10 Ways to Get Stronger Bones Without Eating Dairy
Bone health is something we all must consider long before we become seniors. Most people reach their maximum bone mass between ages 25 and 30. By age 40, we begin to lose bone mass. The loss of bone mass leads to osteoporosis — a condition that makes bones more brittle and susceptible to breaks. The good news is we can stave off bone loss with healthy lifestyle choices including nutrition and exercise. (See also: Great Ways to Get Calcium)
One of the key minerals for healthy bones is calcium. Healthy bones also need vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. While dairy is a wonderful way to make sure we get the calcium and vitamin D we need, there are also many other ways to protect our bone health.
1. Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Many fruits and vegetables are rich in calcium and the other minerals that comprise healthy bones. Calcium is abundant in dark leafy greens (especially kale, collard, dandelion, mustard, and turnip greens) okra, Chinese cabbage, and broccoli. Spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and raisins have healthy doses of magnesium and potassium.
2. Go Fish
Fish are also a great source of calcium and vitamin D, though only certain species. The best bets are the fatty fish varieties: sardines, salmon, mackerel, and tuna. These are even better if they are wild as opposed to farm raised. (See also: How to Buy and Prep Fresh Fish)
3. Find Fortified Foods
Many foods are now fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Check your grocery store for fortified juices, cereals, and bread.
4. Try Weight-Bearing Exercise
Exercise is good for our overall health. For exercise to be of maximum benefit to our bones, it must be weight-bearing. Walking, jogging, and yoga are weight-bearing exercises, meaning we use our own weight to strengthen the body. Swimming is not a weight-bearing exercise, so it's less helpful for bone health than other options.
5. Cut the Salt
Too much sodium leeches calcium from the bones, so limit your intake to less than 2,400 mg or less of sodium per day. As a general rule, avoid foods that have 20% or more of the recommended daily sodium intake. Salt is one of those ingredients that is hidden in a lot of packaged foods, so whole foods you prepare at home can go a long way toward cutting excess sodium from your diet. (See also: 4 Ways to Eat Less Salt)
While our bodies most effectively process nutrients in their natural form in food, supplements can help, too. Vitamin D and calcium supplements are readily available at most drug stores. Always consult your doctor before beginning a supplement routine.
7. Strengthen Muscles
Our skeletons support our muscles. The stronger we keep our muscles, the less stress they place on our bones. Weight-bearing exercise and adding strength building with weights to our workouts can help us keep our entire body strong. (See also: Body Weight Exercises)
8. Improve Flexibility
In addition to strength building, flexibility also helps maintain bone health by improving our balance and reducing our risk of falls. While many people assume they are either flexible or not, flexibility can be improved over time with practice. Stretching after a workout and yoga are great ways to increase flexibility.
9. Here Comes the Sun
The best way to increase our vitamin D level is to get some sun. In as little as 15 minutes a day of sun exposure, your body can produce all the vitamin D it needs.
10. Limit Alcohol, Caffeine, and Cola
Alcohol, caffeine, and cola interfere with calcium absorption, so even if we're eating right for bone health, consuming large amounts of these three beverages could negate the nutritional benefits. Limit alcohol intake to no more than two to three drinks per day, drink no more than three cups of coffee or tea per day, and drink cola only in moderation.
While our bone density and health has a genetic component, our choices in diet and exercise also have a strong impact on bone strength. By making these changes above, we can stop, and in some cases even reverse, bone loss.
What are you doing to promote healthy bones? Please share in comments!