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If there’s a guy who should be complaining about his bones and joints, it’s Sam “Sonny Bryant.”
He started lifting weights a lot later than most guys at age 44. But he was highly motivated. He needed a healthy way to deal with the stress of a failed marriage.
He decided to clean up his diet, go to the gym, and see what he could accomplish.
His bones and joints seemed to handle the shock of all the reps and sets. And his food choices helped him get lean and build muscle.
Now “Sonny” is in his 70s. He’s still active, lifts weights, and his bones and joints feel just fine. Credit his work ethic and decades of smart food choices.
If you want to keep your bones and joints healthy, strength training at least two days a week, at any age, can help. But it’s not enough.
Calcium and vitamin D
You also need to eat the right foods to strengthen your bones and joints. Calcium and vitamin D both play a critical role in building strong bones.
In fact, most adults need at need a minimum of 1,000 mg of calcium a day, and 600 mg of vitamin D a day, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium used to build strong bones. But a lot of adults don’t get enough of both, especially vitamin D, in their diet.
It’s one reason, osteoporosis or loss in bone density affects so many older people. But “Sonny” isn’t one of them.
Food for strong bones and joints
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some foods (like soda and sweets) have little to no nutritional value, and can actually weaken your bones and joints.
So what should you be eating? Add these 10 nutrient-dense foods to your diet to strengthen your bones and joints.
Some breakfast cereals are loaded with empty calories and added sugar. But others are actually healthy. Healthier cereals are made with whole grains vs. refined grains. And many are fortified with vitamin D. Read the food label to see if your breakfast cereal of choice contains added nutrients to support your bones and joints.
Your best option is fresh-caught tuna. But if you’re not close to the water to catch your own, or a market that carries it, canned tuna (in water) is a good choice too. One serving of tuna is packed with nearly half the vitamin D you need in a day. Try mixing salad greens with tuna, or make a tuna melt with a little cheese on whole-grain bread.
Choose the low-fat or non-fat option. And if you’re lactose intolerant try soy or almond milk. A glass of milk contains calcium and vitamin D. And it’s easy to fit into your diet with a bowl of or a smoothie.
You might not remember the spinach-loving cartoon character “Popeye,” but “Sonny” does. When this cartoon character rose to fame, so did spinach consumption around the world. And that’s a good thing. This leafy-green is a great source of calcium and other nutrients.
Here’s another good source of vitamin D and calcium. Yogurt. It’s a perfect breakfast food or snack. And it’s a common ingredient in healthy smoothie recipes. Choose a low-fat or non-fat option, and avoid yogurts that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
Need a drink to go with breakfast? Try a glass of orange juice. But read the food label first. Some orange juice is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and some isn’t. Pick one that is fortified with both. But don’t overdo it, orange juice is higher in calories and raises blood sugar faster than eating orange slices.
Sardines sometimes get a bad rap for being stinky or making your breath smell bad. But did you know sardines are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients? Canned sardines are packed with vitamin D and calcium, nutrients your body needs for strong bones and joints. Some people like sardines straight from the can. Adding sardines to pastas and salads is another option.
It’s called the “Incredible Edible Egg” for a reason. This clever marketing campaign developed by the American Egg Board a few years ago, helped highlight the fact that eggs are healthy. Egg whites get a lot of hype for being healthy. But the best source of vitamin D in an egg is in the yolk. Try scrambled eggs for breakfast, or make an omelet with fresh vegetables and a little cheese.
Instead of salad made from iceberg lettuce, swap those leaves with collard greens. You’ll give your salad a bigger pop of color for presentation. But the bigger benefit is this plant’s rich source of calcium. Just go easy on the salad dressing.
Tuna and sardines both made the list as good foods for stronger bones and joints. And there’s at least one more fish that should be part of your diet. Salmon. It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. But one serving also contains all the vitamin D you need for a day. Grill it, bake it. And look for ways to eat a couple servings of fish a week.
Want strong bones and joints? Eat right the right foods. Make time for strength training at least two days a week. And learn more about supplements for bones and joints.
- Augusta Chronicle TV. (2013). Sonny the 70-year-old bodybuilder. From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKJaZDGVNWA.
- American College of Sports Medicine. Council on Exercise. (2013). Resistance training for health and fitness. From: https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/resistance-training.pdf.
- National Institutes of Health. (2011). New recommended daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D. From: https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/winter11/articles/winter11pg12.html.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2016). Sodas, tea and coffee: Which can make your bones brittle? From: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/12/sodas-tea-coffee-can-make-bones-brittle/.