The key to understanding bone health is an understanding of acids+bases:
Calcium makes up our bone and calcium is basic. The standard North American diet is highly acidic (due to lots of unhealthy fats, animal protein, junk food, and soda/pop). When we eat this diet, our body becomes acidic. In order to neutralize the acidic environment, calcium is pulled out of the bone, resulting in weak bones (ultimately leading to osteoporosis, increased bone fractures, etc).
Based on the following points, you will see that number one way to take care of bones is to eat a whole foods, mostly plant-based protein, and fruit & vegetable-rich diet (this diet achieves all of the points listed below):
- Increase physical activity. The second best way to protect your bones (and not just weight bearing exercise, all forms of movement count)!
- Increase fruit and vegetable intake (F&V are alkalizing and lots of potassium, both excellent for bone).
- Decrease caffeine intake (caffeinated foods and beverages are acid forming in the body).
- Adequate vitamin D levels (vit D modulates calcium absorption, without it, no calcium is entering the bone!)
- Decrease animal protein (it contains lots of sulphur-containing amino acids, making the body more acidic).
- Adequate vitamin K (which you can get in leafy greens (and greens also have lots of calcium, double win!)).
- Adequate soy (for the isoflavones).
- Adequate calcium. 800 mg of calcium is recommended (for adults, per day, in Canada). This is very easy to achieve from diet alone, especially if it is rich in fruits and vegetables. Probably no need to supplement calcium unless you are at risk for osteoporosis. Talk to your health care provider if calcium supplements (or supplements of some other nutrients listed above) would be beneficial to your health.
The best sources of dietary calcium are greens and tofu. Other very good sources are molasses, dairy (yogurt, cheese, and milk), and herbs (such as basil, thyme, dill, oregano, and cinnamon). But remember that almost all vegetables contain some calcium, so eating a wide variety of veggies can provide a hefty dose of calcium too.