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Whole Foods Are Best for Bone Health

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Recent research shows that better bone health is associated with eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts, poultry and fish, and low-fat dairy products.Nadine Greeff/Stocksy
It’s easy to forget how much we depend on our bones, but if you’ve ever fractured one, then you know better than to take them for granted.

Bone is a living tissue, constantly breaking down and rebuilding. If the rate of breakdown exceeds the rate of formation, then bones weaken over time, leading to osteoporosis.

While genetics contributes to osteoporosis risk, physical activity and good nutrition are preventive, says Angel Planells, RDN, a dietitian in Seattle and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dietetics.

“It’s never too late to improve our bone health, no matter what age we’re at in life,” Planells says.

Nutrition over the life span plays a key role in building and maintaining strong bones.

“It’s very important because, if you don’t have certain adequate nutrients, you are going to lose bone, which sets you up for having fractures,” says Joan Lappe, PhD, RN, a professor at the College of Nursing at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

Both Planells and Dr. Lappe recommend trying to meet your nutrient needs through diet, adding supplements only if necessary and under the guidance of your doctor.
Indeed, while it’s well-established that calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients for bone health, the efficacy of supplementing your diet with these nutrients to prevent fractures is controversial. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published a report in April 2018 in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluding there isn’t enough evidence to recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements for fracture prevention in healthy adults, though this doesn’t apply to people diagnosed with osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D and calcium supplements can also increase the risk of kidney stones, the report says, so it’s best to discuss your individual risks and benefits with a healthcare provider.

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