Skip the Milk & Build Strong Bones with These Nutrients
Contrary to the message conveyed in heavy-handed Got Milk campaigns and a well-funded dairy industry, you don’t need cheese, yogurt, ice cream, or any other cow’s milk product to get calcium.
You’d never know it from those ads, but you can get all of your calcium without ever touching a glass of milk. In fact, the acidity in cow’s milk can negatively impact your calcium balance.
While I’m busting calcium myths, let’s call out supplement manufacturers that proclaim swallowing calcium tablets somehow creates balance. Fact check: numerous nutrients work together to promote bone health, and swallowing a cheap form of calcium could knock that mineral balance out of whack.
Your best strategy to get bone-building nutrients includes whole foods coupled with a little help from Mother Nature:
- More greens. Lactose intolerance, food sensitivities, and increased risk for ovarian cancer are three reasons to dump cow’s milk and stock up on calcium-packed leafy greens. A cup of cooked broccoli rabe, for instance, offers over half your RDA for calcium. Other excellent calcium sources include collard greens, kale, and spinach. Combine these green leafy veggies with some healthy fat like olive or coconut oil so your body absorbs the bone-healthy vitamins D and K.
- Create balance. Your body constantly maintains a tight balance of acid and alkaline. So if you eat a heavily acidic food – say, five-grain bread or a parmesan-encrusted sirloin – your body must buffer blood pH back to normal. Alkalizing minerals bring pH back into balance, and your biggest source of these minerals lies within your bones. When you over-consume acidifying foods, including dairy, caffeine, and sugar, you increase your risk for bone loss. Just as bad, the phosphoric acid in sodas (even diet ones) leeches calcium from your bones. Alkalinizing foods like lean protein, leafy green vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits all help balance your acid load.
- Get some sunshine. Vitamin D helps your body absorb and maintain calcium. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that exposing yourself to about 10 minutes of sun, two or three times a week, coupled with a vitamin D supplement can create healthy bones and optimal immunity. If you live in a sun-limited environment, you need to bump up your D supplementation. Thorne Research offers therapeutic amounts of vitamin D in various doses, both in capsules and liquid.
- Eat fish. Wild salmon and other fish reduces inflammation, normalizes lipid levels, and improves your mood. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish can also improve bone health. Remember your bones are constantly breaking down and remodeling, and omega 3s assist that process. If you don’t eat wild fish at least three times each week, Omega Plus from Thorne Research makes getting these essential fatty acids easy. Tossing some flaxseed and chia seeds into your morning smoothie provide another way to get these healthy fats.
- Go nuts. Along with protein and fiber, nuts pack a synergistic blend of crucial bone-building nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese. Zinc, for instance, helps your body form an optimal bone structure for optimal strength. Likewise, magnesium improves bone mineral density. Insufficient magnesium, in fact, can interfere with your body’s ability to process calcium. Now that you know, why would you ever buy a cheap calcium supplement that doesn’t supply other crucial bone-building nutrients?
JJ Virgin is a Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert, specializing in weight loss resistance related to food allergies and food sensitivities. She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Her next book, The Virgin Diet, will be released December 2012. For more information about JJ Virgin, visit her website at JJVirgin.com.