Bone density is important to a person’s overall health. If the bones lose density, they may break easily.
Bone density changes over time. Throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, the bones absorb nutrients and minerals, gaining strength.
However, as a person enters their late 20s, they have reached their peak bone mass, which means that they will no longer gain bone density.
The bones may lose density as a person continues to age. After menopause, in particular, a person becomes susceptible to osteoporosis, a disease that can weaken the bones so much that they can break easily.
However, there are many ways to help boost and maintain bone density. Keep reading for tips on increasing bone density naturally.
Studies have shown that both weightlifting and strength training help promote new bone growth and maintain the existing bone structure.
For example, a study on bone density in children with type 1 diabetes showed that participating in weight bearing physical activity during peak bone-growth years improves bone density. Another study in children showed similar results.
Benefits of weight and strength training include:
- increased bone mineral density
- increased bone size
- reduced inflammation
- protection against bone loss
- increased muscle mass
Eating yellow and green vegetables can benefit most people. In children, these vegetables help promote bone growth; in adults, they help maintain bone density and strength. One study showed that children who ate green and yellow vegetables and few fried foods saw an increase in healthful fat and bone density.
In another study, postmenopausal participants who ate 9 servings of cabbage, broccoli, and other vegetables and herbs for 3 months saw reduced bone turnover and calcium loss. The researchers attributed the results to the boost in polyphenols and potassium that the vegetables provided.
Calcium is the primary nutrient for bone health. As the bones break down and grow each day, it is essential that people get enough calcium in their diets.
The best way to absorb calcium is to consume small amounts throughout the day, rather than eating one high-calcium meal per day.
It is best to get calcium through the diet, unless a doctor advises otherwise. Foods rich in calcium include:
Vitamin K-2 plays an essential role in bone health by reducing calcium loss and helping minerals bind to the bones.
Foods that contain vitamin K-2 include:
- natto, which is a soybean product
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. People with vitamin D deficiencies have a higher risk of losing bone mass.
A person can absorb vitamin D through moderate sun exposure. Without sufficient vitamin D, a person has a higher risk of developing bone disease, such as osteoporosis or osteopenia.
People should avoid rapid weight loss and cycling between gaining and losing weight. As a person loses weight they can lose bone density, but the density is not restored when a person gains back the weight. This reduction in density can lead to weaker bones.
Super low calorie diets can lead to health problems, including bone density loss.
Before dieting, discuss calorie needs with a healthcare provider to determine a safe target number of calories to consume. Any diet should include a balance of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Protein plays an essential role in bone health and density, and a person should ensure that they have enough protein in their diet.
A study involving about 144,000 postmenopausal participants found that those who ate an increased amount of protein saw a boost in overall bone density. Collectively, the participants who ate more protein also experienced fewer forearm fractures.
Talk with a doctor before significantly altering protein intake.
Numerous older studies have determined that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in maintaining bone density.
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in a variety of foods, such as salmon, mackerel, nuts, and seeds. People can consume these fatty acids through their diet or through supplements.
Like calcium, magnesium and zinc are minerals that provide important support for bone health and density.
Magnesium helps activate vitamin D so it can promote calcium absorption. Zinc exists in the bones, and it promotes bone growth and helps prevent the bones from breaking down.
Foods rich in magnesium and zinc include:
- whole grains
Smoking is a well-known health hazard. Many people associate smoking with lung cancer and breathing issues, but smoking can also cause bone disease, such as osteoporosis, and increase the risk of bone fractures.
To support healthy bone density, a person should not smoke, especially during their teen and young adult years.
In moderation, alcohol consumption is not likely to affect a person’s bone health. However, chronic, heavy drinking can lead to poor calcium absorption, a decrease in bone density, and the development of osteoporosis later in life.
Young women who drink heavily in their teens and 20s are most at risk of bone density loss.
Bone density develops throughout a person’s early life, peaking when they are in their late 20s.
To support healthy bone density, it is important to consume plenty of calcium, vitamin D, protein, and vegetables.
It is also important to avoid smoking and excessive drinking. Taking these steps can help support bone density throughout adulthood.