For as long as you can remember, you have been told that calcium and milk products are what it takes for strong and healthy bones. Although this isn’t completely false, it’s not the complete truth either. Bones are made up of many different minerals that work together to keep them strong and help them absorb calcium. Although bones are made up of calcium, bones also act as a storage house for excess calcium.
Throughout a person’s life bones continue to grow and breakdown. When old bone tissue breaks down, new ones are created, which causes them to become stronger. Eventually though, and most commonly in women, bones can become susceptible to diseases, such as osteoporosis, which makes them weak and brittle.
Why calcium isn’t always the best for bone health
A review of 52 studies on calcium and bone health suggested that increasing calcium intake poses no benefit to bone health and does not decrease the risk of fractures. This goes to show that calcium alone is not solely responsible for bone health, and there are other players involved in keeping bones strong.
In addition, other research found that consuming milk can actually increase the risk of other problems, such as prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and even bone fractures. The majority of such research has been observational, but still poses the idea that milk and calcium may not be as beneficial as we once believed when it comes to bone health.
Other essential nutrients for proper bone health
So if calcium alone can’t provide strong bones, what does? Well, it’s actually a combination of other essential nutrients that work together. For starters, vitamin D is important because it helps with the absorption of calcium, and vitamin K stimulates the production of proteins that work to strengthen bones.
Additionally, magnesium is important because it assists with synthesizing hormones involved in calcium balance. Phosphorus also works closely with calcium to form hydroxyapatite, which is the structural component found in bones and teeth.
Lastly, protein works to help build and repair bone tissue and preserve muscle mass, and soy contains isoflavones, which have been shown to delay bone loss in women.
Essential foods to help strengthen bones
In order to receive the other essential nutrients that our bones require to stay strong, you will need to eat a variety of foods and not just dairy products. Here is a list of essential foods that contain the bone-strengthening vitamins and minerals that our bones require to stay strong.
- Canned sockeye salmon
- Collard greens
- Pumpkin seeds
- Greek yogurt
Not only are these foods a good alternative source of calcium, but they contain vitamin D, K, protein, phosphorus and soy, which are also required for healthy bones.
If you’re a female over the age of 51, you are required to intake 1,200 mg of calcium a day, and males over 71 require the same.
If you’re concerned about your calcium intake or about your bone health, speak to your doctor about your risks and getting your bones checked. If you’re currently on calcium as directed by your doctor, speak to them first before you stop usage or start taking anything new.