Bone is never at a standstill — even when we are.
Your skeleton is in a constant state of remodeling, with cells called osteoblasts forming new bone and osteoclasts engaged in resorption, releasing minerals, including calcium, into the blood.
We can put the brakes on bone breaks, slow our structural decline and reduce the risk of catastrophic fractures when we're older, and nutrition can play a major role.
Because calcium is integral to bone strength, eat foods that have the most bio-available, absorbable calcium, including crucifers such as kale, bok choy and turnip greens.
Dairy is an important source of calcium, though it shouldn't overshadow others, especially as we age. Sardines and canned salmon also are high in calcium, partially due to the food's inclusion of small bones.
Magnesium is another important nutrient for maintaining calcium levels. Nuts, vegetables and beans contain this major, often overlooked mineral.
Vitamin D is getting a lot of headlines these days, and for good reason. When we lack vitamin D, bones become brittle because of impaired mineralization. Due partially to vitamin D's regulatory role, adequate amounts of vitamin D will inhibit bone resorption and breakdown.
Bone health is not limited to the above three nutrients. Phosphorous, vitamins A and K, various trace minerals, protein and other nutrients all are integral to bone health. Hormone levels, weight-bearing exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling inflammation, optimizing digestion and minimizing psychological stress also are key.
Certain foods typical of Asian diets have piqued the curiosity of researchers and seem to play special roles in maintaining healthy bones. These include sesame seeds, wasabi, miso, tea and Mandarin citrus.
For further skeletal support, seek help to assess your diet and lifestyle and inquire about testing. Then get active outside, gardening crucifers, for example — while raking in vitamin D from the sun's rays.
Have an "osteoblast," and bone up!
Michael Altman is a nutritionist at Ventana Wellness and the Centre for Natural Healing. He teaches at Southern Oregon University and College of the Siskiyous. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org