This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Aram Nalbandyan! You should check out his website here!
It is no secret that the human body needs vitamins and minerals to not only work at optimal levels, but also survive. Some of these vitamins and minerals are essential components for developing and maintaining strong and healthy bones.
Calcium Cannot Work Alone
Despite the popularity of belief that calcium is the most important component of maintaining healthy bones, it is not entirely correct. Calcium is essential, but its proper and efficient absorption in the human body is dependent upon the presence of other vitamins and minerals, namely Vitamin D and Magnesium.
Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption and Magnesium effectively makes Vitamin D do its job as it relates to Calcium, by activating it and getting Calcium to where it needs to go via hormonal influence.
It prompts calcitonin production (a hormone) which increases Calcium in the bones and pulls it out of your soft tissues.
A Delicate Balance
Many people will take a calcium supplement to allay their fears of osteoporosis as they age, but they are deficient in Vitamin D. Calcium will not be absorbed without Vitamin D, which in turn will not become active without Magnesium.
A Vitamin K2 deficiency will keep the Calcium from being transported to where it is needed. In other words, you may accumulate calcium in areas that will do more harm than good, like your arteries.
Each and every one of these components needs to be in balance in the body in order to have strong and healthy bones. The best way to get these vitamins and minerals is through our food.
Unfortunately, many people habitually opt for processed foods, which do not provide us with the nutrients we need (not to mention the proper balance among those nutrients), which can result in accelerated loss of bone density.
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The Food Pyramid
There have been some changes made over the years with regard to what types of foods we should be eating in what quantities and proportions.
The USDA’s original food pyramid, understandably, did not reflect our current understanding of food and nutrients. While we can get some vital nutrients from grains, they are not the best source nor the source with the highest concentrations of the nutrients we need.
Aside from the vitamins and minerals mentioned, omega 3 fatty acids are also a factor in maintaining bone health. The updated food pyramid, on the other hand, reflects a more modern understanding of what a healthy, well-balanced diet should entail.
Some may disagree with even this revamped version, but it is far closer to what we need to maintain proper bone health. So what, precisely, should we be eating in order to absorb calcium most efficiently?
The best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need to effectively absorb calcium is by eating natural food, not processed food, and not relying solely on supplements.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Supplements have their time and place, but the overuse of vitamin and mineral supplements oftentimes results in imbalances. As such, supplements do not always help as much as we think they do. In fact, some do more harm than good.
- The best part about this particular vitamin is that you produce your own, if you get enough sunlight. Unfortunately, most people do not. The general rule is 20% of your skin exposed to sunlight for 30 minutes at sea level, but avoid the sun at midday as it will increase your chance of sunburn. It works through clouds, but you would need to stay out longer.
- Chlorophyll-rich foods can counteract Vitamin D deficiency because chlorophyll acts like Vitamin D in the body. In other words, eat green foods (especially leafy greens and seaweeds).
- You can also look for Vitamin D in supplements, and quite often, synthetic Vitamin D is added to foods like milk.
- There are a variety of food groups rich in magnesium, including chlorophyll-rich foods like those mentioned above.
While the amount of magnesium varies, these whole foods are good sources:
- Dried seaweeds
- Beans (including soybeans)
- Whole grains (emphasis on Whole)
- Leafy greens
- Seaweeds (not just dried)
- Magnesium supplements are also available, though getting what you need from food is preferable.
- There is, of course, calcium itself. There are a variety of foods that are not only rich in calcium, but also in the vitamins and minerals necessary for proper calcium-absorption. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.
- Sea vegetables: Hijiki, Wakame
- Seaweeds: Kelp, Kombu
- Cottage Cheese
- Dried Wheat Grass or Barley Grass
- Brazil Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Turnip Greens
- Collard Greens
- Calcium supplements are beneficial when you do not get enough in the food you eat. However, it is important to eat enough green vegetables (including leafy greens) so that the calcium can be properly assimilated into the body.
Eat Well and Don’t Forget Exercise
Eating the proper foods goes a long way in maintaining and improving bone health and density. However, exercise is an essential component in minimizing calcium and bone loss.
Regular and moderate physical activity will help keep you from losing bone mass as you age. Weight bearing movements (including walking…body weight counts) are a necessary component of a bone-healthy workout regimen.
Excessive exercise, however, can be just as ineffective at halting bone loss as too little exercise. Physical activity combined with proper food intake will provide you with a formula for keeping your bones healthy.
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