Composed of 206 bones, the skeletal system has one of the most important functions in the body: to provide overall structure and support and protect the organs. Yet, the care and maintenance of this powerhouse is often ignored or completely forgotten. The body builds bone mass until we reach our twenties and by our thirties, we have likely reached peak bone mass. From this point onward, the bones can grow more fragile and brittle without proper attention. Early prevention can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and other degenerative bone diseases as well as breaks and fractures all of which commonly occur at later stages when bone mass tends to dwindle.
Follow these simple guidelines to both build and maintain bone mass and ensure optimal bone health and nutrition:
1. Ditch Fears of Fat: High-quality, healthy fats are an essential nutrient of bone health. In addition to a handful of other benefits, fats play a key role in absorption of calcium and fat-soluble vitamins such as D and K. Choose fats rich in essential fatty acids like nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.
2. Diversify Calcium Intake: While calcium alone is not the only nutrient required for bone health, it is certainly among the most critical. Dairy is the most obvious source of calcium but there are many other natural sources including cauliflower, parsley, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, broccoli, turnip greens, almonds, sweet potatoes, seaweeds, mineral water, soft shell crabs, sardines and anchovies. Try diversifying your diet to get calcium from a variety of foods.
3. Get Moving: Weight-bearing exercise builds bone mass at any age and also improves posture and balance. Also, don’t forget to take time to stretch. It promotes flexibility and joint mobility.
4. Get a Daily Dose of D: Vitamin D is active in bone formation as it helps with absorption of calcium and is stored in the body with the presence of healthy fats. A Vitamin D deficiency is connected to an increased risk of fractures. Sun exposure without sunburn is the main and most natural way to get Vitamin D. Expose the face and arms to sunlight without sunscreen for about twenty minutes two to three times per week. Keep in mind that the line between getting a healthy amount of sun exposure and overexposure is different for everyone.
5. Cut back on Sugar: Refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine are acid-forming foods that weaken the bones by depleting them of calcium and other minerals. In short, the body is using its mineral stores to metabolize these substances. Decrease your intake of these substances and replace them with any of the healthful, bone-supporting foods above.