• Shannon Western

Nutrition for Bone Health

For bone formation, adequate amounts of many nutrients are needed, including calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium and fluoride. This is why it’s important to add in some gentle nutrition guidance to support your bones... It can often be hard to know where these nutrients come from, and what food is actually going to benefit your bones, well luckily for you, I am going to share with you exactly what foods support bone health, plus my top tips.



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As always, the information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not substitute for personalised nutrition or medical support. If you do have any medical conditions, please seek out 1:1 support for your specific needs. This article may not be suitable for people going through a difficult time with food, as it suggests specific foods & offers nutrition guidance. Please do reach out to Shannon to book an appointment if you require it.


What foods offer bone health benefits?


Calcium

When calcium gets brought up, people are often aware that dairy products are a good source of calcium. However, it isn’t just dairy that we can get calcium from, which would be a nightmare for those with allergies, intolerances and those who chose to follow a vegan diet. What foods are good sources of calcium?


  • Dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese.

  • Soya products, such as tofu, with added calcium.

  • Breads that are made with fortified flour e.g. white sliced bread, tortilla wraps

  • Plant mylks such as soya, oat and almond should be fortified with calcium (and other essential nutrients, like B12 and vitamin D). A huge take home is that organic plant mylks are not fortified. Please consider your purchases before opting for organic brands, as actually these are not a swap for dairy milk.

  • Fortified breakfast cereals e.g. Shreddies, Cornflakes, ReadyBrek.

  • Leafy green vegetables, if cooked lightly {can be a small source, not a main one}.


Why not try this?

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9LzXjLhrEY/


Top tip

Try to eat 2-3 portions of dairy or plant alternatives every day to ensure you are eating adequate amounts of calcium. The recommended intake is 700mg - 1000mg, for adults who aren’t breastfeeding or pregnant.

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Protein


Protein is a macronutrient that’s essential for body repairs, processes like digestion, growth, and hormone production. Protein has a big reputation of being a “superfood” (which I guess it kind of is!) but it’s not as important as social media might have you thinking. It’s a good idea to include a serving of protein (e.g. around ⅓ of your plate) with every meal & ideally snack. But you don't need to chug protein shakes or take any sort of supplement, unless you do have certain needs but we can’t give out that advice in this article.


Sources of protein include

  • Dairy & (fortified soya alternatives) e.g. Greek yoghurt, soya milk, halloumi

  • Eggs, fish, meats

  • Nuts, seeds, nut butters

  • Lentils, e.g. yellow, green, black

  • Beans, e.g. chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans, baked beans

  • Tofu, tempeh, seitan, Quorn, soya meat alternatives e.g. Oomph, Fry’s

Foods to pair with the protein {plant based protein is not a “complete protein” so add one of these}:

  • Bread, bagels, tortillas, rolls

  • Rice, quinoa, couscous, barley, pasta

Why not try this?

https://www.instagram.com/p/CMPZ1YEgCaU/



Magnesium

Sources of magnesium are dark chocolate, wholegrains, beans & lentils, boiled spinach, pumpkin seeds, and nuts. Magnesium also has a role in stress-management & sleep, so it might be an idea to consume some Mg-rich foods at night [1].


Why not try this?

https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/toasted_pumpkin_seeds/



Phosphorus

Phosphorus is not only needed for bone health, but also muscle contraction and nerve function. Sources of phosphorus include sources of protein such as lean meats, fish, beans and nuts.


Why not try this?

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/amatriciana-chicken-traybake



Vitamin D

Vitamin D is particularly linked with bone health, with a severe deficiency in vitamin D leading to rickets. Vitamin D can be obtained from the diet by consuming oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, and egg yolks, red meat, fortified soy mylk, fotfified breakfast cereals, and mushrooms. However, the diet alone cannot provide you with all the vitamin D you need in the Northern hemisphere. It is advised that the average UK resident takes vitamin D supplements of 10 micrograms (ug) a day during the months September to March.


Groups that would benefit from a vitamin D supplement all year round:

  • Infants from birth to 4 years old

  • Pregnant & breastfeeding people

  • Those with darker skin tones

  • Those with certain autoimmune conditions

  • Those who can become pregnant / are trying to conceive. There’s a body of research that those with PCOS would benefit from a vitamin D supplement.

  • People that do not have much sun exposure, such as people in care homes or those that wear clothing that limits sun exposure


*In the UK pregnant & breastfeeding people may qualify for free vitamin D supplementation under the Healthy Start Scheme.


Why not try this?

https://www.veganricha.com/vegan-mushroom-bourguignon-instant-pot/



Potassium

Potassium supports many functions other than bone health, such as nerve signals and managing blood pressure.


Potassium sources include:

  • Fruits such as bananas, oranges, avocado and apricots.

  • Dried fruits like apricots, figs, prunes, raisins

  • Cooked spinach & broccoli,

  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes & squashes

  • Some beans, such as white beans e.g. cannelloni

  • Some dairy products, like yoghurt



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Why not try?

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/banana-oat-pancakes



Fluoride

Fluoride is good for teeth decay and bone health. Fluoride can be added to water and toothpaste to prevent tooth decay, but what are the dietary sources of fluoride? Sources of fluoride include spinach, grapes, potatoes and black tea.

Why not try this?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/goats_cheese_frittata_04315



online nutritionist uk

Summary

This post has given you the knowledge so you can best care for your bones through food, however don’t feel that you need to eat them day in day out or your bones will break. Similarly, if you don’t like one of the foods providing you a vitamin, don’t force yourself to eat it. There are plenty of other foods that can provide you with the vitamin: not just one nutrient. I hope your key take away from this is you feel you now know what foods have bone health benefits, but that there are many sources that can provide you with nutrients not only one single thing.




Thank you so much to Beth Tripp BSc, who is an MSc Nutrition & Behaviour Change student. You can find her on Instagram here, she has written many articles for myself & other nutritionists.






References

[1] Boyle, N.B., Lawton, C. and Dye, L., 2017. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress—a systematic review. Nutrients, 9(5), p.429.