Dem Bones

With October Feast soon coming to a close, I have to do at least one post on skeleton appreciation.

The skeletal system is made up primarily of bone and serves three main functions in the body: protection, support and movement. Bone is mainly comprised of collagen and crystals. It (bone) stores minerals and the bone marrow of long bones produces blood cells.
Calcium is often the star mineral when it comes to bone health but it is a synergy of several nutrients that help build and maintain bone mass.

calcium, magnesium; vitamins C, A, K and D; phosphorous

Bone crystal is made up of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. Vitamin C is needed for collagen production. Good sources are berries, oranges, kiwifruit and red pepper. Vitamin A is needed for bone growth with eggs and carrots providing the animal and plant-based sources respectively. Vitamin K is needed for forming and mineralizing bone material; dark leafy greens are a good source for this. And finally, vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption. This vitamin/hormone can be obtained through exposure to sunlight, fortified foods and some fish.

Though milk, yogurt and cheese are at the top of the calcium food chain, dairy isn’t the only game in town. Greens such as kale, collard, spinach, bok choy and broccoli also contain this mineral as do tofu and sesame seeds.

Those allergic to milk protein (casein) and intolerant to its sugar (lactose) along with ovo-vegetarians and vegans can take advantage of nature’s bounty for food that contains calcium. Other bone-friendly nutrients can be found in nuts, whole grains and legumes. A balanced diet with a variety of foods is key.


  • Avoid processed foods, especially pop which generally contains phosphoric acid. A disproportionate ratio of phosphorous to calcium can result in calcium loss.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
  • Follow an alkaline diet. Foods that produce an acidic effect may leach calcium from your bones in order to redress the acid/alkaline balance of the body. Think Tums®, the antacid tablet that contains calcium.
  • Eat outside in the sun for some extra vitamin D. (Unless it’s winter.)
  • Exercise also helps keep bones strong. Perform weight-bearing exercises such as resistance training then fuel your body with a balanced diet.
  • Supplements can help top up daily amounts of required nutrients. Vitamin D in an oil base can be mixed with olive oil and made into a salad dressing. An alternative is to consume fortified cereals and orange juice that do not contain added sugar and other additive nasties. (Is that even possible?)

Meal suggestions:

  • Brown rice with broccoli, kale and bok choy, drizzled with a lemon tahini sauce.
  • A spinach salad with strawberries, red pepper and almonds finished with an orange vinaigrette dressing.
  • Lightly seared pieces of organic tofu served on a bed of collard greens.

Calcium Nutrition and Bone Health on the OrthoInfo site.

*This post was brought to you by a (mostly) vegan, hence a plant-based approach is emphasized.


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