Our bones give us the structure and shape we all recognize well each Halloween or when we see a replica sitting in the corner at the doctor’s office. These mineral infused tissue serve as protection for the brain and other vital organs like the lungs and heart. Our bones also protect major blood vessels and the spinal cord. They permit us to move, creating joints and allowing the muscles something solid to attach to in order to work. These are the things that naturally come to mind when we think of our bones, but they do even more.
Bones are actually organs in their own right as they create blood cells, serve as storage, and even release hormones. Most of the different cells that make up human blood originate in bone marrow. Our body also stockpiles some valuables, like calcium and iron, within our bones to serve as a buffer when we don’t get enough from our diet. Bones also release a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar, fat storage, and bone growth.
About 99% of the calcium in the human body resides in our bones and teeth, but this isn’t the only place this mineral is needed. We use calcium for muscles, nerves, and blood clotting to function properly too. Calcium also plays a role in maintaining balanced pH levels. This means calcium consumption is very important in keeping bones young and well mineralized, but it doesn’t work alone. The body leans on several other vitamins and minerals to keep our bones and teeth healthy.
Leafy Greens – Turnip greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, and even asparagus are all vegetables that are rich in calcium, magnesium, B6, and vitamin K. Vitamin K is important in forming bone proteins and decreases the amount of calcium that is lost in urine.
Sesame and Pumpkin Seeds – These seeds are rich in magnesium. Magnesium regulates the absorption of calcium into cells and teams up with B6 to keep bones mineralized and strong. About 50% of the magnesium in the body is stored in the bones.
Walnuts – The healthy fats in walnuts aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin K. These fats also keep bones from breaking down.
Red Bell Pepper – Red peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a large part in protecting and maintaining bone mass. Vitamin C is important in collagen production which creates structure for bones and other tissues. These peppers also contain a good amount of potassium.
Oranges – Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. Potassium protects calcium from being depleted from our bones.
Beans and Legumes – Beans, peas, and lentils are rich sources of magnesium and calcium. Magnesium isn’t stored by the body, so we must get a daily supply from the foods we eat.
Sunlight – To keep bones at their healthiest, you need moderate sunlight each day. Some exposure to the sun lets the body create vitamin D3. Vitamin D is crucial to the absorption and regulation of calcium in the blood. Just 10 to 20 minutes each day gives you all you need. Mushrooms can be a good source of vitamin D, but it is D2. Vitamin D3 comes only from your own skin, lichens, or animal fats.
Avoid animal protein, alcohol, colas, smoking, and salty foods. Animal proteins found in meat and dairy increase calcium excretion in urine. Alcohol inhibits new bone cell formation. Colas lower bone mineral density. Those who smoke are more at risk for fractures than those who do not. Salty foods lead to heavy losses of calcium from the body. All of these put bones at risk. Cut back on processed food as these tend to lack nutrition and contain too much unhealthy fats, animal proteins, sugar, and salt.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These contain the minerals and vitamins the body needs along with protective antioxidants. Those who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables have better mineral density in their bones than those who eat a standard American diet of animal proteins and processed foods. Along with fruits and vegetables, eat healthier proteins like those found in hempseeds, chia seeds, other nuts and seeds, whole grains, and moringa leaves.
Weight-bearing exercise is also important. Some stress on the bones is a good thing. Bones are made of living tissue that responds to exercise, just like muscle. This stress triggers the body to produce more bone cells and stock up on the minerals that will keep this tissue strong. Exercise also improves coordination, strength, and balance, all of which are important in preventing falls and fractures, especially as we age.
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