Healthy Foods for Osteoporosis
Here are the top foods you should include in your diet based on research of dietary approaches for bone health.
Fruits and Veggies
Higher fruit and vegetable intake is associated with less bone mineral density (BMD) loss and a resulting higher BMD. You see, fruits and vegetables provide a whole host of key nutrients like folate, vitamin B12 and bone-supporting magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K1. Plus antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin C. And let’s not forget calcium!
Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, bok choy and broccoli raab are all calcium-rich foods. And it couldn’t be easier to add them to your diet. They can all be incorporated into salads, soups, smoothies and even juices. If you want to change things up, try the lesser-known mustard and turnip greens, which have a bit of a spicier note. Don’t overlook the sea veggies either. Along with kelp, other sea veggies like nori, wakame, and kombu are packed with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and other trace minerals that contribute to strong bones. Just make sure your sea veggies are responsibly sourced to ensure sustainability and purity.
When it comes to fruit, acerola cherries, guava, strawberries, and blueberries are all rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants (like vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and lutein) play a crucial role in bone health because they combat oxidative stress. And oxidative stress has been linked to many diseases, including osteoporosis. Antioxidants activate osteoblasts (bone-building cells), play a role in the mineralization process, and help reduce the activity of osteoclasts (bone-resorption cells).
If you have low bone density or worry about your bone health, there’s another wonder-fruit you’ll want to know about. You may know it as the main ingredient in your parents or grandparents favorite juice, but it’s got a lot more going for it than you may think! Yes, we’re talking about prunes (dried plums)!
Prunes have been shown to positively affect bone mineral density in a number of studies. In fact, their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are just one aspect of their bone-building benefit. Prunes also contain boron, which is a trace mineral that’s been linked with reducing osteoarthritis symptoms and promoting stronger bone health. The most recent research shows that just 4-5 prunes per day is effective in protecting bone mineral density in postmenopausal women! To discover more, check out our post on Prunes and Osteoporosis.
If you’re a seafood fan, you’re in luck! You already know seafood tastes great, but research shows it protects your bones too.
The Framingham Osteoporosis study looked at associations between polyunsaturated fatty acid and fish intake and hip bone mineral density. The levels were measured at baseline, and then four years later.
Results showed that both women and men with who ate more than 3 servings of fish per week gained hip bone mineral density. And individuals with low to moderate fish intake ended up losing bone mineral density. The researchers concluded that fish consumption may protect against bone loss. They also noted that these protective effects on bone may be dependent on the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), specifically.
EPA and DHA have been linked with positive bone health, improved eye health, cardiovascular health, and combatting depression and anxiety due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Additional cross-sectional studies have also associated habitual fish intake with greater BMD.
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies are among the oily fish packed with bone-healthy nutrients- especially those omega 3 fatty acids. In fact, canned sardines and sockeye salmon also pack a calcium-punch, boasting 383 mg of calcium and 239 mg of calcium in one serving! Finally, fish are an excellent source of protein and are typically lower in calories than meat or dairy.
There is no doubt that dairy is a great source of complex essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc and riboflavin. Given that dairy foods are considered an essential source of bone-building nutrients, plenty of studies have been conducted to discover their protection against osteoporosis.
Some cross-sectional studies have reported positive links between milk consumption and bone density in later life, while others showing the benefits of milk on osteoporotic fractures is less convincing. The reason for all the mixed results? Lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk. When it’s broken down in your body it produces two sugars: glucose and D-galactose. D-galactose promotes inflammation and chronic inflammation activates osteoclasts (cells that break down bones).
We do acknowledge that dairy foods have been controversial and have been accused of leaching calcium from our bones, increasing the risk of fractures, osteoporosis and even cancer. However, when Bone Health Expert Lara Pizzorno sat down to sift through the research and evaluate the studies, she found some surprising results. Read more about the dairy, milk and osteoporosis controversy ㅡ including what lactose and D-galactose have to do with it ㅡ in our post: Milk and Osteoporosis.
However, the good news is the majority of the research indicates dairy products help support healthy bones. So if you’re not allergic or sensitive to dairy products, keep enjoying them! Also, be sure to enjoy fermented dairy foods, like yogurt and cheeses, especially aged cheeses as these are completely lactose-free.
In particular, organic plain, full-fat yogurt delivers the widest range of beneficial nutrients for bones. Not only does plain yogurt contain calcium, but magnesium, zinc, plus small amounts of vitamin K2 (in the form of MK-4), vitamin A, and vitamin D (if it is fortified) and a hefty dose of protein.
Research also shows prebiotic and probiotic properties in fermented dairy, like yogurt, may help your gut absorb nutrients from the food you eat, benefiting your bones. Pre- and probiotics are in products like kefir, natural yogurt and raw cheeses. Discover more about prebiotics and probiotics in our ultimate guide.
Protein makes up about 50% of your bone volume and about one-third of its mass!
Bone health isn’t just a skeletal issue, rather, it’s a musculoskeletal issue. You see, bone loss and muscle loss that occur with aging are closely related. And factors that affect bone mass, like your protein intake, also affect muscle anabolism (growth). So keeping your entire musculoskeletal system happy and healthy is the goal – and adequate protein intake is crucial.
Protein affects your bones in the following ways:
- It provides the structural framework for bone.
- It raises insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels — a hormone that is important to boost bone density, muscle growth, and healing.
- It increases the amount of calcium absorbed in the intestines, and therefore, the amount used by the body.
- It’s vital for muscle growth.
While there is a widely held belief that high-protein diets (especially animal-based protein) result in increased urinary calcium excretion and bone resorption (bone breakdown), the science is clear that higher protein diets have actually been associated with greater bone mass and fewer fractures when calcium intake is adequate.
Some of the top, complete food sources of protein include seafood, meat, dairy, quinoa, buckwheat, chia and hemp seeds.
You’ll find that most official health organizations recommend a modest protein intake. The recommended daily allowance is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. But research suggests that adults aged 65 years and over may require higher intake of between 1 and 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram per day. And those with sarcopenia (loss of muscle tissue with age) may need more at 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram per day.
Alcohol in Moderation
You may be surprised to see this on the Foods for Osteoporosis section, however, alcohol in moderation has been shown to benefit overall health – and now bones! There are two types of alcohol that have been shown to have a positive effect on bone health.
Beer and Silicon
Silicon plays a key role in bone formation by stimulating our production of osteoblasts (bone-building cells), our synthesis of type 1 collagen, and by boosting calcium’s incorporation into bone. It’s also been shown in human studies to improve bone mineral density.
Most notably is the large, U.S. population-based Framingham Offspring Study, which reported that higher dietary silicon intake in both men and younger women was associated with improved bone mineral density and skeletal health – especially cortical bone strength (the denser outer part of your bone).
Consumption of at least 40 milligrams of silicon daily was the amount associated with increased bone mineral density. In fact, it accounted for up to 10% more bone mineral density between those individuals with the highest (> 40 mg/day) and lowest (< 14 mg day) intakes of silicon.
Mineral waters and beer are by far the richest dietary sources of bioavailable silicon. To get the most silicon from beer, drink Indian Pale Ales (IPAs). The silicon all beers contain is highly soluble, but IPAs retain more because they are exposed to less heat during the malting process. The darker ales, such as the chocolate, roasted barley and black malt, all undergo substantial roasting and thus have far lower silicon content.
Also look for beers with the highest amounts of hops. Hops contain surprisingly high levels of silicon — as much as four times more silicon than is found in malt. However, hops are used in much smaller quantities than grains in beer production.
In Western countries, dietary intake of silicon ranges from 13-62 mg per day. Bone Health Expert, Lara Pizzorno recommends at least 40 mg per day.
In addition to being clinically proven to increase bone density safely and naturally ─ Algaecal Plus contains 26 mg of silicon in every daily dose (4 capsules), plus the other 12 essential minerals required for strong bones.
Red Wine and Resveratrol
Red wine, in particular, has also been identified from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study to be beneficial to bone health in women.
The potential contributor to this association is resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenol that is abundant in red wine, grapes — and even nuts! It’s gained interested and attention for its heart-protecting and cancer-preventing benefits.
Resveratrol also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for bone health.
Alcohol and the “J”-Shaped Curve
Moderate alcohol consumption may offer protection for health and bones, but a review of the studies on alcohol and bone health found that intakes beyond a certain level may show negative effects as well. They suggested what is known as the “J”-shaped curve. If you enjoy your glass of red wine or beer at dinner, continue to enjoy yourself! Just keep in mind that excess alcohol consumption has been shown to be detrimental to overall health and bones.