One in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, a disease that makes a person’s bones weak and more likely to break. And we don’t need to explain why having a broken bone is simply the pits. Between the discomfort and the inconvenience of dealing with a fracture, it is understandable why people would want to find any way to reduce their risk of experiencing this very common occurrence.
While there is no surefire way to prevent the development of osteoporosis, your dietary and lifestyle choices may play a role in your risk level. Participating in weight-bearing exercises, avoiding cigarettes, and limiting or avoiding your alcohol intake are all evidence-based ways to help keep your bones in tip-top shape. And when it comes to your diet, there are many foods rich in bone health-supporting nutrients that can help you meet your quota for the day.
Which nutrients do we need for our bone health?
When we think about eating for our bones, calcium tends to be the star of the show. And while it is true that calcium plays a pivotal role in bone health, this mineral would be lost without adequate amounts of other key nutrients that are important for our bones too.
Along with calcium, our bodies need many other nutrients to help keep our bone health in order, including:
- Vitamin C
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
Following a diet rich in nutrient-dense vegetables, seafood, fruit, whole grains, poultry, nuts and legumes, and low-fat dairy will generally fuel bodies with these important nutrients.
Eating balanced and healthy meals is one step in the right direction when it comes to bone health. But when the snack time tummy grumbles strike, finding the right bone health-supporting noshes may be a bit more difficult.
If you’re on the hunt for the best snacks to support your bones, let us help you on your quest. Here are five snacks you should reach for when you need a little something and you want to fuel your body with bone health-boosting nutrition.
Loved by anybody who has needed a little help in the digestive arena, prunes are a go-to gut health-supporting food that tastes good and is easy to enjoy. But prunes aren’t just good for tummies, as eating them consistently has been linked to positive bone health outcomes.
One look at the nutritional profile of prunes, and you can see why these fruits are one of the best things to snack on for healthy bones. From boron to magnesium to vitamin K, the list of bone health-supporting nutrients in these tiny nutritional powerhouses can seem endless. And just one serving of Sunsweet Prunes (40 grams) provides 3 grams of fiber, zero grams of added sugar, and 6% of the recommended daily value for potassium. Prunes also contain phenolic compounds, which may block bone resorption and support bone formation.
Data specifically shows that eating prunes every day may help certain populations experience bone health benefits. For men, data published in the Journal of Medical Food saw positive effects on markers of bone health after men ate 10-12 prunes per day for one year. And for postmenopausal women, a new 12-month study conducted out of Pennsylvania State University showed that eating 50 grams of prunes (5 to 6 prunes) every day for a year preserved hip bone mineral density and reduced hip fracture risk.
Prunes can be enjoyed dipped in dark chocolate, as an addition to a yogurt parfait, or stuffed with soft cheese for a more decadent snack. Of course, they can also be enjoyed on their own.
Cottage cheese is a convenient source of protein, an important macro for bone health support. And like other dairy foods, it is a source of calcium, magnesium, selenium, and phosphorus as well. Opting for a cottage cheese made with probiotics, like Good Culture, may offer even more bone health support, as some data suggests that probiotics may help keep bones healthy, as well.
Mixing cottage cheese with fruit is a balanced and delicious snack, not only for bone health but for overall health, too.
One of the most popular sources of vitamin C is 100% orange juice. And while it is true that this nutrient is important for immune health, it is also key for supporting collagen production, which is needed for bones and cartilage to form.
The potassium found in OJ plays a role in acid-base balance, which influences bone mineral density, and the flavonoids naturally found in this juice may be involved in processes that affect bone structure and formation.
Opting for fortified OJ that contains added calcium and vitamin D will fuel the body with even more bone health-supporting nutrients.
Snacking on orange juice frozen in a pop mold makes for a refreshing treat with no added sugar that offers a bonus of fueling the body with bone health-supporting nutrients.
Mashing avocado on top of a piece of toast and topping it with sardines is the ultimate bone health-supporting snack that will leave you feeling satisfied. Both sardines and avocados contain healthy fats, which may help support bone health. Plus, they both contain magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin A—even more key nutrients. Pro tip: When you are choosing your sardines, opt for those that still contain soft bones, as eating this variety will fuel your body with more calcium than the options that are bone-free.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top of your toast, and maybe even add a dash of hot sauce if you like. Your tummy and your bones will thank you for it.
Soy-containing foods like roasted soybeans contain chemicals called isoflavones, which have a similar structure and function to estrogen and have been shown to support bone formation while inhibiting bone breakdown. Plus, they are packed with bone health-supporting nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium.
Data shows that soy intake positively impacts bone health when populations that eat traditional soy foods (like fermented soybean curd, soybean milk, fresh bean curd, fried bean curd puff, and soybeans) were evaluated. Less of an impact has been seen among populations that do not eat large quantities of soyfoods and that opt for more heavily processed soyfoods, like soy milk, soy meat alternatives, and soy protein bars, which may have a lower isoflavone content.
Snacking on roasted soybeans can give the body a boost of the important isoflavones along with other key bone health-supporting nutrients. Edamame is a nice soy snack option as well.
At about 50 cents per serving and jam-packed with nutrients, the classic breakfast food can be a great snack for the bone health-focused crowd. For example, classic Cheerios provides zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and many more nutrients that support bone health—and that’s without taking the nutrients found in the added milk into account (assuming that you eat your cereal with milk and not dry).