It’s National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, which you may believe you don't have to worry about until you’re older. But bones can be brittle at any age. In fact, a University of Arkansas study revealed that 2 percent of college-age women already have osteoporosis. What’s more, 15 percent of women have sustained significant losses in bone density, and may be well on their way to developing the disease. On top of that, if you’re like most people, you fall short on the nutrients necessary to keep your bones healthy. Adults younger than 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium as well as vitamin D, vitamin K, and antioxidants.
Stock up on these four bone-building foods to strengthen your skeleton.
Milk packs a one-two punch—it’s rich in two of the most important ingredients for strong bones, calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for building bones and you can’t absorb it without help from vitamin D. Most people should aim for about 1,000 mg calcium and 600 IU vitamin D daily (one cup of milk has 300 mg of calcium and 200 IU Vitamin D). If you're vegan, calcium- and vitamin D-fortified, rice, soy, or almond milk will do the trick.
Ways to get it: Drink the milk that is left in the bowl at the bottom of your cereal, add it to smoothies, and use it as a recovery drink after a long workout.
Kale This strong-spined veggie will fortify your backbone too. It serves up two incredible bone-building nutrients: vitamins C and K. Vitamin K aids calcium absorption, and vitamin C helps collagen fibers link together to form strong connective tissue. Additionally, antioxidants like vitamin C protect bones from free radical damage and increase bone mass. One cup of kale has just 36 calories, 200 percent of your daily vitamin C intake, and 1,020 percent of your recommended vitamin K allowance. Note: Kale contains naturally occurring substances that interfere with calcium’s absorption called oxalates. Avoid eating calcium-rich foods like dairy at the same time as kale to prevent any problems.
Ways to get it: Steam kale like you would spinach, then toss it in omelets, on pizza, and in pasta sauces. Eat it fresh, topped with your favorite dressing, sliced strawberries, and almonds. Or make kale chips: Slice kale into bite-size pieces, spray, with olive oil, add a pinch of salt, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Green Tea contains the flavonoid epigallo-3-catechin gallate (EGCG). Best known for having the ability to slightly rev metabolism, this flavonoid may help mineralize bones as well. Plus, EGCG is a potent antioxidant that will help to protect the bones from free radical damage.
Ways to get it: Keep cold green iced-tea brewed in a pitcher in the fridge, sip it throughout the day, or stir-fry veggies in green tea rather than in broth.
Herring Another bone-building powerhouse, herring is rich in both calcium (thanks to the fish’s edible bones) and vitamin D. Three ounces of raw herring contains 74 mg of calcium and a whopping 1,628 IUs of vitamin D (271 percent of your daily intake). Typically raw fish contains more vitamin D than cooked, and fatty cuts will contain more than lean cuts.
Ways to get it: Order raw herring in your sushi, and or eat it on a sandwich for lunch. It tastes great with lemon and onions.