While you may have already grown big and strong as your mom promised you would if you ate your veggies, you still need to pay attention to your diet clean as an adult. You may be done growing in stature, but your body and your bones, in particular, are still aging. With age comes an increased risk of osteoporosis and/or brittle bone disease. Keeping your bone health in check means a longer, pain-free life. Fortunately, your diet can play a big role in your bone health.
Registered dietitian and nutritionist Kaleigh McMordie, M.C.N., R.D.N., says that calcium, which you can and should source from your diet, is one of the biggest building blocks of bone tissue. “If we don’t get enough, our bodies will pull the calcium needed to perform crucial functions from our bones. We also need to consume other nutrients that are required for building and maintaining bone structure,” she continues. “A well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K will help with optimal bone health.”
To give those bones of yours the TLC they crave, deserve, and require, add these foods to your diet.
There are two types of people when carving pumpkins: Those who toss away the seeds and those who can’t wait to toast them. Try to work up the appetite to join the second camp (though, of course, you don’t need to carve a pumpkin to get those seeds). Nicole Centeno, founder and CEO of Splendid Spoon, says these little bits are superstars for bones. “The hard structure of our bones is actually made up of calcium phosphate, and pumpkin seeds are a good source for phosphorus. They aid in keeping our bone structure sound,” she explains. You can toss them on top of salads or roasted veggies or package them into individual bags for an on-the-go snack.
A favorite of many vegetarians, a farming pastime in the Czech Republic, and a standard in many Italian dishes, mushrooms are versatile and, when prepared smartly, delicious. According to Centeno, they are the only item in the produce aisle that contains a natural source of vitamin D. As you may remember from those milk commercials in middle school, this nutrient builds your bones—but it doesn’t come from only a cow. “Vitamin D is critical for calcium absorption,” she says. All the calcium in the world won’t do you much good without the vitamin that supports absorption. No matter how you prepare these fungi from Mother Nature, a little bit can go a long way.
Frankly, you can never have too many greens. But for the biggest bone benefits, registered dietitian Matt Ruscigno suggests cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. “These vegetables are not high in protein or magnesium, but they do contain some. The benefit is that they are so low in calories while being exceptionally nutrient-rich,” he explains. So, you can feel free to really fill up. You can also nibble on spinach and beet greens, but it’s important to know their calcium is not bioavailable, so it won’t actually reach your bones.
Good news for those who love catches of the sea. McMordie says that much like mushrooms, everyone’s favorite pink fish, salmon, is an excellent source of vitamin D. This nutrient helps you digest and use calcium for your bones, so adding salmon to your lunch bowl is highly recommended. No time to grill or do one of those trendy tinfoil bakes? No stress. “Canned salmon is even better because it contains tiny bones that are edible, providing both calcium and vitamin D,” McMordie notes.
You likely associate these chewy, sweet fruit bites with your grandmother. But they do more than just help keep your digestive system regular. By definition, prunes are dried plums, and McMordie says they help slow the rate of bone turnaround and improve bone mineral density. They are also a stellar source of vitamin D and contain bioactive compounds, all of which will make you feel stronger today than you were yesterday. You can eat one a day as a snack, or add them to stews, salads, and more.
Yes, you read that correctly. Everything in moderation is a true statement, even for bone health. Most foods that amplify calcium and vitamins come from the earth and tend to taste as such. But, there are some packaged sweets that can be beneficial. You probably shouldn’t load up on two dark chocolate bars each night. However, Ruscigno says this variety of dessert is high in magnesium and phytochemicals, both of which are necessary for bone health. A little treat after a hard day of work, working out, and eating well? We think so.
Add these foods to your daily diet to get the added boost of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium that will help maintain bone health and strength from the inside out.