No bones about it: Your skeleton is a crucial (but often overlooked) part of your overall health. Strong bones store important minerals, are less likely to break and support your entire body so you can move freely. Still, it’s easy to take healthy bones for granted — until a fracture or a diagnosis of osteoporosis is a wake-up call that they need attention. (Don’t miss these habits that secretly increase your risk of osteoporosis.)
Looking for what keeps your skeleton from aging? One of the best ways to strengthen your internal support system is with your diet. Plenty of edible options like milk and other dairy products, dark leafy greens, fish, and citrus fruits contain nutrients known to improve bone health (such as calcium, potassium, and vitamins C, D, and K). So what are the best foods to prevent bones from aging?
As a nutritionist, yogurt is my go-to bone builder. For starters, it’s packed with calcium, an essential nutrient for bone density. A six-ounce container of plain yogurt contains 311 milligrams of this nutrient. That’s a whopping 31% of the recommended 1,000 milligrams per day!
Meanwhile, yogurt comes with a hefty dose of protein — anywhere from about nine grams per six ounces in the regular variety to 16 grams per container of Greek. Research shows that getting enough protein supports bone health, especially if you have enough calcium in your system.
And did I mention potassium? In a plain yogurt snack pack, you can get 15% of the daily target for women and 12% for men. Potassium has been shown to improve bone mineral density in older people. For added bone benefits, some yogurts are even fortified with vitamin D.
Not surprisingly, several studies have shown that this tasty fermented food is good medicine for bones. In a 2017 study of older adults, people who ate more yogurt had increased bone mineral density and better overall physical function. Similarly, a 2013 study of more than 3,000 participants found that milk and yogurt intake was linked to hip bone mineral density (though curiously not to spinal bone density). Other research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that consuming dairy products (ideally three servings a day) could reduce the risk of fractures later in life.
Wondering if it’s better to go Greek for bone health? I say it’s a throw. Regular yogurt usually contains more calcium than Greek yogurt, but Greek yogurt contains more protein. You can’t go wrong with choosing either, as long as you choose a low-sugar or unsweetened variety. (If you find the yogurt taste too spicy, try adding berries or citrus fruits. Their vitamin C content will sweeten the bone health deal.)
I am a fan of Fage Total 2%, a Greek yogurt with only two ingredients: milk and live active cultures. (No wonder it tops this list of the best Greek yogurt!) Or check out Stonyfield’s low-fat, smooth, and creamy yogurt. It’s fortified with vitamin D3, giving you a one-two punch of bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D. Blended into smoothies, scooped onto Mexican dishes, or folded into baked goods, either option is a definite boon to your bones.
Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a Registered Nutrition and Dietetic Technician and a Health, Nutrition, and Food Writer. read more