How would you like access into the inner sanctum of a health expert’s mind? Kind of appealing I’d think due to the avalanche of so-called wisdom out there. See, these days we get information easily, quickly and abundantly, which is a great thing. But there is a catch to this data filled Pandora’s box, and that is – separating the wheat from the chaff; the good from the useless. “I read it on the internet so it must be true” is a new catchphrase that ironically points out our tendency to easily accept anything online. Add to that the present internet climate is to write long, wordy articles so that Google pushes up a website’s ranking. Which means even more reading for you to get to the heart of the matter.
And that is why we have polled only notable authorities, and 36 of them, for their best distilled nuggets of wisdom. The question we asked them was “If you could only recommend top 3 foods ingredients for bone health, which 3 would you recommend?”
It’s not a survivor’s guide to nutrition (because mere survival is not a lofty target), but a thriver’s guide. The following list will help you clear away not just the informational clutter, but the dietary fluff as well. New ingredients seem to emerge as fast as self-proclaimed health gurus. So today we give you, from the inner sanctum of 36 health experts’ minds, only the best-of-the-best, essential top 3 bone-healthy foods.
Jenn Pike, RYT, RHN, PTS, MES – Simplicity, @simplicityjenn
We all know by now that eating a diet rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are essential to strong, healthy bones – it’s the source we continue to debate on. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, I don’t recommend cow’s milk or dairy as main sources of bone builders and the reason being is that most people are quite sensitive to regular consumption of dairy products and most milk and its products that are available to us are highly processed and contain higher levels of phosphorus – making this altered form of dairy an acid-forming food. The acidity/alkalinity of a food can affect how its nutrients are used or absorbed by the body. Too many acidic foods in the diet can contribute to a state of metabolic acidosis, which means that the body’s tissues have become slightly more acidic than normal. And when this happens, the body needs to balance the acidity by buffering with alkalinity, such as from calcium. Calcium is pulled from tissues, including bones, to neutralize the acid therefore contributing to lowered bones density and health. I turn to more plant-based sources to help them be vital and strong. 3 of my TOP calcium foods rich foods that I recommend are:
- Sesame seeds: One of the richest sources of plant calcium! Add some to a stir-fry or sushi, use tahini on wraps, sandwiches, in smoothies or to make some fresh hummus, salad dressing, or straight up as a dip for veggie sticks.
- Chia seeds: These tiny seeds contain more calcium than milk! Combine some with plant milk of your choice, let set in the fridge overnight, and you have a calcium-packed breakfast or snack ready to eat! You can also add these to salads, coconut yogurt with granola, whole grain cereals and your baking.
- Dark Leafy Greens: Not only are these vibrant and delicious food loaded with calcium but they also contain an incredible amount of phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E just to name a few.
Just how much calcium, magnesium and vitamin D does the average adult body need? I recommend a minimum of 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium, 600mg of magnesium and 4000 IUs of a liquid vitamin D. Now, keep in mind that every individual is different but for anyone living in North America who truly experiences 4 seasons I would keep their vitamin D at a base of 4000iu throughout Oct-Apr and decrease to 2000-3000iu during the spring and summer months. The truth is there are dozens of nutrients involved in bone health. So a healthy overall diet full of variety and one that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains, is a good start for incredible bone health.
Erin Luyendyk, RHN – NUTRITIONISTA,@bcnutritionista
- Collard greens are a bone-building nutrient powerhouse! There is so much more to bone strength than calcium; in fact too much calcium without other essential nutrients can weaken bones and leave them brittle and inflexible. Collards are loaded with balanced bone strengthening minerals calcium, magnesium, manganese and potassium. They are also a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C and alkaline protein, as too much (and too little) protein and acid-forming foods leach essential minerals from bones.
- Raw pumpkin seeds are another fabulous non-dairy bone building food. They are an excellent source of bone building co-factor minerals manganese, magnesium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus that help to keep bones strong and flexible. Pumpkin seeds also contain alkaline protein and essential fatty acids. Be sure to choose raw unsalted pumpkin seeds as the heat of roasting damages the delicate essential fatty acids and excess dietary sodium is associated with bone mineral loss.
- Wild salmon is a highly anti-inflammatory food, and inflammation has been linked to some cases of osteoporosis. It is also high in vitamin D, which helps the body utilize calcium and form strong bones. Salmon contains a high level of selenium, an antioxidant mineral that appears to work closely with manganese to maintain bone health and integrity.
Recent research has found that the essential fatty acid DHA appears to reduce bone loss by slowing down osteoclast (specialized bone cells that resorb bone) activity. Omega 3 fatty acids including DHA are abundant in salmon. While canned salmon with the bones is a great source of calcium, the canning process depletes other essential nutrients and exposes consumers to endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA. I recommend choosing fresh, wild salmon instead of farmed salmon whenever possible.
Joseph Brigham, Personal Trainer – BRIGHT HAMMER FIT@BrightHammerFit
In order to maintain a healthy skeleton and hardy bones a good diet is needed to support this, as well as load-bearing exercise to improve bone density and plenty of sunlight to get vital Vitamin D. Here are 3 foods you can add to your diet to make sure your body is getting what you need for optimal bone health, especially if you are engaging in regular intense exercise.
- Turnip Greens: We all know that Calcium is a vital nutrient for healthy bones and teeth. Because of the importance of this micronutrient for energy metabolism, without enough of it in our diets our body can leech this from the bones to support everyday muscular functions. Make sure you get a good quota by getting some Turnip greens into your diet! These leaves are found at the top of your common Turnip. 1 cup cooked of these greens will yield a big 197mg of calcium per portion, making it on a par with cheese per 100g and at a third of the calories – making it a guilt free edition to any meal as well as nearly 200% the daily value of Calcium.
- Bell Peppers: Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis, collagen is the protein that makes up around a quarter of what bone tissue is made of and is responsible for giving bones their strength and flexibility. Without enough collagen, bones would be brittle and break easier. Make sure that you have plenty of Vitamin C in your diet to provide for your bones as well as the plethora of other vital functions it supports. By including a cup of raw Bell peppers in your daily diet you will be providing your body with 117mg of Vitamin C, which is nearly 200% what you need.
- Parsley: While still being extensively researched, Vitamin K has been toted to functionally modify proteins in the bone matrix to make them stronger and reduce the risk of fractures due to sub-optimal bone density. You can get 124mg of Vitamin K into your diet with just 2 tablespoons of Parsley, giving you 155% of the daily value required. As with all the above nutrients it is better to have more than not enough, especially if you are engaging in regular intense exercise and run the risk of becoming demineralized.
Sharon Palmer, RD, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ – SharonPalmer, @SharonPalmerRD
My top foods for bone health: Of course, everyone recommends milk for bone health, but if you’re a plant-based eater or can’t tolerate milk, what can you consume? I recommend soy milk. Most brands of soy milk provide somewhere around 30% of the daily needs for calcium and vitamin D—two of the most important bone-building nutrients in the diet. In addition, protein is very important for healthy bones, and most soy milks provide around 7 grams of protein per serving. That’s a good supply of protein! Another bone-loving food? Leafy green vegetables. These veggies are packed with vitamin K, which has been linked to bone health. Polyphenol-rich plant foods—rich an antioxidants that fight oxidative stress that can lead to osteoporosis—may help keep your bones strong. These include brightly colored plant foods, such as green tea, dark chocolate, red wine, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, red cabbage, and parsley.
John La Puma, MD FACP – Dr.JohnLaPuma, @johnlapuma
My top 3 foods for bone health are delicious culinary medicine which you can prescribe and take yourself! Michael Roizen MD and I also taught these foods in our first-ever cooking and nutrition class for U.S. medical students at SUNY: a real privilege.
- Walnuts: Rich in alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid: higher levels are associated with lumbar spine bone density independent of bone resorption in postmenopausal women. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23708886
- Olive oil: A two year study of men showed more total osteocalcin and other bone formation markers among the men eating the Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil added. More osteocalcin means better bone density. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22855341
- Black Lucques olives: Prevented bone loss in the whole femur, which is the major bone in your leg. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17408530
Stephanie Tucci, C.N.P – FuelUpWithFood, @StephanieTucci
These three ingredients for bone health below are based on the 3 key nutrients that are essential for bone health and formation. It’s important that we look at what nutrients the body needs and then we can make dishes that pull these nutrients together.
- Vitamin C: Cauliflower An ingredient that most people don’t think of when it comes to vitamin C, however 1 cup has 54.9 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C has an important role when it comes to bone heath, its main job is to stimulate the enzymes that form the collagen and connective tissue.
- Calcium: Canned salmon The small soft bones are rich in calcium as well they are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids and protein. If you choose fresh salmon over canned, make sure it’s wild caught salmon. A 3oz serving of wild salmon has 181 mg of absorbable calcium. Note that a deficiency of protein or Vitamin C could weaken the bone matrix.
- Magnesium: Swiss Chard Leafy greens should be a staple in all households because they are packed with many vital nutrients. 1 cup of swiss chard contains 150 mg of magnesium. Magnesium helps move calcium from the blood to the bones, preventing calcium deposits from forming and helps prevent calcium leaching.
You can easily pair all three ingredients with some brown rice or quinoa and make a complete nourishing meal. Bonus: Avoid refined white sugars, refined white flours and processed foods: white pasta, white bread, packages sweets and desserts. These foods are all acid forming that will leach minerals out of the bones.
Jessica Garay Redmond, MS, RD, CSCS – MajorLeagueWellness, @CuseSportsRD
- Almonds: Although these are not the highest in calcium content, a 1-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) provides 77 mg of Magnesium (nearly 20% of the Daily Value for a 2000 calorie diet). Why care about magnesium? It contributes to bone structure and is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions throughout the body.
- Kale and collard greens: These are high in Vitamin K, which is another important nutrient for bone health. On top of that, a 1-cup serving of these leafy greens will contain around 200 mg of calcium. Now, these types of vegetables are not usually touted for their calcium content because they contain oxalates, which interfere with our body’s absorption of calcium. However, these two greens have a lower oxalate count than spinach.
- Kefir: This cousin to yogurt is a great source of both calcium and vitamin D. As a bonus, it contains a large amount of probiotics and is virtually free of lactose, making it a great option for people who are lactose intolerant.
Kathy Birkett, RDN – MenuDietitian, @KathyBirkettRDN
I chose these foods because they offer enough variety that everyone can find their favorite food among these to help them get all the nutrition their bodies require. Even those with lactose intolerance can find a variety of choices to get nutrients for bone health. Adolescents and adults should get 3 dairy servings a day in the form they prefer and can tolerate best. Portion sizes can be a bit confusing as common containers are not always equivalent servings. Eating and drinking adequate amounts of dairy foods have been linked to improved bone health. It is important to get enough dairy as children and adolescents when bone growth and bone mass is occurring. Dairy contains essential nutrients for bone health including calcium and vitamin D. Top three foods to improve bone health:
- Milk: (could be lactaid if lactose intolerance is a problem) to drink and in recipes (One cup of milk (preferably low fat) is considered one serving; one cup of soy milk is also one serving if it is calcium fortified)
- Cheese: Part skim for health (1/3 cup of shredded cheese is one serving as is 1 ½ oz of hard cheese, One slice of processed cheese is equal to 1/3 cup milk
- Yogurt: Greek yogurt preferred for additional protein (A 6 oz yogurt is considered ¾ serving, 4 oz container is ½ cup serving, and a 8 oz yogurt is considered one serving so be aware of the size you usually select so that you are getting the right amount of dairy daily. There are a variety of flavors of yogurt including regular, light and Greek to please most palates.)
Kelly O. Schmidt, RD, LDN – PaleoInfusedNutrition, @KellyOC
When we think of bone health, we have been influenced to automatically think calcium in milk. However, with my suggestions, I am going to highlight some foods that are abundant in a variety of vitamins and minerals that nurture our bones beyond the white milk mustache.
- Bone broth provides massive bone support. It is rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other trace minerals providing insurance, in the perfect ratios for strong bones. As well, bone broth is easy to digest and therefore the nutrients are easy to absorb. Bone broth houses specific proteins that nurture our connective tissue as well.
- Grassfed butter is one of the best sources of food for vitamin K2, which data suggests vitamin K2 can dramatically reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Note, conventional butter, even if it’s organic, will not have comparable vitamin K2 to grass-fed butter.
- Eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Eggs are one of few foods that have natural amounts of vitamin D in it, which is important for bone health. As well eggs contain sulfur which have a role in creating collagen in the body. Overall, eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods available. Containing 13 essential nutrients and antioxidants.
Jennifer Lentzke, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N – TORO, @Toro_Nutrition
Bone health is something that people of all ages should be aware of, especially younger individuals who are striving to achieve optimal bone density by their mid-30s and older individuals who are looking to preserve bone health as they continue to age. There are many factors that influence bone health, but none more important than nutrition. Rather than focus on three individual foods (as this seems somewhat limiting and there is no one food that is going to be the key to optimal bone health), I’ll focus on foods that are rich in certain vitamins and minerals.
- Calcium-Rich Foods: This is an obvious choice because, indeed, calcium makes up a large majority of our bone tissue, so to disregard it’s role in bone health would be negligent. Foods that are rich in calcium include (but are not limited to) dairy products such as Greek yogurt and organic milk, leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and almonds.
- Vitamin-D Rich Foods: Vitamin D works alongside calcium to promote optimal bone health. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include fatty fish (such as salmon and sardines), eggs, and mushrooms.
- Vitamin K, C, A, B9 (Folic Acid) and Potassium-Rich Foods: It shouldn’t surprise you that darkly-colored fruits and vegetables are a good source of these nutrients. Examples include kale, citrus fruits, pumpkin, asparagus, and bananas. These vitamins and minerals play a lesser, but still important, role in bone health, so don’t leave them out of the equation.
A diet that includes a variety of healthful foods, including the foods rich in the vitamins/minerals mentioned above, will ensure that you are giving your body what it needs to promote good bone health.
Tricia Cardone, Nutritionist – APassionForHealthyLiving, @NHHealthyLiving
My top favorite foods to support bone health are the following:
- Homemade Bone Broth: Mineral rich: calcium, magnesium and other key nutrients to support bone health
- Sardines/Wild Salmon: Calcium, magnesium and vitamin d
- Leafy Greens: Calcium, magnesium and vitamin K
The above foods are a super way to nutritionally support healthy bones.
Sagan Morrow, Certified Holistic Nutritionist – LivingInTheRealWorld, @Saganlives
My top three foods for bone health would have to be dark leafy greens, apples, and chia seeds. Dark leafy greens are an amazing source of nutrients in general and should definitely be a foundational piece of any diet (and variety in your dark leafy greens is also important – just as variety in our entire way of eating is important). When it comes to bone health, we tend to focus solely on calcium – but there’s so much more to bone health than just that one mineral! Apples contain polyphenols, and chia seeds contain manganese and phosphorous, for example. Dark leafy greens, fruits, and seeds are all nutritional powerhouses – they contribute to bone health and also make a big impact on our overall health, which is why I have chosen these three foods. As for a non-food ingredient… exercise is key! Even a short amount of walking each day can make a big difference to bone health.
Maggie Moon, MS, RD – EverydayHealthyEating, @maggiemoon_RD
I know dairy is the obvious choice, but I actually avoid dairy (not entirely, but mostly) for a variety of reasons, and I think it’s important to have non-dairy options for bone health. My top foods for bone health (calcium/vitamin D):
- Sardines: Bone-in; surprisingly high levels of both vitamin D and calcium, I like to mash them and add them to pasta sauces
- Salmon: Provides vitamin D and heart-healthy omega-3s, plus no mercury; people should be eating more fish anyway!
- Fortified orange juice: Fortified w/ calcium and vitamin D; what could be easier
- Almonds: About 35 almonds will provide a good source of calcium. The daily value for calcium is 1000mg and 35 almonds will provide about 11% of that. Also, 35 almonds is about 1.5oz, which is in line with the FDA qualified health claim that eating a daily dose of 1.5 ounces of most nuts – like almonds or pistachios- in the context of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. I know that’s not calcium-related, but the point is that all the foods are worth including in the diet for a variety of merits. Nuts are one of the healthiest foods around – and they’re delicious!
- Broccoli: Lots of good reasons to eat broccoli in addition to it’s calcium
- Tofu: It has to be labeled as made with calcium to be a good source; another great vegetarian source of calcium
Jesse Schelew, CNP, Holistic Nutritionist – OutToLunchCreations, @OutToLunchC
It is a common misconception that milk is the only food that contributes to bone health. Personally, I believe that milk does not have to be part of a complete diet. There are plenty of plant based sources of bone healthy minerals like sesame seeds, spinach and brown rice. If you are looking for a dairy free milk alternative check out my Almond Milk Recipe.
- Sesame Seeds: Sesame seeds are a calcium powerhouse that promote strong bones. With the hulls in tact 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds contain 88 mg of calcium, when the hulls are removed 1 Tbsp still contains 37 mg of calcium which isn’t too shabby. Sesame seeds also contain zinc which helps maintain bone mineral density and prevents osteoporosis. For a yummy bone building salad check out my Curry Kale Quinoa Salad.
- Spinach: Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K which is integral to bone health. Vitamin K prevents the break down of bones and stimulates a process that anchors calcium in your bones. It is also rich in calcium and magnesium which both support bone health. Need a way to sneak spinach into your diet? Check out my Hot Apple Cider Smoothie.
- Brown Rice: Magnesium is another mineral this is important to bone health. Roughly 50% of your magnesium is stored in your bones. Magnesium helps give bones their structure and plays a role in bone metabolism and bone loss. Brown Rice is a great source of magnesium and you can enjoy it in my Brown Rice Congee Recipe.
Joy Healey, Qualified Nutritionist (Dip.ION) – MineralTherapyForBetterHealth, @MineralTherapy
The foods I would recommend for bone health would be:
- Sardines: Good source of vitamin D and Omega 3 essential fats, which reduce bone loss and increase calcium absorption. Kippers (sliced and gutted herrings, a popular breakfast dish in the UK) are actually a better source of vitamin D than sardines, mackerel and salmon, but kippers have a high sodium content which could be a problem for anyone with high blood pressure and salt increases calcium loss. The vitamin D content assumes you are eating the fish bones too – be careful not to choke!
- Broccoli: A good source of vitamin K, essential for bone formation and helping to deposit minerals into the bone matrix. Cauliflower is actually a better food source of vitamin K than Broccoli, but I selected Broccoli in preference to cauliflower because of the magnesium content of Broccoli.
- Pumpkin seeds: (or cashews, almonds or Brazil nuts) because they are all rich in magnesium. If you have inadequate magnesium (and calcium) in your body, they will be pulled from your bones, weakening them. Some experts consider magnesium even more important than calcium for good bone health. Many people concentrate on calcium for bones and don’t realize how important it is that calcium and magnesium are in a healthy balance with each other, because excess calcium can actually cause weakened bones if there is a magnesium deficiency. Hair analysis is a good test to check the balance of calcium and magnesium (among many other important ratios).
Dr. Blessing Anyatonwu, Nutritionist – EarnestHolisticHealth, @DrBlessingA
The Top 3 Food Ingredients I would recommend are magnesium, vitamin K and boron. Did you know that calcium rich foods are not the only foods that can promote bone health and prevent osteoporosis? The following food nutrients play a significant role in building and maintaining bone health and strength. Magnesium is needed for proper bone development, it plays a role in bone remodelling by influencing 2 types of bone cells: osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts help build bone and osteoclasts break down bone. It helps increase bone density by regulating the transport of calcium. The best way to add magnesium to your diet is to eat more magnesium rich foods. The following foods are rich in magnesium: lentils, spinach, bananas and dark chocolate. Vitamin K Surprised? Well don’t be, vitamin K plays a vital role in bone remineralization by working with vitamin D to regulate bone metabolism and calcium balance in the bone. It increases bone density in patients with osteoporosis and can reduce the risk of fracture by speeding up healing. Foods that are rich in vitamin K include: dark leafy vegetables like Swiss chard, spinach and collard greens. Boron Boron is a micro mineral that increases bone density and strengthen bone density by regulating magnesium metabolism. Boron containing foods include: avocados, broccoli, onions and raisins. The best thing about all of these nutrients is that they can all be found in natural living foods like fruits and vegetables. Although supplementation may work better for some people with underlying conditions it is better to get your nutrients and vitamins through food.
Georgina Ryan, Nutritionist – NourishingByHeart, @NourishByHeart
I love to include foods that can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing and for bone health my top three are:
- Oat straw infusion which is an easily digested inexpensive source of calcium and other bone building minerals, tastes delicious hot or cold.An infusion is made in the following manner:
- One ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly covered and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours.
- Straining the infusion and squeezing the herb and discarding the herb back into the earth.
- A cup or more is consumed, and the remainder refrigerated.
- Drink 2-4 cups a day. Best used in 36 hours.
- Seaweed with its rich complex of micro-nutrients (including calcium and vitamin K) is an easy and beneficial addition to any diet. Use in cooking or as a seasoning.
- Bone Broth is an extremely valuable and wholesome food that is rich with a complex of minerals perfect for building or repairing bones and is very easily absorbed by the body. Make you own broth and use as often as you like.
One or all of the above can also be added to your smoothie!
Azmina Govindji, RD, MBDA – AzminaNutrition, @AzminaNutrition
Here are my top 3 foods:
1. Oily fish such as herrings, mackerel, sardines, tuna and pilchards, as they are some of the few foods that provide vitamin D, needed for the efficient absorption of calcium. If you eat fish with small bones, like sardines, you also get the essential bone-building mineral, calcium.
2. Yogurt. Go for lower fat options and have three servings of dairy foods a day. Yogurt gives you calcium and protein, both of which are needed to help maintain strong bones.
3. Almonds. They provide calcium and protein, which are required for bone health, as well as a range of essential vitamins and minerals. Enjoy a handful a day as part of a varied diet and lifestyle.
Joy Dubost, PhD RD CSSD – Dr.JoyDubost, @joyofnutrition
- Low-fat yogurt: Even if lactose intolerant you may be able to tolerate as yogurts are typically low in lactose while still providing up to 30% of calcium and 20% of vitamin D per 8 oz. cup. Make sure you read the labels though because different varieties of yogurt might not fortify with vitamin D. Yogurts are great for complementing a meal, snack or substitute for cooking.
- Tofu: Typically high in calcium but it depends on whether it was prepared with calcium sulfate so check the label. However it does provide isoflavones which have been shown to increase bone density.
- Salmon: Not only good for omega 3’s but also in a 3 oz portion it can be an excellent source of vitamin D and may provide up to 100% of of the daily value (sockeye salmon).
- Artichokes, onions, bananas: Provides a fiber called inulin, which is also referred to as a prebiotic which has been shown to enhance calcium absorption so pair these items with those that provide a good source of calcium.
Shawn Stevenson, Fitness & Nutrition Expert – TheShawnStevenson, @ShawnModel
- Spirulina: Magnesium is one of the most critical nutrients for bone health. If there is a magnesium deficiency, calcium can be leached from our bones more rapidly to aid in other bodily processes. One of the best sources of magnesium is the superfood algae spirulina. It also contains other nutrients, co-factors, and amino acid building blocks that help to make our bones better.
- Celery: This is an excellent source of vitamin K. University of Maryland Medical Center reported that vitamin K is needed for the proper utilization of calcium by our bones. Optimal vitamin K levels can improve bone health and help prevent fractures.
- Brazil nuts: A study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society revealed that elderly people who ingested more magnesium had significantly higher bone density. Nuts and seeds in general are an excellent source for bioavailable magnesium. Brazil nuts are at the top of the list because, not only are they a great source of magnesium, but they’re rich in selenium as well. Selenium helps to prevent age related damage and excessive oxidation of our bones.
Nancy Guberti, Biomedical Nutritionist, Functional Medicine Specialist, MS, CN – NancyGuberti.com, @nancyguberti
The three food ingredients for optimal bone health are:
- Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, Swiss Chard, collard greens, bok choy and kale contain calcium, magnesium and Vitamin K. Cannot forget to include some steamed broccoli as well since it contains calcium.
- Eggs contain Vitamin D, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc in the yolk.
- Salmon known best for their abundance in omega-3 fatty acids but did you know that a 3 ounces piece of sockeye salmon has more than 100% of your vitamin D! Sardines have high levels of both Vitamin D and calcium. Can be used in salads.
Ben Coomber, Performance Nutritionist, Coach – BenCoomber, @BenCoomber
- Bone Broth: This is top of my list by a country mile, it contains collagen alongside all the vitamins and minerals that provide the building blocks to building strong bones and joints. Something that can be consumed as a drink or used as a base for soups and stews.
- Fish: Omega 3 fatty acids are essential in regulating the level of inflammation in your body, so while it may not directly impact the bones, it will impact them indirectly in many ways. If eating small fish like sardines with bones you will also get a huge quantity of bioavailable calcium.
- Green vegetables: The health of the bones is highly dependant on your magnesium and calcium status, two nutrients that are found in abundance in green vegetables. They are also some of the most nutrient dense foods known to man, so its a win win.
Alexandra Caspero, Specializing In Plant Based Nutrition – DeliciousKnowledge, @delishknowledge
- Beans: Rich in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, iron- they are a great addition to most diets! They are my favorite plant-protein and free of saturated fat and cholesterol like other proteins (chicken, fish, beef, etc)
- Vegetables: It doesn’t really matter which one as variety is key and ALL of them work. Sure, kale and chard are top nutrient choices but you can get lots of nutrition from “everyday” vegetables like broccoli, peppers, spinach, romaine. I challenge all of my clients to add as many vegetables as they can to their day. A serving here, a serving there adds up quickly!
- Avocado: In the quest to eat healthy, too many people skim fat from their diets. Healthy fats are good for you and a secret weapon in lush hair, bright skin and feeling good! Stick to heart healthy fats that add extra nutrients- like avocado. Not only are they much more filling than oils, they also contain 9g of fiber per serving! Add them to sandwiches, salads, scrambles or on their own! I eat a 1/2 of an avocado a few times a week for snack. Just halve, sprinkle with salt and pepper and you’re good to go!
Doug Cook, RDN, MHSc CDE – DougCookrd, @DougCookRD
Top three foods for bone health are:
- Low mercury, sustainable fatty fish like wild salmon and sardines with bones, mackerel, herring and trout: They are one of the richest sources of vitamin D3 which is needed to optimize calcium, phosphorus and magnesium absorption. They are also a good source of zinc, a vitamin D3 supporting nutrient. If soft bones are eaten, the fish will also be a good source of two key bone minerals: calcium and magnesium.
- Hard and soft cheeses but especially aged cheeses like Camembert, Brie, and Gouda: They are a great source of vitamin K2. This vitamin helps to keep calcium from being deposited into soft tissue like blood vessels and arteries and into bone and teeth instead, where calcium belongs.
- Whole grains like quinoa, teff and dark green vegetables: Which are a great source of magnesium; an often overlooked mineral needed for bone health and a mineral that many of us struggled to get enough of.
Dr. David Jockers, DC, MS, CSCS – DrJockers.com, @djockers5
My top 3 foods for healthy bones would be
- Bone Broth: Contains valuable nutrients include collagen, gelatin, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glycosamino glycans, proline, glycine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. These all help with the development of healthy joints, bones, ligaments and tendons as well as hair and skin. These nutrients are considered beauty foods because they help the body with proper structural alignment and beautiful skin and hair.
- Raw, Grass-fed Cheese from 100% grass-fed cows has a perfect omega 6:3 ratio of 2:1: It also contains very high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and is a great source of highly bioavailable calcium & magnesium, amino acids, vitamin A, D3, & K2.
- Green Leafy Veggies: For the chlorophyll, carotenoid anti-oxidants, phytonutrients, calcium and magnesium content. These nutrients help reduce inflammation and provide key raw materials for healthy bone formation.
Natalia Stasenko, MS, RD, CDN – TribecaNutrition, @NataliaStasenko
- Dairy products: A glass of milk contains 300 mg calcium, almost 1/3 of what most adults before 51 years need.
- Cold water fish like salmon: Rich in calcium, vitamin D that helps with calcium absorption and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Nuts and seeds: Rich in protein, potassium and Omega 3 fatty acids, all very beneficial to bone health.
Yvonne Bishop-Weston, Nutritionist Foods for Life Nutritionist – NewForestHealth.com, @NutritionistW1
Great sources of bone building calcium can be found in tofu, sesame seeds (thus tahini) , spinach and Baobab fruit powder from Africa. Other nutrients work synergistically with calcium so include vitamin K rich foods such as sweet potato, carrots and kale and especially important are magnesium rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, black beans and quinoa. The sunshine Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones and in countries such as the UK and north America we simply don’t make enough in the winter even with good food sources. The best policy to boost both bone health and immune system support is to seek out a good vitamin D spray that you can spray under your tongue. The final piece of the jigsaw for good strong healthy bones is weight baring exercise – get the kids to carry home the shopping rather than tossing it in the back of the car , they’ll thank you when your gone!
McKenzie Hall, RD – NourishRDs.com, @NourishRDs
- Incorporate two to three servings of calcium-rich foods each day such as cheese, yogurt, milk, calcium-fortified orange juice or tofu, as well as almonds and kale. Evidence consistently indicates that having a calcium-rich diet is one of the best ways preserve bone density and prevent bone fractures as we age.
- Pour yourself a hot or cold cup of tea, such as green, black, herbal, oolong, rooibos, or white tea. While there are limited studies available in this area, those available hint that drinking tea may protect against bone loss and the risk of osteoporosis.
- Be good to your bones and turn to vitamin D. There’s quite a bit of buzz surrounding vitamin D for its bone building abilities. Soak up 10 minutes of sunshine each day, consume vitamin D fortified foods, such as soy milk, orange juice, low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, and breakfast cereals. Also consider taking a vitamin D supplement to help fill in the nutrient gaps.
Elaine Brisebois, CNP – ElaineBrisebois.com, @ElaineBrisebois
- Dark Leafy Greens and Vegetables, including kale, collards, spinach and broccoli, are rich in calcium and magnesium, among other bone-supporting trace minerals and nutrients. It’s important that you’re mindful of chewing your greens well in order to break down the protective cell wall surrounding all plant cells, and ensuring you have access to all those bone-building minerals contained within. Fresh green vegetable juice and green smoothies are two great ways of ensuring you’re absorbing these minerals into your bloodstream, especially if you have weak digestion.
- Homemade Bone Broth made by simmering the bones from high-quality meat, poultry or fish along with vegetables, provides a rich supply of easily assimilated minerals and nutrients that help keep bones healthy and strong.
- Sardines and Salmon (with Bones) are not only calcium-rich, but also a great source of bone-boosting vitamin D that is often hard to come by in the diet in ample amounts. Vitamin D is critical to bone health because it’s needed for the proper absorption of calcium.
Andy Bellatti, MS, RD – SmallBites, @andybellatti
- Kale, Collards, & Chard: Not only are these two leafy greens great sources of calcium, they are also low in oxalates (compounds found in other leafy greens, like spinach, that can inhibit calcium absorption). And, unlike dairy, they are abundant in vitamin K, which has been shown to increase bone mineral density and lower osteoporotic fracture rates.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds contain ample amounts of boron (a trace mineral that plays an important role in calcium metabolism and bone strength) and manganese, a mineral not found in dairy that plays a key role in the formation of the bone matrix.
- Green and Black Teas: Teas offer high amounts of catechins (as do cocoa, beans, apricots, cherries, and apples), which are associated with increases in bone mineral density.
Emma Cutfield, RHN – TheHeartyHeart, @TheHeartyHeart
My top 3 foods/ingredients for bone health:
- Cabbage: Rich in Vitamin K a co-factor for calcium absorption. I use cabbage in asian coleslaw with orange slices, sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds and a blended tahini & miso dressing.
- Broccoli and Kale: As a stir-fry base (instead of rice). Dark greens contain calcium and magnesium, both essential nutrients to bone health. Try your greens lightly steamed or switch it up and chop them raw in the food processor to the consistency of rice. Layer under a fragrant curry or stir-fry with cashews and peanuts to garnish.
- Chia and Fig Breakfast Pudding: Soak 2 tbsp of chia seeds overnight in about 1 cup of almond milk. In the morning stir in 3 diced figs and a dash of vanilla extract for a quick, calcium rich breakfast.
Rosie Norman, Nutritionist – GlutenFreeRosie, @GlutenFreeRosie
For good bone health we need calcium and Vitamin D (which helps calcium get from our food into our body). Food sources of vitamin D are pretty poor; most of our vitamin D comes from the sun. I have therefore concentrated on calcium for the food examples: Many people are aware dairy products such as milk and hard cheese are fantastic sources of calcium but I thought it would be quite interesting to tell you about my favorite non-dairy sources. We need about 700-1000mg of calcium per day.The three foods below are one example of how you can meet your daily calcium needs.
- 4 x dried figs provide about 180mg of calcium.
- 120g of steamed spinach provides about 180g of calcium
- A tin of sardines (with bones) provides about 480 mg of calcium
This totals to about 840mg of calcium, well within an average person’s daily requirements.
Kristie L. Finnan, RD, LDN – EatRightBucks.com, @EatRightBucks
There are several others I can think of, but these are my favorites alone OR in recipes!
- Milk (Cow, Soy or Almond): Easy to add to cereal, blend into a fruit smoothie, make into puddings or drink alone! & Vitamin D fortified!
- Yogurt: Regular or greek. Love it’s portability in lunch bags and you can easily turn it into a dip for veggies!
- Spinach: Loaded w added magnesium as well! You can add to savory dishes, eat alone in a salad & add to smoothies (and you won’t taste it’s there!)
I also recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement (especially in the winter months) for optimal absorption!
Tolga Karlilar, Qualified Personal Trainer & Nutritionist – GlycemicIndex
- Walnuts: Omega 3 fatty acids by reducing breakdown of bones
- Sardines: Calcium,iron,magnesium,phosphorus etc.
- Dark green leafy veggies: Calcium, vitamin K, magnesium
Katie Cavuto, MS, RD President of Healthy Bites – HealthyBites, @HealthyBites
- Sesame seeds: ¼ cup has more calcium than 8 oz of milk
- Sardines: Rich in calcium (those tiny bones) and vitamin D
- Egg Yolks: One of the few food sources of Vitamin D plus they are rich in B vitamins (B12 deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis) and sulfur which plays a role in collagen formation
Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, The Author of The Little Book of Thin – FoodTrainers.com, @Foodtrainers
We all know greens are healthy but I don’t think many people know they top the list for bone health. Greens have calcium and vitamin K (two key components for bone health). Specifically collard greens and bok choy. Collards are great has sandwich “wraps” and bok choy can be baked with salmon or used in stir fries or soups. Magnesium is also essential for bone health and many of us are deficient. Snack on almonds daily to boost magnesium. I love a company called Sunbiotics who makes probiotic almonds.
Tanyka Renee, Holistic nutritionist – TanykaRenee.com, @jockintanyka
When is comes to bone health I believe you have to eat foods that are high in calcium but also reduce calcium loss.
- Sesame seeds: Sesame are packed with calcium. They can be used in oil form or ground up and topped on salads and soups.
- Almonds: I love Almonds. I consider them to be the perfect snack. This calcium-rich nut helps you to feel full because they’re packed with nutrients. There are so many ways to eat Almonds. I love them raw and I also use Almond milk and almond butter.
- Kale Kale is a great source of calcium and magnesium. I enjoy Kale steamed or even served in salad form. Kale also makes a great addition to your fresh juiced juices
Lisa R Young, PhD, RD – ThePortionTeller, @drlisayoung
I would recommend low fat dairy –yogurt– as it is high in calcium, greens such as kale and collard greens, and almonds which also contain calcium. Yogurt is probably the richest calcium source. The other 2 are plant based sources and have other health benefits as well. Greens have fiber and antioxidants and almonds have good fat.
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