7 foods that are good for your bones and joints

As we age, we lose calcium and other minerals from our bones, causing bone density to decrease, making bones thinner and more brittle. Women are particularly vulnerable during menopause due to the drop in estrogen, which weakens bones further.

Weight-bearing exercises such as weight training, jogging, climbing stairs, and playing tennis can help counteract this problem by increasing our calcium storage, which is crucial for strengthening bones. Eating calcium-rich foods also plays a significant role in maintaining bone health.

The recommended daily calcium intake is 700mg for all adults, increasing to 1,200mg for post-menopausal women. Nutritionist and personal trainer Sarah O’Neill shares seven of the best calcium sources:

1. Tofu
Tofu is an excellent calcium source, with about 200mg in a 60g serving. If you dislike its wobbly texture, try scrambling soft tofu with zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, and ground spices for a delicious high-protein, low-fat dish. Alternatively, use firm tofu in stir-fries.

2. Edamame or Soybeans
Edamame beans are packed with 200mg of calcium per serving. They are available fresh or frozen at supermarkets and make a great on-the-go snack.

3. Bony Fish
Fish such as sardines, pilchards, and canned salmon contain up to a third of our daily calcium needs thanks to their tiny, edible bones. They also provide omega-3s for brain and heart health and help with vitamin D intake, which is necessary for calcium absorption. Serve them with a green salad or stuffed in a pita with leaves and cucumber.

4. Okra
Known as ladies’ fingers due to their shape, okra is often used in African stews or Asian dishes and contains around 82mg of calcium per serving. Available in most international supermarkets, try it in a curry or soup – the longer you cook it, the gooier the texture!

5. Green Leafy Vegetables
Vegetables like broccoli, kale, bok choy, and spring greens are high in calcium (around 245mg in a serving of kale) and provide vitamin K and folate, which are essential for bone strength. Steam them lightly alongside fish or chicken seasoned with spices or citrus.

6. Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt
Dairy products are the richest and best-known sources of calcium, with a serving providing between 150-250mg. Skimmed milk contains more calcium than whole milk, but avoid having it with caffeine as it can reduce calcium absorption. Hard cheeses contain more calcium than soft ones, with parmesan being the highest.

7. Calcium-Fortified Foods
Calcium-fortified products such as cereals, breads, and drinks like orange juice are excellent sources. For those on dairy-free diets, oat, rice, and soy milks are often fortified with calcium.

Don’t Forget Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, and the best source is sunlight. Being outside for just 15 minutes three times a week during the warmer months should suffice for most people. The NHS advises elderly, pregnant, and breastfeeding women to consider a 10mcg vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months.

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