“If you want to grow big and strong, you’d better drink your milk!” We all grew up hearing it; we all know that calcium is essential for strong, healthy bones.
While that is true, there are a few other players in the bone health game. We now know that vitamin D, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium are just as crucial to bone health as calcium. This is because they help calcium do its job within the body.
Vitamin D is key to calcium absorption, vitamin K facilitates the utilization and regulation of calcium, potassium prevents the body from flushing its calcium stores, and magnesium helps calcium form into bone.
Sure you could take calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium and potassium supplements, but you can get a good dose of them through food, too!
Dark leafy greens like bok choy, kale, turnip greens, and collard greens are good sources of all three. One cup of cooked greens contains about 200 milligrams of calcium alone!
Sweet potatoes are another delicious way to eat your vitamins. One baked medium-size sweet potato has over 30 milligrams of magnesium, with a bonus 540 milligrams of potassium.
Vitamin C has also been found to reduce and prevent bone loss. One whole grapefruit has over 90 milligrams of vitamin C, your entire daily value’s worth! If you don’t like grapefruit, a medium sized navel orange is a fine substitute for the vitamin C factor.
While on the topic of oranges, the fruit itself does not naturally contain a large amount of calcium. Many juice manufacturers offer calcium-enriched orange juices that can boost your intake easily. (Enjoy in moderation, however, to prevent spiking blood sugar.)
Speaking of bone-building fruit, fresh figs contain around 90 milligrams of calcium, plus magnesium and potassium. The seasons for fresh figs are summer and fall, but don’t shy away from dried figs to get your fig-fix. There are 120 milligrams of calcium in one half-cup of dried figs.
Salmon and other varieties of fatty fish are great for heart-health, and bone health, as well. Rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish is a major bone-builder. Look for fresh wild-caught fish, especially salmon. You can also look for canned salmon – three ounces contain 183 milligrams of calcium. (Just be cautious of sodium content.)
Almond butter is another easy way to increase your calcium intake. It’s literally ground almonds, plus a little salt. Two tablespoons of almond butter have 112 milligrams of calcium, and over 200 milligrams of potassium.
As we all know, full-fat dairy milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Alternative milks like coconut, soy, almonds or cashews are good options for those who cannot (or don’t prefer to) drink dairy milk.
While we’re pushing the traditional culinary-comfort envelope, tofu is a nutritional powerhouse. One half-cup of tofu contains over 400 milligrams of calcium! The added benefit of isoflavones in tofu have been shown to help prevent bone disease in post-menopausal women.
Bone health is crucial to a long, healthy, mobile life. Start eating your way to bone health today!