Popular Foods for Stronger Bones After 50, Say Dietitians
As we get older, we lose the ability to build bone mass, and our bone density begins to decrease. In part, this can make us more susceptible to fractures and strains.
Post-menopausal women are especially at risk of osteoporosis, or the disease that describes low bone density. This is because the hormone estrogen helps to make and rebuild bones, and estrogen levels begin to drop after menopause.
In an effort to keep your bones strong as you age, Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN, and Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., RD, and co-owner of Mohr Results, provide five examples of foods that are rich in nutrient bone-supporting nutrients. Then, don't miss these Eating Habits to Avoid If You're Over 50, Say Dietitians.
Both Rifkin and Mohr say sardines are a great food option for supporting bone health. Let's start with bones in the sardines. Rifkin says the tiny bones found in sardines are rich in several nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus, all of which can support bone health.
"It may sound odd to eat the bones, but they are so small and soften enough during the cooking and canning process that most people don't even notice them," she says. "Also, make sure to choose a skin-on option as the sardine skin also provides a wide array of nutrients."
Mohr adds that while sardines may not be your first choice, they are one of the most nutritious foods you can buy. Aside from calcium and vitamin D, they're also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which studies suggest are positively associated with bone mineral density.
"Mix them up like you might a tuna salad [with] a little mayo, chop up a stalk of celery, and add a handful of red grapes or chopped apple," says Mohr. "Don't knock it until you try it! Your bones—and the rest of your body—will thank you!"
"Vitamin K is a nutrient that plays a role in bone density and overall bone health," says Rifkin. "Kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, spinach, and other green veggies are great dietary sources of vitamin K. In fact, as little as a half cup of cooked kale provides over 400% of your daily need of vitamin K!"
As Rifkin points out, you may be most familiar with cow's milk and dairy products being a rich source of calcium, but have you considered reaching for a glass of soy milk? If you cannot stomach cow's milk, soy milk may be a great alternative.
"Soy milk is often fortified with this bone health nutrient, too," says Rifkin. "For those who limit dairy for any number of reasons, soy milk, yogurt, and even tofu often contain added calcium to boost your bone health."
"Calcium gets all the attention when it comes to bone health," says Mohr. "While it is absolutely critical, it's not so effective without its partner, vitamin D."
As both Mohr and Rifkin point out, your body cannot optimally absorb calcium without vitamin D, so it's critical that you consume adequate levels of vitamin D to promote good bone health.
"Unfortunately, vitamin D can be a tough nutrient to get through diet alone, and considering your ability to produce Vitamin D declines with aging, it's one to focus on," says Mohr.
Thankfully, eggs are a great source of vitamin D. One large egg, that's scrambled, contains 44 IU. For context, most adults require about 15 micrograms or 600 IU of vitamin D daily. The dietary sources that contain the most vitamin D include salmon, trout, and cod liver oil. In some cases, a vitamin D supplement may be the best way to get adequate levels. Still, eggs naturally offer more of the vitamin than most foods.
"Whether you enjoy them boiled, scrambled, or fried, eggs are a nutrient-packed food that may benefit your bones," says Rifkin.
Aside from being a convenient snack to grab while on the go, Rifkin says these 100% cheese crisps are an excellent source of calcium, which contributes to bone health.
"Whisps are also a good source of protein, another nutrient thought to have a positive effect on bone mineral density," she adds.
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