Help Shoppers Eat Their Way to Stronger Bones

February 20, 2017

What we eat can help build our bones and health in general. Find out some of the top bone building foods and nutrients to share with shoppers.

You may not have realized, but many of the items stocked in your market can help your shoppers maintain and improve bone health - at any age! 

Before we get into specific foods here are some basics you need to know:
Bone, like other tissue, is in a constant state of turnover, or remodeling. Bones respond to exercise and a healthy diet by becoming stronger; and are one of the most important things in our bodies as they provide structure, support, and protect our vital organs.

Bones act as storehouses for minerals that we obtain through our diets and release them in response to signals in our blood. Cells in our bones called osteoblasts form new bone while osteoclasts break down and clear out the old bone. It's a delicate but perfect balance that occurs throughout the life cycle. The activity of osteoclasts begins to outpace that of the osteoblasts around our mid-thirties; which over time, results in weaker, more fragile bones. There are various things we can do to help delay bone loss and continue to maintain and even build bone density.

Foods to promote and how to navigate foods that deter from bone health:
Protein, good or bad? Diets that are significantly high in protein can lead to loss of calcium in the body. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vegetable protein helps to retain more calcium in the bones than animal protein. While fish and reduced fat dairy products don’t seem to be a problem, other animal protein should be limited if bone health is a concern.

To imbibe or not? Moderate consumption of alcohol has also been shown to increase bone density, although drinking too much leads to lower than normal bone density and fractures. High alcohol intake can inhibit your ability to absorb calcium. Moderation is key, which means no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

Coffee, Tea and caffeinated beverages? Caffeine should also be consumed in moderation if you are concerned about bone density. The consumption of more than 400 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of four 6-ounce cups of coffee) has been linked to lower bone density in women and a higher fracture risk. This may be caused by caffeine blocking calcium absorption. A good alternative is tea, because it has less caffeine and may actually increase your bone density. Tea (black, green, or oolong) may strengthen bones because of flavonoids and fluoride that naturally occur in tea. 

Focus on the Sunlight Vitamin. Vitamin D’s is important for bone health as it aids in the absorption and regulation of calcium, and thus deficiency can result in a variety of bone disorders. (Rickets and osteomalacia result in bone softening, which are the most extreme). Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and fish liver oils are the best sources, and vitamin D can be found in small amounts in beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and some mushrooms. Other foods have been fortified with vitamin D, and include milk, some brands of orange juice, and more.

Don’t forget K! Another vitamin important for bone health is Vitamin K. There are two natural forms of vitamin K: vitamin K1, from plants and K2 from animal sources. Plant sources are key in building and maintaining healthy bones, as K1 activates a protein that anchors calcium to the bone. And K2 tells calcium where to go. Great sources of K1 include, parsley, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, celery, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, soybeans, avocado and more. The plant sources mentioned are also great sources of other bone-building nutrients like calcium, boron and magnesium. Vitamin K2 can be found in egg yolk, butter, certain cheeses like brie, meat and the fermented soy product natto.

With these tips you are on your way to helping shoppers choose a well rounded diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure proper bone health.