Calcium is often seen as the superhero of bone health. No disrespect to calcium, we certainly need it. But it is just one of the leading nutrients when it comes to having a healthy skeleton. You also need magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K to maximize the health of your bones.
So, to put it simply, you need to eat a lot more than milk and cheese to keep your bones healthy. Check out these six foods to ensure you’re keeping that whole structural support system of yours in its best shape.
1. Broccoli rabe
Dark leafy greens are a great vegan source of calcium. Broccoli rabe is a green that gets a calcium gold star — it even beats spinach (slightly) — and adding it to your grocery list is a surefire way to up the green veggie benefits of your diet.
Blanch in boiling water and toss with a little olive oil before roasting. Or you could create a pesto for dipping or mixing with hummus. Watercress and bok choy are also great green options for getting in your calcium.
These nuts are high in magnesium, a mineral that contributes to your bone health by stimulating your thyroid's production of calcitonin. This hormone inhibits the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that function to break down bone.
Cashews are the perfect “sweet” nut and a good grab-and-go snack, or you can try this cashew-carrot dipping sauce that can go on just about anything. Leafy greens, whole grains and legumes will also provide a healthy dose of magnesium.
Egg yolks are high in vitamin D, better known as the “sunshine” vitamin. This nutrient is essential to your bone health because it affects how much calcium you’re able to absorb by stimulating the production of a calcium-binding protein.
Eggs are easy to prepare and we all know they can be scrambled fast, but you can also have them at lunch, (and even dinner too!) with these deviled egg salad lettuce cups. Sick of eggs? Salmon is also high in vitamin D.
Vitamin K is well known for its role in blood clotting, but it also plays a role in working with vitamin D to absorb calcium. It even helps your body make the proteins it needs to create healthy bones. Just one scallion stalk chopped and sprinkled in your salad provides you with almost 40 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. If that scallion flavor is not your thing, Brussels sprouts and kale will provide vitamin K, too.
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5. Canned salmon
Research shows that in addition to adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, protein plays a role in bone health, and therefore is helpful in the prevention of osteoporosis. Low protein intake is associated with an increased incidence of hip fractures.
Buy “bones in” canned salmon and you’ll up your calcium intake to boot. Just a 3-ounce serving of canned salmon provides you with 20 grams of protein and 25 percent of your daily calcium needs. Switch up your traditional tuna salad and add salmon to this chickpea and tuna salad recipe. Sardines are your protein and calcium friends, too, and so easy to top a cracker with for an afternoon snack
6. Almond milk
Because it is usually fortified with calcium, almond milk often has more than regular milk (1 cup = 450 milligrams, versus 311 milligrams for cow's milk). Recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000 milligrams for men and women ages 19-50, and increases to 1,200 milligrams for women ages 51-70.
Almond milk is relatively low in calories for those watching their waistlines, and it's a great option for people who might be sensitive to lactose. Use it to make oatmeal, or switch your afternoon coffee for a decadent (but healthy!) matcha latte. Tip: In an effort to avoid unwanted additives, choose carrageenan-free almond milk.
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