There is a strong link between strong bones, good health, and good nutrition. Each of them is crucial to ensuring that you are fit and fine. And you are responsible for a healthy skeletal system!
What we eat strongly affects our bone health throughout our lives. Our mothers’ diet during pregnancy affects our bone mass as adults. As children, our bones are on the fast track to growth, so breaking bones is no big deal! They just get attached like jigsaw puzzles. But as one grows older, they lose bone density. Constant bone loss leads to low bone mineral density and the weakening of bone tissue – which is what is called osteoporosis.
Studies have found that fractures from osteoporosis are one of the most common ailments – more common than heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined. A statistic says that the ratio for getting an osteoporosis fracture in their lifetime is 1:3 for women and 1:5 for men! Often branded as the “silent thief”, Osteoporosis proceeds without symptoms.
Most senior citizens are unaware of their weak bones until they fall. In women, during menopause they tend to lose bone mass drastically due to dropping levels of bone -protecting hormones. And for the elderly a bone fracture can be quite lethal.
So what is the solution, so that Osteoporosis does not stop you from leading an active life? Many is the answer.
First let us understand bones. And then what will keep them healthy.
Bones may look tough, but like any part of the body, they’re dynamic and living tissues. They constantly keep breaking down and remodel themselves. We actually get a totally new skeleton structure in about every 10 years.
Our bone structure mostly contains protein, and connective tissues, a complex system of nerves and blood vessels, and of course the marrow. Therefore good nutrition doesn’t just sustain bone mineralization — it helps the whole skeletal complex stay healthy too. When bone cells sense any damage, the body sends signals to raise bone formation levels. Good nutrition helps bones remodel strongly. Bones cannot recover if there is no appropriate nourishment. The old bones get weaker since new bones cannot be formed.
Nutrition is the key here. Let us look at the kind of nutrition that will help one stay healthy.
What to eat?.
Bone contains about 99% of the body’s calcium, and we need calcium to build bones. That’s why health professionals often tell us to make sure we get enough calcium. Grains, seeds, nuts, spinach, broccoli, rhubarb, sweet potatoes and walnuts are all great sources of Calcium.
Known as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D, is terrific for our health — chiefly our bones. Vitamin D is essential to build bones and absorb calcium. Necessity for Vitamin D varies based on geography, sun exposure, and current blood levels. Take enough sunshine and let there be no dearth of Vitamin D.
An interesting stat says that protein is 20-30% of our bone. Intake of protein rich food influences growth hormones and growth factors in the body that can affect bone health. So a high-calcium, high-protein diet is most favorable for bone health. A variety of plant and animal-based protein sources are available. Available in Egg whites, nuts and seeds, beans, milk, yogurt, Tofu, Cheese, Fish and lean chicken, you can take your pick!
Many protein-rich food articles like fish, seeds and cheese are also rich in phosphorus. However an overdose of phosphorus is inadvisable for bone health. The reason is that surfeit phosphorus can reduce creation of the essential and active vitamin D in the body. Not too little not too much phosphorus is ideal for great bone health
Not only Vitamin D, but Vitamins like K (notably K2), C, and E are also essential. Vitamin K2rich food like Cabbage, dried fruits, red chilies, mustard, kale, Spinach, cucumber and carrot helps to guide calcium to the right bones. Vitamin C is what helps build new bones. Bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwifruit, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and papayas are all good sources of Vitamin C. The antioxidant needed to fight off free radical destruction of bones is present in Vitamin E based foods like nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, and tomato sauces. Other Vitamins like Vitamin A and B are also needed to develop and maintain healthy bones.
What to Avoid?
Fats can be avoided as they increase the weight of the body. This affects the bone, since when the bone is not able to take the weight, it starts to reduction in bone density. Too much of fat in food increases weight, but decreases bone life.
Excess salt leads to increase in the amount of Sodium in our body. This leads to loss of Calcium from the body in the form of urine. That is why it is essential to restrict salt consumption to 1 Tsp of salt a day.
Alcohol and other popular drinks
Alcohol does contain silicon, some B vitamins, and polyphenols, all of which might protect bones. However, drinking more than one alcoholic drink per day might lead to poor bone health. Soft drinks contain phosphoric acid that increases Calcium excretion from our body. And soft drinks do not contain Calcium, so that is not good for the bone.
Excessive caffeine tends to leach Calcium from the bones, thus reducing their strength and not allowing them to regroup fast enough.
Certain medications for depression, cancer, heartburn, ulcers, and diabetes can damage bone health, because they hinder the hormonal growth of bone or affect absorption of essential minerals. Prolonged birth control drugs in young women also leads to poor bone health..
So recommendation would be eating a balanced diet of whole foods and have happy healthy bones for life!