Healthy Bones: The Best Foods For Strong Bones

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The toe bone is connected to the heel bone, the heel bone is connected to the ... kale?

Not quite, but calcium-enriched foods helps fuel the 99 per cent of calcium that's tucked away in our bones and teeth. Most of us already know drinking milk or eating cheese builds strong bones, and some health experts say stronger bones can also mean stronger health.

"Optimal bone health may provide a few other health benefits for us. It may support and maintain a healthy body weight, support muscle foundation and help optimize blood clotting abilities if you get injured," says Rosanna Lee, professional nutrition educator and community health promoter based in Toronto, Ont.

And besides dairy products, many other uncommon 'calcium foods' include tofu, almonds, seaweed and watercress. But before you go stuffing your face with leafy greens, Lee says calcium isn't the only way to get stronger bones.

"It is important to think about calcium, but we should not limit ourselves to just one element. Proper calcium absorption and bone health involves the work of other important components like vitamin D, K, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium," she tells The Huffington Post Canada.

Maintaining bone health is also important to prevent medical conditions like osteoporosis. The condition causes bones to weaken and become thin over time, according to WebMD. In fact, fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attacks, stroke and breast cancer combined, according to Osteoporosis Canada. And at least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.

And preventing these falls and fractures starts with our diets. Lee says age is one of the biggest factors of bone health, because as we age, our bones tend to lose the ability to absorb much-needed nutrients. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause can also dictate the amount of calcium we need. If you need a reference, Health Canada has laid out these guidelines for our daily recommended intake.

Ready to help your bones? Here are the 10 best foods for bone health:

10 Foods For Strong Bones
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Soy Milk:
THE GOOD STUFF: Essential fatty acids, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals
WHY IT WORKS: "This is a great choice for people with lactose-intolerance. Soy contains phytoestrogen, which promotes calcium absorption in your body to prevent the loss of bone mass," says Rosanna Lee, professional nutrition educator and community health promoter based in Toronto, Ont.

Dairy Products
THE GOOD STUFF: Helps maintain healthy blood pressure and blood cells, generates energy, maintains nerve tissue function, promotes healthy immunity, and promotes good vision and skin
WHY IT WORKS: Milk, yogurt and cheese products are easy to find at grocery stores and can be added to most meals and snacks, Lee says. And the calcium from dairy products, when compared to other sources, is absorbed more easily by our bodies.

Fortified Cereals:
THE GOOD STUFF: Source of fibre, prevents and relieves constipation, helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk for heart disease and diabetes
WHY IT WORKS: "Although not commonly thought to be a major source of calcium, many cereals today are fortified with calcium and other essential nutrients for optimal health," Lee says.

THE GOOD STUFF: Sardines have omega-3 fatty acids that have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis, and promote brain function for your memory
WHY IT WORKS: We all know fish is good for bone and brain health, but three ounces of sardines have about 325 mg of calcium. But be careful, many canned fish products often contain too much salt.

THE GOOD STUFF: Tofu has been known to prevent breast cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease
WHY IT WORKS: Made from the soya beans, tofu can be an excellent source of calcium if you are lactose-intolerant or trying out a vegetarian or vegan diet. "A half cup of firm tofu can provide as much as 250 mg of calcium with very few calories," Lee adds.

THE GOOD STUFF: One of nature's superfoods, salmon is packed with calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
WHY IT WORKS: Besides being good for your brain and your bones, salmon is often the healthier non-vegetarian alternative to red meats, Lee adds.

THE GOOD STUFF: Provides 5 grams of protein, and essential nutrients like iron, magnesium, zinc and folate
WHY IT WORKS: Tahini is a calcium-rich paste made from roasted sesame seeds.Two tablespoons of tahini has about 125 mg of calcium — similar to the calcium found in approximately half a cup of milk.

Green Vegetables:
THE GOOD STUFF: Leafy greens provide good sources of folate, vitamin K and other nutrients needed to build strong bones
WHY IT WORKS: Vegetables like broccoli, collard greens, kale, bok choy and turnips are easily absorbed by our bodies as well.

Calcium-Fortified Juices:
THE GOOD STUFF: Source of vitamin C needed for growth and tissue repair, and prevent free radical damage in the body
WHY IT WORKS: These days, many companies make calcium-infused juices to sneak in that extra amount of nutrients.

Calcium Supplements:
THE GOOD STUFF: Can be easily consumed before or after meals
WHY IT WORKS: Not necessarily considered 'a food', but sometimes, you may not have the time. "Calcium supplements are often recommended by doctors, dietitians and other certified healthcare professionals as a way to promote bone health," Lee says.

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