Three Essentials to Building Strong Bones Posted on 30 Jan 15:00 , 0 comments

 What are two things that cows and elephants have in common? 
  • They both have large strong bones
  • They both only eat plants

One could concur from this that eating plants will make strong bones, but let's look into the details. 

One in two women and one in four men over the age 50 will experience a broken bone due to osteoporosis. (Source: National Osteoporosis Foundation) 

The mantra 'drink milk for strong bones' has been hammered into our head for years. However, countries that consume the most milk also have the largest amount of bone fractures. Countries that do not consume dairy have the least amount of bone fractures. Hmmm...

There are many factors involved with building strong bones such as diet, exercise, and limiting alcohol. 

Minerals that work synergistically to build strong bones are calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. For a long time, calcium was in the forefront when it came to bones. It's true-calcium is certainly needed for strong bones-however, in order for calcium to be absorbed, your body needs vitamin D. For vitamin D to do its job, it requires magnesium. Taking calcium alone will not prevent bone fractures or osteoporosis.

One of the most abundant sources of both calcium and magnesium are leafy greens. Including leafy greens in your daily diet is just one way to receive bone-building nutrients. Plant-based foods high in both calcium and magnesium include:

  • Almonds-94 mg calcium, 105mg magnesium in 1/4c
  • Broccoli-30mg calcium and 51mg magnesium in 1/2c
  • Kale-180 mg calcium and 72mg magnesium in 1c
  • Tofu made with calcium sulfate-253 mg calcium and 37 mg magnesium in 1/2c
  • Sesame seeds-137mg calcium and 101mg magnesium in 1 Tbsp
  • Dark chocolate-16 mg calcium and 41 mg magnesium in 1 oz

You can see how the amount of calcium and magnesium adds up with plants alone! In general, leafy green, nuts, seeds, fortified plant-based milks, beans and lentils will all contribute to your daily calcium and magnesium needs (recommendations vary by age, but in general 1200 mg calcium and 400 mg magnesium per day).

Vitamin D is made by our bodies through the sun, however it's only absorbed when we are not wearing sunscreen. We need 15-20 minutes a day in the sun to make sufficient vitamin D. Since it's not recommended to be in the sun without sunblock, there has been an increased intake of vitamin D supplementation. One plant-based food that is a rich source of vitamin D is the sun-soaked mushroom, which makes vitamin D through sunlight, just like our bodies. Look for vitamin D mushrooms in the grocery store or try leaving your mushrooms exposed to sunlight for 20-30 minutes to boost the vitamin D content (not too long though, because they will shrivel on you!). 

To get started, try this tasty bone-building breakfast:

Tofu Scramble    

4 oz tofu
1 Tbsp coconut oil 
1/2 c broccoli
1/2 c mushrooms
1 c spinach
1/4 c slivered almonds
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp cilantro
side of salsa and avocado
sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in skillet. Add tofu with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, until tofu is browned. Add broccoli and mushrooms and cook with the tofu for 2-3 minutes. Toss in spinach, almonds, sesame seeds, and cilantro until the spinach is bright green and slightly cooked. Include a side of fresh salsa and avocado. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Total calcium= 694 mg
Total magnesium=365 mg
Plus vitamin D with the mushrooms (hard to say exact amount since it varies depending on how long the mushrooms were in sunlight)


End your meal with 1 oz of dark chocolate (equivalent to 2-3 nicobella truffles) for an added boost of magnesium :).