Food Is Not Your Enemy

Eating for Healthier Bones

Why is it that in China and other Southeast Asian countries, where dairy consumption is minimal, osteoporosis and arthritis are not the major health problems that they are here in the U.S and in other Western nations? Why are rates of these diseases not decreasing here, even though we’re taking in more and more calcium, that magic mineral that’s supposed to strengthen our bones?

Scientific evidence is increasingly pointing to the fact that calcium is just one part of the story. Essentially, calcium is useless to us (and our bones) if we don’t also take in adequate amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D, which help us to actually metabolize and absorb calcium.

And bones need more than just calcium to be strong–they also need silicon and sulfur. The best way to get all of these vitamins and minerals needed for bone health is to eat an overall healthy diet rich in leafy greens, beans, nuts, and whole grains. And it doesn’t hurt to eat a little raw cacao or dark chocolate once in a while–they’re both high in magnesium.

Weight-bearing exercise is also critical–our bones need to bear weight and exert force against gravity in order to prevent calcium loss. Walking counts!

One more note about calcium and dairy–too much can actually be harmful. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.

So look beyond milk products and pills. As is usually the case with chronic and degenerative diseases, there is no one food or pill to take that will solve everything. Your bones–like the rest of your body–need a wide array of nutrients to be at their healthiest.