5 Nutrition Tricks for Stronger Bones
~Osteoporosis Awareness Month~
We all have bones; these living parts of our skeletons give our bodies shape, protect our organs and attach to our muscles so we can move. However, we don’t often think about how our food choices impact our bones. In honour of Osteoporosis Awareness Month, I will reveal 5 Nutrition Tricks for Stronger Bones. These are scientifically-proven strategies you can implement right away.
This post was sponsored by the California Prune Board to showcase some of their reserach; however, all opinions are genuine.
What is Osteoporosis?
According to Osteoporosis Canada, “Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration/weakening of bone tissue. This can lead to increased risk of fracture.”
Osteoporosis is known as the “silent thief,” because bone deterioration occurs over a number of years without symptoms. A fracture is often the first sign of this quiet condition. All the more reason to get a bone density test, especially if you are higher risk. Check here to find out if you are at higher risk for osteoporosis.
Fact: #Osteoporosis is called the ‘silent thief’ because #bone loss often occurs without symptoms unless one has fractured. Click To Tweet
How Common is Osteoporosis?
- At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will break a bone due to osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis affects 2 million Canadians
- Most common among Canadians 50 years of age or older
Fact: 1 in 3 women & 1 in 5 men will break a bone due to #osteoporosis. #Health #nutrition #fact via @OsteoporosisCA Click To Tweet
5 Nutrition Tricks for Stronger Bones
Here are my top 5 nutrition tricks for stronger bones. Keep in mind that if you had a fracture, osteoporosis is quite advanced, and with bone nutrition we cannot “build” bone mass after our teenage years; however, we can maintain bone mass or slow the loss. All the more reason to use these strategies!
Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is important for strong bones/teeth because it increases the absorption of calcium. Without sufficient vitamin D, our bones can become thin, brittle or even misshapen as in rickets in children.
This vitamin improves functioning of our muscles that can improve balance and decrease risk for falls, which can cause fractures. I recommend clients take a vitamin D supplement (specifically, vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol) year-round. Interestingly, even if we spend time outside during the fall and winter in Canada, we are not able to synthesize vitamin D because of our northern latitude. Taking a supplement ensures adequate intake to meet dietary requirements. Our diets also tend to have insufficient vitamin D.
Other evolving research suggests that vitamin D may also have benefits in fighting infections, reducing heart disease, and preventing diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and some types of cancers (especially colorectal cancer). Research continues to be done in this field. Notably, vitamin D does not work in isolation for bone health; we also need to ensure we are receiving adequate supporting vitamins like magnesium, vitamin K2 and zinc. Speak with a dietitian if you are uncertain that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet to support bone health.
Got enough #vitaminD? Find out why it’s important for #bones & how much you need! Click To Tweet
Groups at Higher Risk of vitamin D Deficiency:
- Elderly – skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently
- Individuals with skin darkly pigmented with melanin are less able to make vitamin D from being in the sun
- Those with Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and some types of liver disease, may not absorb enough of vitamin D
Prunes (a.k.a. Dried Plums)
Prunes are traditionally known to support bowel regularity (they are a source of fibre); however, new research published in Osteoporosis International shows that they also promote bone health! In fact, in this study, eating one daily serving (about 5-6 prunes) helped postmenopausal women prevent bone loss. This lowers the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, a research review (of twenty-four different studies) found prunes may have a positive effect on bone mineral density and protect against bone loss.
DYK: One serving of California #Prunes may slow or prevent bone loss. #prunes4bones #EatCAPrunes #ad Click To Tweet
Prunes contain plant antioxidants (phenolic compounds) that signal cells to increase bone formation. These naturally sweet, dried fruits contain a good source of vitamin K, which is beneficial for bone metabolism and prevention against Osteoporosis. A daily serving of prunes is low calorie (only 100 calories).
#Prunes contain antioxidants that increase bone formation #prunes4bones #EatCaPrunes #ad Click To Tweet
- Eat California prunes as an on-the-go snack with a handful of nuts for protein (Tip: balance snacks with carb + protein for sustained energy). Click here to download Dietetic Direction’s 16 Energy Boosting Snacks!
- Add chopped prunes to salads for natural sweetness and flavour
- Include prunes in baked goods for a fibre boost; click here for more recipe ideas using prunes
Get your Calcium
This one is still as important as ever because calcium keeps our bones strong. Calcium is an essential mineral to build and maintain our bones. Furthermore, our bones contain almost all of the calcium in our bodies. Since our bones are a living tissue, they are constantly breaking down, releasing minerals and depositing calcium to make new bones. This is why we want to ensure we’re meeting dietary calcium requirements. Find out food sources of calcium here.
#Calcium builds & maintains #bones! Our body pulls calcium out of bones if intake is low. Find out if you’re getting enough! Click To Tweet
If we don’t achieve adequate calcium through our diet (or supplements), our body pulls calcium from our bones to maintain calcium amounts in our blood and muscles. This makes our bones weaker and puts us at a higher risk for fractures. Speak with your dietitian if you do not know whether you are meeting your calcium requirements. Eating a variety of recommended foods to suit your preferences can increase your calcium levels.
Limit your Salt
Most do not realize that salt (or sodium) can negatively impact bones! In fact, sodium increases calcium loss, which is associated with low bone mineral density, as well as an increased risk of fracture.
According to Health Canada, Canadians consume about 2,760 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. That’s almost 2 times the sodium we need. Males tend to consume more sodium than females. Among males 14-30 years of age, over 90% are consuming excess dietary sodium. Yikes! That’s a lot.
Fact: Canadians consume almost 2X the upper limit of #sodium. #health #nutrition Click To Tweet
Tips to Reduce Sodium:
- Limit eating out. Restaurant and processed foods contribute 80% of our salt intake
- Make your own soups using sodium-reduced or no-salt-added broth
- Boost dietary potassium such as bananas, pumpkin seeds and baked potato (more potassium sources here). This electrolyte helps to counter the effect of sodium by relaxing the arteries through the release of nitric oxide
- Look for foods that contain less than 15% DV (Daily Value) or less than 360 mg of sodium per serving
- Rinse canned beans or lentils to remove excess sodium
Vitamin B12 Supplement
A vitamin that often gets over-looked when it comes to bone health is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is largely associated with energy since it helps red blood cells carry oxygen. However, B12 also helps bone-building cells (called osteoblasts) function properly.
We mostly receive vitamin B12 in our diets through animal meat, dairy, poultry or fish. See dietary B12 sources here. However, it is estimated that 40% of individuals malabsorb vitamin B12 putting them at a higher risk for deficiency and compromised bone health.
DYK: #vitaminB12 helps bone-building cells! Are you getting enough? #dietitian #health Click To Tweet
Health Canada recommends those over 50 years take a vitamin B12 supplement due to increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. If you are uncertain if you are receiving adequate B12 in your diet, if you are at high risk for deficiency or if you are experiencing symptoms of deficiency such as low energy, speak with your doctor or dietitian for blood testing and possible supplementation.
Our bones are important to our health and we want to keep them strong to prevent weakening and fractures. Be sure to try my 5 Nutrition Tricks for Stronger Bones. Boost vitamin D, enjoy prunes, meet calcium needs, limit sodium and ensure adequate vitamin B12. Start these strategies right away and continue them beyond Osteoporosis Awareness Month.
Now it’s your turn! What are your favourite foods that are good for bones? Any favourite recipes or foods?