In honor of National Bone & Joint Health Action Week October 12-20, we thought we would write a post on simple tips for making your bones strong and healthy.
Let’s begin by asking a few questions. Is it possible to have healthy bones without taking calcium supplements? Are bone medications necessary as you age? What can you do if you have joint pain or arthritis?
Think about these questions for a minute. Why do we have such poor bone health in the United States when we have the highest intake of calcium supplements in the world along with having easy access to so many bone and joint related medications.
Calcium in the American diet is still perceived as almost synonymous with the use of dairy products. Unfortunately, dairy products are not the healthiest source of calcium. I rarely recommend taking calcium supplements or consuming dairy to improve a person’s bone health. In fact, most calcium supplements are extremely difficult for the body to absorb, leading to high levels of calcium in the blood stream and increased calcification in the vessels. Second, dairy is a poor source of calcium. 32% of available calcium is destroyed when a food is heated above 150 degrees F, making pasteurized milk a limited source of calcium. In Petuluma, California, known as “The Egg Capital of the World," the egg farmers know that in order to have hard eggshells (so the eggs don't break), they feed the hens kale or some form of leafy greens--not dairy. Greens, almonds, seeds, plant based milks, and bone broth will be much healthier sources of calcium.
8 Tips For Healthy Bones
- Improve Your pH Balance: The important thing is to focus on improving your pH balance. Many foods and beverages we consume in the United States are very acid-forming which causes the body to leach out valuable minerals over time. These essential minerals include calcium, magnesium, and iodine, which can contribute to poor bone health, trouble sleeping, and poor metabolism.
- Vitamin D: Let the sun shine upon you--get outside and get some natural sunlight. Cod liver oil is also high in vitamin D3 and is a natural anti-inflammatory helping to relieve pain due to arthritis.
- Magnesium: It is common knowledge that vitamin D is essential for calcium utilization, but what we also need to know is that the mineral magnesium must also be available. Magnesium stimulates the hormone calcitonin, and calcitonin is a hormone that increases calcium absorption in the bones and keeps it from being absorbed into soft tissues. Many forms of arthritis are characterized by excess calcium showing up in the soft tissues and low calcium in the skeletal system. If magnesium is not present, you will then have compromised calcium absorption. Foods high in magnesium include cacao nibs, greens, spirulina/chlorella, wheatgrass, apples, bananas, beets, cabbage, broccoli, sea vegetables, lentils, figs, dates, raisins, pecans, walnuts, avocados and Brazil nuts.
- Calcium: Calcium plays multiple roles in the human body such as digestion, movement, structure, and bone health. Calcium contracts muscles while magnesium relaxes them. Foods high in calcium include spirulina/chlorella, wheatgrass, bok choy, spinach, kale, greens, avocados, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, brown rice, oats, millet, amaranth, sea vegetables, chia seeds, coconut, almonds, and goat’s milk.
- Movement and Strength Training: Bones are alive and adapt when added stress is applied. Regular weight-bearing movement, along with strength training, stresses the bones and connective tissue and makes them adapt and get stronger.
- Epsom Salt Bath: Taking an Epsom salt bath 1-2 times a week is a great way to get more magnesium into your body. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to a warm-bath and soak for 10-minutes. Epsom salt is high in magnesium and can help improve blood pressure, headaches, sleep, muscles, connective tissue and help the bones stay strong and healthy.
- Foam Roller: Using the foam roller for just a few minutes every day can improve body alignment, decrease injuries, stimulate the lymphatic system and can give your body the rejuvenation it needs for great repair and recovery.
- Balance & Strength: Falling and breaking a bone is a great concern for many people as they age. Walking backwards, standing on one leg, and bouncing on a mini-trampoline are all easy and effective ways to improve your balance. Working on your balance on a daily basis takes very little time and effort and can have great rewards when you least expect it.
Best Sources of Calcium
|Food||Serving||Amount of Calcium (mg)|
|Goat’s Milk||1 cup||327|
|Collard Greens/Bok Choy||1 cup (cooked||320|
|Spinach||1 cup (cooked)||250|
|Black Eyed Peas||1 cup (cooked)||210|
|Blackstrap Molasses||1 tbsp.||180|
|Sesame Seeds/Tahini||2 tbsp.||180/50|
|Chia Seeds||2 tbsp.||140|
|Rhubarb||1 cup (raw)||110|
|Fortified Milk||1 cup||100-450|
|Kale||1 cup (raw)||100|
|Canned Salmon (with bones)||1 serving||100|
|Soybeans||½ cup shelled||80|
|Figs||2 dried figs||80|
|Ancient Grains||½ cup cooked||75-100|
|Almonds||1 ounce (24 almonds)||75|
|Broccoli||½ cup raw||21|
Best Food Groups
Plant based milks, green vegetables, ancient grains, fish, nuts and seeds
*Dairy is high in calcium, but it’s also difficult to digest and is missing its companion mineral for bone health, magnesium. In fact, the body can only absorb 30% of the calcium found in cow’s milk. Consuming dairy can actually lead to an acidic environment in the body, which results in further depletion of calcium from our bones.
Magnesium deficiency can reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium, and about half of our magnesium is found in bones. (Rich sources of magnesium include cacao nibs, dark green, leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds).
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Calcium
1-3 Years Old: 700 mg
Adults: 1,000 mg
Best Sources of Vitamin D
|Food||Serving||Amount of Vit. D (IU)|
|Cod Liver Oil||2 tsp.||800|
|Salmon (sockeye)||3 ounces||447|
|Tuna (canned in water)||3 ounces||154|
|Fortified Milk||1 cup||150|
|Mushrooms||1 cup (raw)||133|
|Egg Yolk||1 Egg||100|
5- 10 minutes Sunlight (during summer months) - 1000 IU
35 minutes Sunlight (during winter months) - 1000 IU
*Anything over 8 SPF blocks skin from absorbing vitamin D (Coconut oil can actually be used as a natural SPF while still allowing the body to absorb vitamin D)
Best Food Groups
Fatty fish, meat, mushrooms and eggs
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D
1-3 Years Old: 600 IU
Adults: 1,000 IU
For calcium rich recipes, check out our Target To Table Cookbook!