Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that diminishes the mineral content of bones and weakens their structure, thus making them porous and highly susceptible to fracture. It’s known to affect 1 in 3 women in developed countries. Declining estrogen levels after menopause are directly related to an increase in osteoporosis in older women as this hormone assists the body in absorbing calcium and keeping the bones strong. Osteoporosis also affects men but at a much lower rate than women.
Other risk factors for osteoporosis include being underweight or having a history of ‘yo-yo’ dieting, being small boned, poor nutrition, a lack of weight bearing exercise and certain medications. Luckily, many cases of osteoporosis can be prevented and the earlier you begin to address the problem, the better the chances of avoiding pain and fracture in later life. Positive changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle can all help to prevent or alleviate this debilitating health condition. Below are some foods high in calcium, minerals and other nutrients most beneficial for those with osteoporosis.
Almonds are the most superior nut, benefiting the lungs, skin, digestive tract and fertility. Their concentrated mineral content makes almonds very nourishing for the bones, nails, and hair. Soaking overnight and removing their pitta-irritating skin makes them into a cooling, enzyme-rich superfood that boosts ojas.
As part of a balanced and healthy diet, you should be eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables as they contain an abundance of unique compounds, namely sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, that enhance phase 2 liver detoxification and have cancer-protective properties. Broccoli contains very high levels of vitamin C, essential for collagen synthesis, which accounts for around 35% of bone composition. Broccoli contains a wide array of other bone-healthy nutrients such as calcium, vitamin K, phosphorus, and magnesium. All these essential nutrients support bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.
Like other oily fish, herring is a great source of healthy omega-3 fats which animal studies have shown to positively affect bone health through numerous mechanisms. It’s an excellent source of B12 and the essential bone vitamins A and D that are required for our osteoblasts to produce osteocalcin, a protein responsible for depositing calcium and phosphorus into our bones. Herring is a good source of protein, calcium and phosphorus as well, making it a quality food for bone health.
Quinoa is a fantastic source of protein as it contains adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It’s technically a seed and is alkaline compared to wheat, rice, and other acidic grains. As such, it contributes to an alkaline PH that is beneficial because it does not cause bones and teeth to release calcium and magnesium in an attempt to balance the Ph of the blood, which can become acidic from processed foods and excess consumption of animal protein. Quinoa is also a great source of beneficial bone minerals magnesium, phosphorus and folate.
Eggs are a rich source of Vitamin D, which is needed to produce osteocalcin, a protein responsible for the deposition of calcium and phosphorus into our bones and one of the biggest missing components in bone health. Although calcium is the structural material that bones are made of, it needs other vitamins like the Vitamin D for proper absorption and utilization. Eggs are acid forming though, so alkalize with plenty of parsley and green herbs in your scramble!
Vitamin C, the antioxidant vitamin that boosts the immune system and protects from the signs of aging is also critical for the synthesis of collagen, which makes up around 30% of bone composition. Oranges are also a surprisingly good source of bone-strengthening calcium! They have a good amount of folate as well, which has been shown to decrease levels of osteoporosis risk factor homocysteine.
Protein is a crucial part of our diet as it provides the basic building blocks for all the cells including skin, hair, nails and bones. However, protein causes an acidic reaction in the body, which the body tries to neutralize by leaching calcium from the bones and teeth. For optimal bone health, avoid an excess of animal protein and try to balance the protein with alkalizing leafy green vegetables.
Magnesium is just as important as calcium for your bones. It helps in metabolising calcium and vitamin C and helps to convert vitamin D to the active form necessary to ensure that calcium is efficiently absorbed by your body. Not having enough magnesium can stop bone growth, decrease bone cell activity and make the bones more fragile. Magnesium also prevents the buildup of unwanted calcium deposits elsewhere in the body.
Vitamin C helps with the manufacture of collagen, which is a sort of ‘cement’ that holds the bone matrix (the architecture of the bone) together, so it is as important as the minerals for prevention of osteoporosis. It is important to take a vitamin C in a non-acidic form ascorbate (magnesium ascorbate) rather than ascorbic acid as you want to keep your body more alkaline. When your body becomes too acidic, it leaches calcium from your bones and teeth to neutralize the acidity and correct the imbalance.
Vitamin D helps to regulate blood levels of both calcium and phosphorus. Without good levels of vitamin D you cannot absorb calcium from your food or your supplements. You may be getting plenty in your diet, but if your body thinks there is not enough in the blood, it will begin to leach it from your bones. Over time this will cause bone loss.
Calcium is an essential constituent of bones and teeth and an adequate supply is needed to prevent progressive bone loss and osteoporosis. The recommended daily intakes of calcium range from 700 to 1,200mg per day but individuals in the 50–70 age group, who are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, may need more, both from dietary sources and from a supplement. Calcium citrate is the most absorbable supplemental form and should be taken in conjunction with magnesium and Vitamin D3 for best results.