Healthy Summer Eats for Strong Bones
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
Summer lasts just two months, but the season offers lots of opportunity for lifestyle choices that affect your overall wellbeing and that of your bones. Strong bones allow you to enjoy energizing outdoor summer fun, including hiking, biking, and swimming.
Your bones support you 24/7. Repay the favor by giving them what they need to stay strong and active.
Strengthen Your Skeleton
A number of nutrients found in a variety of foods play a part in supporting bone health. If you’re not including enough of the following foods, you may need dietary supplements, such as multivitamins, calcium, and vitamin D, to fill in the gaps in your diet.
Lean protein foods. Your bones require a regular supply of protein to support the constant breakdown and build-up of bone tissue, a process called remodeling. High-protein foods also supply phosphorus, a mineral that lends strength to your skeleton.
Give your body what it needs by including protein-packed foods such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, beans, eggs, soy products and low-fat dairy at every meal and snack.
Start off each summer day with a balanced protein-packed meal with foods such as Greek yogurt, fruit, and whole grain toast. A healthy breakfast reduces unnecessary snacking on road trips, vacations, and at the office.
Dairy foods. Dairy supplies calcium as well as protein for bone strength. Many dairy products are also fortified with vitamin D, which is found naturally in relatively few foods. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and deposit it into bones.
There’s a good chance you’re not eating enough dairy foods. Women often fall short of the recommended three daily servings (8 ounces milk, fortified soy beverage, or yogurt, or 1 ½ ounces hard cheese), and dining on the fly during the summer makes it more difficult to include dairy.
In addition, while vitamin D fortified foods help satisfy your needs, you may still not get enough. For example, three 8oz. glasses of fortified milk supplies just 50% of the suggested daily vitamin D intake.
Nuts and legumes. Almonds, cashews, and soybeans provide magnesium, a mineral necessary for a strong skeleton. About half of all the magnesium in your body is found in bone. Snacking on nuts, and including soy products, black beans, and lentils in your summer eating plan is a great way to get the magnesium your bones need.
Fruits and vegetable. Your body uses the vitamin C in fruits and vegetables to make collagen, a connective tissue that’s key to building bones. Vitamin C is not stored in the body, so you need it every day.
Produce is also packed with potassium and other minerals that support healthy bones. Calcium is lost from bones which may be triggered by the salty foods of summer, including hot dogs, sausages, and chips.
Most adults need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Potassium is found in nearly every food, but fresh fruits and vegetables are among the richest sources. Red bell pepper, orange juice, broccoli, strawberries, and kiwi are particularly rich in vitamin C.