You need more than just milk to build (and keep!) strong bones. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of information to keep your skeleton intact:
- Calcium is the major player in bone structure, and makes up the bulk of bone matrix. 99% of body’s stored calcium is found in the bones and teeth; while blood levels of calcium are kept in a narrow range. When blood levels drop below normal, calcium is pulled from bone; therefore it is important to eat enough of this mineral daily. Good sources include leafy greens such as spinach, collards, and kale, dairy, bony fish and tofu. More is not better: excessive supplementation has been linked to increased risk for myocardial infarctions.
- Vitamin D increases the absorption rate of calcium and helps to decrease losses via kidney excretion. The best source is the sun, but can also be found naturally in egg yolks and bony fish and fortified in milk and supplements.
- Vitamin K is an underappreciated, yet crucial part of bone and vascular health. Vitamin K (especially the form called K2) is essential in getting calcium from blood to bone. Without adequate K2, calcium can potentially be deposited in soft tissues, including the arteries. Good sources of K2 are full fat dairy, egg yolks, meat and fermented foods such as natto. Good sources of the less efficient K1 are vegetables, particularly leafy greens.
- Magnesium, like calcium, is an important part of the bone matrix and needed in sufficient amounts. Good sources are vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Maintaining a healthy weight throughout life also plays an important role in strong bones. Low bone mineral density is consistently linked to low body weight.
- Exercise, especially weight training and high impact activity puts stress on your bones allowing them to maintain and possibly gain density throughout life. Regular exercise, with varying levels of intensity that focuses on activating different body parts is absolutely essential for a lifetime of strong bodies and minds.