Chances are, you think a lot about what you eat and how you exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But, do you ever actually think about your bones? If not, you should, because your bones are alive and teeming with cells that breakdown and rebuild bone throughout your life.
This rebuilding is a natural process that keeps your bones rejuvenated and functional which is why it’s important to keep them in mind in regards to your overall health.
There are many reasons why good bone health is important throughout our lives, but even more so as we age. In the aging process, hormonal changes cause us to lose bone mass and density (especially in women who have been through menopause). We also lose minerals, making our bones thinner. These changes can lead to significant bone changes like osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and more fragile. With osteoporosis, the breaking down process exceeds the rebuilding process resulting in bone loss. Bones that are brittle are more prone to breaking and may take longer to heal. With aging also comes a decrease in lean body mass and more rigid joints, impacting balance and increasing the chances of a fall where brittle bones can be broken. For these reasons, it benefits us to strive to do all we can to keep our bones, and our bodies, strong and healthy.
We come then to the question of how can we best impact the health of our bones and keep all these components working as they should. The answer is one we hear all the time in regard to our health: diet and exercise. Diet because the food choices we make can either encourage or discourage new bone production and exercise because it triggers the bones to grow stronger.
A diet that includes calcium-phosphates and vitamins like D, C, B and E, is vital for healthy bones (vitamin D assists the body in absorption of calcium, so is critical). There are also foods which should be avoided, as they can inhibit the natural absorption of these nutrients or have a detrimental impact on the bones themselves.
Some bone healthy guidelines include:
- Eating more plant proteins
- Reduce salt and caffeine consumption
- Avoid sugary foods and sodas
- Moderate alcohol consumption
A few of the many foods that are rich in bone building nutrients are:
- Dairy products
- Bok choy and other cabbages
- Red fruits and vegetables
- White beans and black-eyed peas
- Spinach, kale, collards and other leafy green vegetables
- Okra and broccoli
- Almonds, walnuts, flaxseed
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
- Olives and Avocados
Finally, exercise plays an important role in the strengthening of our bones, especially weight bearing exercises. Weight bearing exercises, which force us to work against gravity, can include weight training, walking, jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, and tennis. These exercises stress bones and muscles causing them to grow denser and get stronger. Also, exercise will keep our muscles strong and limber increasing mobility and balance, which will reduce the risk of falling. Remember that before beginning any new exercise program, you should consult with your primary care physician. This may also be a good time to ask about a bone density and other tests to gauge bone strength and bone loss.
If we think of our bones as living organisms, and focus on feeding them the foods they need to do their job and exercising to keep them strong, we can directly impact their good health – allowing us to remain active and mobile throughout our lives. So, let’s eat our leafy green vegetables and lace up our sneakers!