Osteoporosis is a sneaky disease. Without a screening test, you may not know you have it until a bone breaks.
To be healthy, bones need protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, boron, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, D, and K. Go for a whole-food, plant-based diet. Dark green, leafy vegetables brim with bone nutrients; try collards, kale, turnip greens, bok choy, and chard.
Foods and herbs such as legumes, pomegranate seeds, flax and sesame seeds, and hops provide phytoestrogens, chemicals whose weakly estrogenic effects support bone. Legumes contain a type of phytoestrogen called isoflavones. Most studies show that soy-rich diets and isoflavone-containing soy protein protect bone in menopausal women.
Consuming fatty fish, which are rich in omega 3s, contributes to higher bone mineral density. In combination with calcium, the fish oil eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and gamma-linolenic acid (found in oils made from the seeds of evening primrose, borage, and black currant, and hemp) have beneficial effects on bone.
Another bone-friendly nutrient is vitamin D. Sources include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light, and fortified foods (e.g., milk, soy milk, orange juice). About 60 percent of adults have insufficient levels. For that reason, many experts recommend taking vitamin D.
Another oft-discussed bone nutrient is calcium. Research on whether supplements prevent osteoporotic fractures is inconclusive. Nevertheless, it’s important to consume enough. The IOM recommends 1,000 mg a day for people 19 through 50, and 1,200 mg a day in women over 50 and men over 70. If the diet falls short, calcium supplements may be necessary. Do not exceed 2,000 mg a day. Excessive intake raises the risk of heart attacks and kidney stones.
Be sure that you are consuming adequate levels of magnesium for the proper absorption and metabolism of both calcium and vitamin D.