Children and adolescents build bones faster than they break down, which means bone density is increasing during that time. By the time you’re about 30, you reach peak bone mass, and from that point on, you have to work to maintain your bone density.
One of the most important things you can do for your bones is exercise, including resistance and weight bearing exercises like weightlifting, walking or jogging, dancing, playing tennis or climbing stairs (anything that involves moving while standing on your feet).
You also need to make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D, because calcium strengthens your bones while vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
Besides milk and other dairy products, there are many other foods that are high in calcium:
- Green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and bok choy. Note that although spinach is high in calcium, it also contains oxalic acid, which reduces calcium absorption.
- Salmon and sardines
- Beans, especially white beans which have the most calcium
- Nuts and seeds. Most plant-based milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and almond milk provides up to 45% of your daily requirement for calcium and 25% of your vitamin D requirement. Tahini, made from sesame seeds, is high in calcium, while poppy and chia seeds are also good sources.
- You need other minerals for bone strength including potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, iron, zinc, and copper as well as vitamins A, C and B vitamins including folate, B6, B12 and riboflavin. Studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition and from Florida State University, among others, have shown that prunes (dried plums) are highly effective in preventing as well as reversing bone loss. Scientists have found that women who ate prunes every day had a significant increase in bone density because the prunes suppress bone breakdown. It is recommended that you start with eating 2 – 3 prunes per day and gradually increase to around 6 – 10 per day. Prunes provide most of the bone building nutrients mentioned above, and you’ll also get the bonus that they increase the absorption of iron in your body as well as boosting your vitamin C levels. They also help to normalize blood sugar levels, help with weight loss, and lower cholesterol levels.
To increase your vitamin D levels, you can eat foods fortified with vitamin D like orange juice and plant-based milks. Also try to get at least 10 – 15 minutes of sunshine very day and consider taking a vitamin D supplement. It is important not to smoke or drink too much alcohol.
Keeping your bones strong will help prevent fractures and help you maintain a strong, stable posture and avoid osteoporosis.