What to Eat If You Are on an Osteopenia Diet

Osteopenia refers to bone mineral density that is below normal peak bone density (-1 to -2.4 on your DXA reading)  – but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis (-2.5 or lower).

If you have osteopenia, it means that your risk to develop osteoporosis is greater compared to someone with normal bone density.  

But the good news is if you have osteopenia you can make certain lifestyle choices that can combat and turn it around.

One way is to focus on an osteopenia diet plan.

As you know, your diet plays a major role in the health of your bones. Providing your bones with the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain normal bone health and bone strength is crucial to combatting reduced bone mineral density.

cheeseThe following are the top proven bone building vitamins and minerals and where to get them:

  • Calcium: Calcium is arguably the most important nutrient in your body. As the most abundant mineral it has several important functions. Therefore, there are many calcium health benefits. More than 99% of your calcium is stored in your bones and teeth where it supports their structure and is ready to be called into action for many other critical functions.

The top sources of calcium are: milk, cheeses, yogurt, canned sardines and salmon with bones in them, sesame seeds and kale.

  • Magnesium: Did you know that as many as 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient! Deficiency of this mineral affects bone growth, osteoblastic and osteoclastic activity, osteopenia, bone fragility, and alter calcium metabolism.

Top sources of magnesium are: sesame seeds, almonds, dark chocolate and black beans.

  • Vitamin K2: Ever hear of headlines in the news talking about calcium increasing cardiovascular risk? That’s because those studies did NOT have participants taking vitamin K2 in addition to calcium. This is crucial because vitamin K2 cleans calcium deposits from your arteries and deposits it in your bones. On top of directing calcium where it needs to go, vitamin K2 has been clinically proven to provide extraordinary benefits for bone health and cardiovascular health.

The top source of vitamin K2 comes from natto, which is a fermented soybean traditional to Japanese food. This is one of the most significant dietary sources of vitamin K2 so in case you are not a fan of the taste (most people aren’t) supplementing with K2 is the way to go.

  • Vitamin D3: Osteoporosis is most often associated with inadequate calcium intake. However, a deficiency of vitamin D also contributes to osteoporosis by reducing calcium absorption.

osteopenia diet - salmonThe best natural source of vitamin D3 is sunlight. While this isn’t considered a part of your ‘diet’ per se, it’s still something you should be getting regularly. If you are unable to get sun all year round, an alternative to natural sunlight is to supplement with vitamin D3.

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids in the forms of EPA and DHA are crucial for bone health. The reason is they play a major role in reducing inflammation. Lara Pizzorno, author of “Your Bones” explains that, “anything that causes inflammation activates osteoclasts, the specialized cells that break down bone. Inflammatory signals tell these bone removal cells it’s time to get to work.”

The top sources of omega 3 fatty acids are – cold water, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and fish oil.

If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia, your bones have given you a ‘warning sign’ telling you that you aren’t providing them with the nutrients they need to maintain normal bone density. In addition to following an osteopenia diet plan with the above foods, it’s also important to start incorporating regular weight-bearing exercise into your routine.