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Everyone knows it’s important to keep your bones healthy. But you don’t have to turn to dairy products such as milk or cheese to build strong bones. Calcium is only one of the nutrients needed for healthy bones. Plant-based foods provide ALL the vitamins and minerals you need for good bone health.
The dairy industry would like you to believe that milk is a must. But that’s simply not true, and ultra-pasteurized foods can even have harmful effects. It’s also estimated that up to 65% of people have trouble digesting dairy (1).
And if you’re relying on calcium supplements, you might want to reconsider. A landmark study found that calcium taken in supplement form increases the risk of heart disease (2).
The study also found that calcium consumed from food actually lowered the risk of heart disease. That makes it essential to get your calcium from plant sources.
Fortunately, there are a lot of nutritious plants that support healthy bones by supplying 5 must-have vitamins and minerals for strong bones.
The combination of calcium and collagen makes up around 99% of your bone tissue (3). So, it makes sense that you need calcium in your diet to keep your bones strong.
Broccoli is one of the most calcium-dense plants out there. Just one cup contains up to 180 mg of calcium (4). To put this into perspective, one cup of hard cheese contains about 200 mg of calcium.
Considering that broccoli is full of other beneficial nutrients, it’s a fantastic option for getting your calcium. Other calcium-rich greens include spinach, mustard greens, arugula, turnip greens, kale, and dandelion greens.
Unfortunately, when it comes to bone nutrition, most people stop at calcium. But calcium is only a small piece of the puzzle.
Magnesium, for example, is essential for healthy bones. That’s because your body needs magnesium to absorb and transport calcium (5).
It’s estimated that up to 80% of people are deficient in this mineral. This is huge since a large body of evidence suggests that when you don’t get enough magnesium, it promotes osteoporosis and fragile bones (6).
Try adding spinach to a salad or green juice to boost your magnesium intake. As an added bonus, spinach is also rich in calcium so you’ll be getting two good bone minerals in one.
Other good sources of magnesium include almonds, peanuts and cashews.
Another commonly overlooked mineral for healthy bones is potassium. In fact, research shows adequate potassium can strengthen bones (7).
There are several biochemical processes in the body that result in the production of metabolic acids. These acids can make your body more acidic (8).
Mineral salts like potassium help counteract the effects of these metabolic acids. When you lack potassium, your body pulls alkalizing compounds from the bone. This results in a loss of bone.
Bananas are a rich source of potassium to help keep your body alkaline and protect your bones. Other plants high in potassium include avocado, sweet potato, peas, grapefruit and coconut water.
Your body needs vitamin C as a cofactor to make collagen. Since a large proportion of your bone is made up of collagen, getting enough vitamin C is critical (9).
Some evidence even suggests that if you don’t get enough vitamin C, it can significantly slow the body’s production of new bone.
Fortunately, vitamin C deficiencies are much less common than the other nutrients required for healthy bones. But that doesn’t make it less important.
Getting your daily vitamin C is easy and delicious with berries such as strawberries, raspberries or blackberries. Citrus fruits also do the trick.
There’s a small, yet still important, portion of bone that isn’t made of calcium. Instead, it’s made up of a protein called vitamin K-dependent y-carboxyglutamic acid. Yeah, it’s a mouthful.
But all you need to know is that without vitamin K, this protein cannot function. And when this protein doesn’t function, your body has a hard time producing new bone tissue.
One study even found that vitamin K deficiencies are associated with osteoarthritis and increased risk of fractures (9).
To get enough vitamin K in your diet, eat more leafy greens such as kale. If you have a tough time eating enough greens every day, try a green juice powder that provides organic superfoods.
It’s helpful to know what foods to include in your diet. But sometimes knowing what to avoid is just as important.
Some foods have compounds that can block the absorption of nutrients, so limiting their intake can help to keep bones strong and healthy.
If you eat bread or cereal, seek out sprouted grains which have lower levels of nutrient-blocking phytates. And since too much salt can affect your calcium levels, try to steer clear of canned and processed foods.
It’s also important to watch your caffeine intake, and avoid sodas or energy drinks, which contain phosphorus. Research shows getting phosphorus without calcium can lead to bone loss (10).