6 Ways to Save Your Bones

Re­duce the threat of os­teo­poro­sis, brit­tle bones, and pos­si­ble frac­tures with these sim­ple bone- build­ing habits

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - by Lisa Turner

Re­duce your risk of os­teo­poro­sis and re­lated is­sues later in life with these prac­ti­cal bone- build­ing tips.

B y the time you’re 30 years old, you’ve achieved your peak bone mass for life. Once you reach 50, the body’s bone- re­build­ing process slows, and you be­gin to lose bone mass. Add to this a loss in es­tro­gen af­ter menopause, and your bones are se­ri­ously at risk later in life. The good news? These six strate­gies can help save your bones and keep your skele­ton strong.

Do Cal­cium Right

It’s the pri­mary min­eral found in bones, and it’s crit­i­cal to bone struc­ture and strength. The prob­lem is ab­sorp­tion: if you eat ( or take) too much cal­cium at once, your body will ac­tu­ally ab­sorb less. So fo­cus on eat­ing smaller amounts at each meal— less than 500 mg per serv­ing is ideal, for a to­tal of 1,000– 1,200 mg a day. That’s the equiv­a­lent of a glass of milk, a cup of cooked col­lards, a small con­tainer of yo­gurt, and one serv­ing of beans.

Also re­mem­ber that cal­cium alone isn’t enough. You need vi­ta­min D, zinc, and other min­er­als to help your body prop­erly uti­lize cal­cium. Mag­ne­sium is es­pe­cially im­por­tant. It con­verts vi­ta­min D into an ac­tive form that helps cal­cium ab­sorp­tion, and ex­cess cal­cium with too lit­tle mag­ne­sium may con­trib­ute to os­teo­poro­sis and cal­cifi cation of the ar­ter­ies, lead­ing to heart at­tack and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. And try to get most of your cal­cium from foods. A re­cent study found that peo­ple who took cal­cium sup­ple­ments had a 22 per­cent greater risk of heart dis­ease. If you take sup­ple­ments, avoid those made with cal­cium car­bon­ate, which is a poorly ab­sorbed form of the min­eral.

Stress Your Bones

It sounds coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but the bones re­spond to im­pact by get­ting denser and stronger. Run­ning, jog­ging, ten­nis, or jump­ing rope are good choices; or just jump in place 10– 20 times, twice a day. In one study, that much jump­ing sig­nifi cantly in­creased bone den­sity.

If your knees don’t love to jump, strength train­ing is an­other great choice. Stud­ies show in­creases in bone den­sity, size, and strength, as well as re­duc­tions in bone loss, in peo­ple who do weight- bear­ing or re­sis­tance ex­er­cise. Strength- train­ing also in­creases mus­cle mass, en­cour­ages weight loss, im­proves co­or­di­na­tion, and can re­duce the risk of falls and frac­tures.

Con­cen­trate on Vi­ta­min K

Kale, spinach, col­lards, chard, turnip greens, and other dark leafy greens are rich in vi­ta­min K, which works in con­cert with vi­ta­min D and bone- build­ing min­er­als. Vi­ta­min K also re­duces the risk of cal­cifi cation when tak­ing cal­cium sup­ple­ments— stud­ies show that peo­ple with higher in­takes of vi­ta­min K have a 57 per­cent re­duced risk of dy­ing from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, and an 81 per­cent re­duc­tion in frac­tures.

Greens, veg­eta­bles, and fruits are rich in other nu­tri­ents needed for bone health, in­clud­ing cal­cium, mag­ne­sium, potas­sium, and boron. One study found that peo­ple who ate few plant foods had an 88 per­cent higher rate of hip frac­ture, com­pared with those who ate fi ve servings of fruits and veg­eta­bles per day.

In one study, peo­ple who ate broc­coli, cab­bage, pars­ley, or other plants had less bone break­down. Onions are es­pe­cially pro­tec­tive: women who ate the most had a 20 per­cent re­duc­tion in hip frac­tures.

Be Pro­tein- Smart

Pro­tein makes up about half the vol­ume of bones and pro­vides their struc­tural ma­trix. But di­etary pro­tein can be detri­men­tal or benefi cial to bones, de­pend­ing on the amount and type of pro­tein you eat, your cal­cium lev­els, and the acid/ base bal­ance of your diet.

A few stud­ies sug­gest that high- pro­tein diets can in­crease cal­cium ex­cre­tion, de­plete cal­cium from bones, and in­crease risk of os­teo­poro­sis. But most stud­ies show that low pro­tein in­take can ham­per cal­cium ab­sorp­tion and may im­pact bone formation and break­down. In one study, women who ate 86 grams of pro­tein per day lost less bone mass than women who ate 60 grams. Ad­di­tion­ally, higher pro­tein con­sump­tion im­proves bone den­sity and de­creases the risk of frac­tures, es­pe­cially in older women.

The diff er­ence seems to be in­take of cal­cium and plant foods. As long as cal­cium in­take is ad­e­quate and your diet in­cludes am­ple amounts of al­ka­liz­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles, pro­tein in­take is likely to be help­ful, not harm­ful, to bones.

Watch Your Weight

When it comes to bone health, you can be too thin. In gen­eral, low body weight is the pri­mary fac­tor con­tribut­ing to re­duced bone den­sity and bone loss in menopausal women— the group most likely to suff er from os­teo­poro­sis. Los­ing a large amount of weight, as well as yo- yo di­et­ing and re­peat­edly gain­ing and los­ing weight, are es­pe­cially harm­ful to bone health. In one study, bone lost dur­ing weight loss was not re­gained, even if weight was re­gained. Peo­ple on su­per- low- calo­rie diets are es­pe­cially at risk— eat­ing less than 1,000 calo­ries per day can re­duce bone den­sity, re­gard­less of your weight.

Be­ing too heavy isn’t good for bones ei­ther. Obe­sity can re­duce bone den­sity and vol­ume, and the stress of ex­cess weight in­creases the risk of frac­tures.

Call on Col­la­gen

In ad­di­tion to cal­cium, mag­ne­sium, and other sup­ple­ments, adding col­la­gen to your diet may benefi t bone health. Col­la­gen makes up the soft ma­trix of the bones. While most stud­ies have ex­am­ined the eff ect of col­la­gen on arthri­tis, a few stud­ies show that it’s benefi cial for bone health as well.

If you eat meat, bone broth is one of the most effi cient di­etary sources of col­la­gen. Ge­latin, from grass- fed sources, is an­other op­tion— make fruit- based Jello, gum­mies, or marsh­mal­lows for col­la­gen- rich snacks. If you don’t eat meat, look for nu­tri­ents that sup­port col­la­gen syn­the­sis, most no­tably vi­ta­min C, bi­otin, sil­ica, and amino acids ( pro­line, ly­sine, and glycine).

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