One in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, a disease that makes a person’s bones weak and more likely to break. And we don’t need to explain why the broken bone is just the pits. Between the discomfort and inconvenience of dealing with a fracture, it’s understandable why people would want to find some way to reduce their risk of this very common occurrence.
Although there is no surefire way to prevent developing osteoporosis, your diet and lifestyle choices can play a role in your risk level. Participating in weight-bearing exercise, avoiding cigarettes, and limiting or avoiding alcohol are evidence-based ways to keep your bones in tip-top shape. And when it comes to your diet, there are plenty of foods rich in bone-healthy nutrients that can help you meet your quota for the day.
Which nutrients do we need for our bone health?
When we think about nutrition for our bones, calcium is usually the star of the show. And while it’s true that calcium plays a key role in bone health, this mineral would be lost without adequate amounts of other key nutrients that are also important for our bones.
Along with calcium, our bodies need many other nutrients to keep our bones healthy, including:
- Vitamin C
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
Following a diet rich in nutrient-dense vegetables, seafood, fruits, whole grains, poultry, nuts and legumes, and low-fat dairy products will usually supply the body with these important nutrients.
And at the same time, we should try to limit our intake of added sugars, colas and fried foods to support our bones. Limiting or avoiding caffeine can also have a positive effect on bone health.
Eating a balanced and healthy diet is one step in the right direction when it comes to bone health. But when your tummy is grumbling at snack time, finding the right nods to support bone health can be a little more difficult.
If you’re on the hunt for the best snacks to support your bones, let us help you in your search. Here are five snacks to reach for when you need something small and want to fuel your body with foods that improve bone health.
Loved by anyone who’s needed a little help in the digestive arena, prunes are a gut-healthy food that tastes good and is easy to enjoy. But prunes aren’t just good for the belly, as eating them regularly has been linked to positive results for bone health.
One look at the nutritional profile of prunes and you’ll see why these fruits are one of the best breakfast items for healthy bones. From boron to magnesium to vitamin K, the list of bone-healthy nutrients in these little food hubs can seem endless. And just one serving of Sunsweet prunes (40 grams) provides 3 grams of fiber, zero grams of added sugar and 6% of the recommended daily value for potassium. Prunes also contain phenolic compounds that can block bone resorption and support bone formation.
Data specifically show that eating prunes every day may help certain populations experience bone health benefits. For men, the data published in Journal of Medical Food observed positive effects on markers of bone health after men ate 10-12 prunes per day for a year. And for postmenopausal women, a new 12-month study conducted by Pennsylvania State University found that eating 50 grams of prunes (5 to 6 prunes) every day for a year preserved hip bone mineral density and reduced the risk from hip fractures.
Prunes can be eaten dipped in dark chocolate, added to a yogurt parfait, or stuffed with soft cheese for a more decadent snack. Of course, they can also be enjoyed on their own.
Cottage cheese is a convenient source of protein, an important macro for maintaining bone health. And like other dairy foods, it is a source of calcium, magnesium, selenium and phosphorus. Choosing cottage cheese made with probiotics, such as Good Culture, may offer even more support for bone health, as some data suggests that probiotics may also help keep bones healthy.
Mixing cottage cheese with fruit is a balanced and delicious breakfast not only for bone health but also for overall health.
One of the most popular sources of vitamin C is 100% orange juice. And while it’s true that this nutrient is important for immune health, it’s also key in helping to produce collagen, which is necessary for the formation of bones and cartilage.
The potassium found in OJ plays a role in acid-base balance, which affects bone mineral density, and the flavonoids naturally found in this juice may be involved in processes that affect bone structure and formation.
Choosing fortified OJ that contains added calcium and vitamin D will provide the body with even more bone-healthy nutrients.
Sipping frozen orange juice makes a refreshing, sugar-free treat that offers the bonus of fueling the body with bone-healthy nutrients.
Mashing an avocado on a piece of toast and topping it with sardines is the ultimate bone-healthy breakfast that will leave you feeling satisfied. Both sardines and avocados contain healthy fats that can help support bone health. Plus, both contain magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin A – even more key nutrients. Pro tip: When choosing your sardines, choose those that still contain soft bones, as eating this variety will provide your body with more calcium than options that are boneless.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper on your toast and maybe even add some hot sauce if you like. Your stomach and bones will thank you for it.
Soy-containing foods, such as roasted soybeans, contain chemicals called isoflavones that have a similar structure and function to estrogen and have been shown to support bone formation while inhibiting bone breakdown. Plus, they’re full of bone-healthy nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium.
Data show that soy intake positively affects bone health when populations eating traditional soy foods (such as fermented soy curd, soy milk, fresh bean curd, fried bean curd, and soy) are evaluated. Lesser effects are seen among populations that do not eat large amounts of soy foods and choose more heavily processed soy foods, such as soy milk, soy meat alternatives, and soy protein bars, which may have lower isoflavone content.
Munching on roasted soybeans can give the body a boost of important isoflavones along with other key nutrients that support bone health. Edamame is also a nice soy breakfast option.
At about 50 cents per serving and packed with nutrients, the classic breakfast can be a great snack for the bone-health-focused crowd. For example, classic Cheerios provide zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and many other nutrients that support bone health—and that’s without taking into account the nutrients found in added milk (assuming you eat your cereal with milk and not dry).