatty fish. Many people, however, need to supplement with up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily to maintain optimum levels.
So you’ve eaten calcium throughout the day, you’re getting enough vitamin D to actually help your body absorb that calcium from your food, but now you need vitamin K to help get all of that calcium to your bones where it can be used to build new bone. Without vitamin K, much of this calcium ends up in your joints and arteries – NOT GOOD!
You’ll see that many vitamin D supplements on the market also contain vitamin K2, so look for one that does to make sure you are getting enough. Vitamin K2 can also be found in foods such as liver, eggs, meat, cheese and sauerkraut.
- Eat Foods High in Magnesium and Zinc
We’re not done talking about the vital nutrients your body needs to maintain bone density. You’ve got your protein, your calcium, your vitamin D and vitamin K. Now let’s talk about the two other extremely important minerals your bones need to stay strong.
Magnesium is necessary to convert the vitamin D you are eating into the active form that promotes calcium absorption. An observational study showed that eating 400 mg of magnesium each day helped over 73,000 women have 2-3% higher bone density than those women who consumed half that amount. While magnesium can be found in small amounts in a majority of foods, your best bet is to find a quality supplement.
And on to our last important mineral, zinc is a trace mineral that your body needs in very small amounts. Zinc helps to make up the mineral portion of your bones. In addition, zinc promotes the formation of bone-building cells and prevents bone breakdown.
Excellent sources of zinc include beef, shrimp, spinach, flaxseeds, oysters and pumpkin seeds.
- Eat Fatty Fish
If you’ve read our blog for any length of time you know that fatty fish are the number one source of omega-3 fatty acids. You also probably know these fatty acids are a great anti-inflammatory. But what you may not know is that omega-3 fatty acids help to protect against bone loss as we age.
Excellent fatty fish include tuna, salmon, sardines and herring.
Now what do you do if you want to protect your bones but hate the taste of fish? You would want to find a fish oil supplement instead. But understand that not all fish oil supplements on the market were created equal. Many are inferior, don’t contain adequate amounts of DHA or EPA. And many leave you with fishy burps all day, which is not ideal, obviously, if you can’t stand the taste of fish.
We’re pleased to offer our readers a superior omega-3 supplement called DuOmega 3&7. Not only is it a pure source of these fatty acids, but it is also very potent (so you won’t have to take 6 pills a day!) and it won’t cause you to have fishy burps all day.
Plus, our DuOmega contains not only omega-3 fatty acids, but also omega-7 fatty acids, which are vital for heart health. Try some for yourself today to keep your bones nice and strong.
The Bottom Line
Having strong bones is important at any stage in life. But maintaining bone strength and density is particularly important as we age. If you follow this guide, you will help your bones stay strong so you can remain active and independent for the rest of your life.