The health and strength of your bones is not something you'll likely notice unless you fracture a bone at some point in your life.
Usually it is not until you get older that signs of weak, brittle bones or bone related diseases become a big factor.
In fact, chronic diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis can creep up on you without you noticing. And this can easily impact your ability to stay mobile in your later stages of life if you haven't supported your bone health properly during your more active years.
Interestingly, osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’ because bone degeneration happens without symptoms.
With this in mind, it's good to understand a little about what makes strong, healthy bones so that you can avoid these debilitating diseases and maintain good posture and agility as you age.
Calcium is a vital nutrient for bone health but most people have no idea how this mineral is formed in the body or where to get it. The truth is, there is more to the common claim that, "you need to eat dairy products for calcium" than is generally understood.
So, here we discuss the relationship between calcium and strong healthy bones, as well as the best calcium-rich foods which are often overlooked, plus we offer you some additional easy tips to ensure you maintain your healthy bones.
How To Maintain Strong & Healthy Bones
1. Dairy & Calcium Foods
Contrary to what you’ve probably heard for most of your life, dairy milk is not the only way to get the calcium you need for healthy bones.
In fact, there are better foods that support bone health that you may not have considered, such as stalky vegetables like celery, rhubarb and bok choy.
Interestingly, a stick of celery looks like a bone and snaps like a bone. Certain ancient scholars observed and claimed that the 'signature' (or sign-of-nature) of celery was the human bones, meaning that mother nature in her wisdom created celery to target the health of the bones which is why they look the same.
To back this wisdom up, today's nutritional science has confirmed that celery contains approximately 21% phytalitic or plant sodium, which is the level of sodium composition required for healthy bones!
You probably know that sodium is otherwise known as salt. Salt is crucial for strong bones because it ionises into calcium inside the body, particularly when combined with water and vitamin D from sunlight.
This is why the ocean is full of crustaceans and shells that are comprised of pure calcium (created by a combination of Salt, Water and Sunshine).
So if you want to avoid degenerative bone conditions, you should start by including plenty of stalky vegetables in your diet, drinking water every day and getting a moderate amount of sunshine.
Calcium Rich Foods As Alternatives To Dairy
Whilst traditionally farmed dairy products are calcium rich and provide nutritional benefit to bone health, the problem today is that most dairy products are factory farmed and are stripped of their vital nutrients through pasteurization.
This is why if you're going to consume dairy products it's best to look for organic products from local, micro dairies.
Alternatively, here is a selection of calcium rich foods for supporting bone health:
- Dark leafy greens
- Organic tofu
- Edamame Beans
- Sesame Seeds
- Chia Seeds and;
2. The Right Kinds of Exercise
Maintaining strong, healthy bones isn’t just about what you eat. It’s also about how often you perform the right types of exercise.
Just like your muscles, your bones need to move in order to stay strong and avoid losing their density. By putting gentle stress on your bones, you’re triggering them to build up strength to protect them and you over the long term.
The number one exercise you should do is to walk for 30-45 minutes every single day. The simple cross-patterning movement of walking helps you to develop a strong musculoskeletal foundation over the course of your life time.
Once you're consistent with your walking, then add some form of low-impact exercise that places additional resistance on your muscles - activities such as; light weight training, swimming, circuit training, pilates and functional movement classes are all fantastic options to help keep your bones strong, to boost your balance, mobility and to help you avoid physical degeneration as you age.
If you'd prefer to avoid exercise classes or gyms, simple exercises such as push ups, lunges and squats you can do in just 10-15 minutes per session and they are a wise addition to your daily walking routine to maintain your mobility and strength.
3. Adequate Exposure To Sunlight
It might be tough to see the connection between getting enough sun and maintaining healthy bones, but it’s every bit as important as the right foods and regular exercise.
Your body produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight, and vitamin D is critical for bone health.
If your levels of calcium start to drop, vitamin D intervenes in two important ways: it travels to the intestines to help the body absorb calcium more easily, and it also travels to the kidneys to help prevent calcium loss through urine. The problem is, vitamin D is hard to get.
It’s not naturally in many foods, so your body needs sunlight to help produce it, and striking the right balance of adequate sunlight without suffering from skin damage can be tough.
A good amount to strive for is 10-30 minutes of quality sunlight a few times per week on your face, neck and arms. Try to get your sunshine fix during the morning part of the day before the sun reaches it's intensity in the middle of the day.
Learn more about the vital importance of sunshine in our blog: 7 Key Reasons Why You Need Sunlight.
4. Help From Other Vitamins
Calcium and vitamin D aren’t the only ways for your body to maintain healthy bones. Vitamin K has been shown to play an important role in bone formation and calcium regulation and its readily available in certain plant foods.
High vitamin K intake has been linked to higher bone density, and it can be found aplenty in vegetables such as dark leafy greens, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
Vitamin A has also been shown to help direct calcium to the bones, but too much of the wrong type of vitamin A can actually lead to fractures, so opt for the right type by eating whole plant foods like winter squash, kale, carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes.
5. Things to Avoid
Sometimes, maintaining healthy bones can be as much about what you don’t do as what you’re doing. As we age and our bodies find it harder and harder to maintain bone density, you should be more mindful of the foods you consume.
Avoid or at least limit your consumption of the following:
- Processed sugars e.g. soft drinks, sodas, candy, cookies, cakes, energy bars and packaged breakfast cereals;
- Artificial sweeteners e.g. diet soft drinks, flavoured yogurt, jellies and coloured sports drinks;
- Refined grains and wheat products e.g. white flour, white bread and white pasta should be limited;
- Frozen and fatty foods e.g. these typically use hydrogenated vegetables oils and vegetable shortening which are loaded with harmful trans fats;
- Commercial caffeine e.g. big brand energy drinks, regular-grade coffee and many soft drinks
- Meat and Animal Products - if you're not vegetarian, at least avoid processed meats such as salami, sausages, bacon and corned meats as these are particularly acid-forming and will leach calcium from the body. If you eat animal products, be sure to choose only grass fed, pasture raised, free range and hormone-free meats and dairy.
The Main Takeaway
Maintaining strong, healthy bones is something you pay attention to over the long term so that the effects of bone degeneration doesn't stop you in your tracks later in life.
Remember, your diet and lifestyle habits will greatly impact your ability to minimise bone density loss as you age, and thereby ensure you can keep living a happy, healthy active lifestyle for many, many years.
Diseases such as osteoporosis often go undetected until it's too late happens, so it's important to adjust your lifestyle choices sooner rather than later.
Support strong, healthy bones by including stalky vegetables and calcium rich whole foods into your diet on a regular basis. Be sure to walk regularly and add a little resistance movement to your weekly routine. In addition, drink plenty of water each day and get regular sunlight and you'll go along way to maintaining strong bones, quality of life, and avoiding degenerative bone problems down the road.
Tolman Self Care.