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Top Ten Bone-Building Foods and Exercises

May 10, 2012

10 Tips for keeping your bones healthy and strong:

  1. Perform strength and resistance training exercises. Did you know that of all the athletes, body builders have the highest bone density? In fact, it has been scientifically shown that muscle mass correlates with bone mineral density (i.e. more muscle = stronger bones). Try to perform "axial loading" type exercises (movements where the weight compresses your spinal column from above such as squats), stability and balance exercises frequently.
  2. Perform weight-bearing cardio exercise. Performing daily cardio exercise is not only great for cardiovascular fitness and weight control but also is invaluable for boosting your bone density. Weight-bearing exercise is the kind you perform on your feet, with your bones and muscles supporting your full body weight. Examples of weight-bearing exercise include walking, running, stair-climbing and the elliptical machine.
  3. Eat calcium-rich foods. The most abundant mineral in the body, calcium is a critical mineral to bone up on in the diet for bone health. When it comes to osteoporosis prevention and treatment, adequate daily calcium intake is a must. Aim for consuming 1200mg a day from mostly food sources. The foods highest in calcium include organic, plain yogurt, organic milk and cheese, canned salmon with the bones, collard greens, kale, broccoli, and almonds.
  4. Get in enough vitamin D. Along with calcium is the sister mineral for boosting bone health--vitamin D. Calcium actually depends on vitamin D for absorption and transport to the bones. Your body can make vitamin D with the help of sunlight, but many of us simply do not get out in the sun near enough. The best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish including wild salmon, herring, mackeral, and sardines; eggs from pasture-raised hens; organic milk and organic yogurt. Few of us consume enough in our diet, so you may need to take a supplement (ask your physician if a supplement is right for you). 1000 IU of vitamin D3 a day is the typical recommendation.
  5. Eat vitamin C-rich foods. Vitamin C is an important structural component of healthy bone. It also helps with calcium absorption. Eating vitamin C-rich foods on a daily basis will therefore contribute to the strength and structural integrity of your bones. Aim for eating these foods as often as you can: berries, citrus, melon, bell peppers, hot chili peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, and summer squash.
  6. Get in enough protein. If you do not consume enough protein in your diet, the research shows that you may be shorting your bone strength. Aim for including a source of lean protein at every meal (but don't go overboard). Enjoy moderate amounts of high-quality proteins including pastured chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish, eggs from pastured hens, organic dairy, grass-fed beef and pastured pork.
  7. Eat foods rich in magnesium. Did you know that half of your body's store of magnesium is found in bone? Magnesium is one mineral that helps your body to maintain a strong bone structure. Plus, the mineral is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Get magnesium from nuts, spinach, swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, or halibut.
  8. Eat lots of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables. Although not as famous as calcium, this mineral is also a bone health superstar. The role of potassium in bone health relates to its ability to neutralize bone-depleting metabolic acids. Many fruits and vegetables contain siginificant quantities of potassium and other nutrients that contribute to bone health. Keep your bones strong by eating a diet rich in spinach, melon, apricots, prunes, nuts, coconut, bananas, and avocado.
  9. Eat food rich in vitamin K. Knockout weak bones with this vitamin, a bone health nutrient required by your body on a daily basis. Vitamin K is essential for the formation of three types of protein found in bone: osteocalcin, matrix Gla protein and protein S. Try to incorporate vitamin K-rich foods into your diet such as dark leafy greens (especially kale and spinach), asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress and parsley.
  10. Avoid bone depleting habits. Next time you reach for your soda, coffee, or mixed drink or beer, think twice. Carbonated, caffeinated, and alcoholic beverages can deplete calcium stores and hinder calcium uptake. On another note, steer clear of aluminum cookware and aim for stainless steel or castiron. And by all means, don't smoke!

You can achieve your bone strengthening goals with the help of Fitness Together. Fitness Together offers one-on-one sessions with experienced personal trainers who will develop exercise workouts tailored to your needs and goals. An important part of their program is Nutrition Together, which provides nutritional counseling to complement your exercise regimen. Let Fitness and Nutrition Together help you strengthen your bones!

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