Spending more time at home during the quarantine period has given me a chance to experiment with new versions of familiar dishes and try out new recipes from those old cookbooks we’ve had on the shelf for years. Today, I’ll be sharing my favourite bone healthy foods – I hope you get some ideas to recharge your daily meals with nutrient dense foods.

Why bone health is important to me A few years ago genetic testing confirmed for me why I have a strong family history of osteoporosis. I have a genetic predisposition for Vitamin D deficiency, calcium deficiency and lactose intolerance. On top of that, I have a delayed-type sensitivity to dairy proteins. This knowledge helped me clarify my indigestion, skin and immune issues and reminded me of my grandmother struggling with bone fractures and osteoporosis medications. Since then, I’ve been looking for ways to optimize my nutrition for bone health and share this information with others.

Keep in mind that bone health is dependent on multiple factors like exercise, immune health, strength of digestive enzymes and stomach acid, sunlight exposure, pH balance and gut flora; but today I’ll be sharing my favourite non dairy foods that can help support strong bones.

Some important nutrients I look for in bone healthy foods include: collagen, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamin C, D and K.

Some of my favourite Bone Healthy foods:

Sesame seeds (or tahini) contain more calcium in 4 tablespoons than in a cup of milk! It’s easy to sprinkle on to any dishes and makes creamy non-dairy dressings that you can toss with veggies.

Leafy greens contain bone healthy calcium, magnesium and vitamin C. I definitely aim for a variety of different leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, arugula etc. as each have different nutrient profiles and varying amounts of the calcium-blocking compounds (like oxalates). Eating these raw helps to preserve the heat sensitive vitamins like Vitamin C while lightly cooking also helps with easier digestion and reducing some of the oxalates so a combination of different preparations is probably best.

Broccoli contains calcium, magnesium, vitamin K1, vitamin C, detox-friendly sulfur compounds and, surprisingly, some protein.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found in bone, joints, tendon, muscle, skin and other connective tissues. Collagen and gelatin (a broken-down form of collagen) has become a popular supplement (usually in a powder form). We can also make our own bone broth to get collagen in our diet (homemade bone broth also has extra bone minerals).

Organ meats are not popular in the Western diet but can be a super nutrient dense protein. We can find iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins that are hard to find in the rest of our diets. Look for high quality sources like pasture-raised chicken livers or grass fed beef liver. I like to saute chicken liver with onions and veggies.

Fermented soy products like natto and miso are known for probiotic benefits but also have hard-to-find Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 helps direct calcium to the right place (ie. to our bones) instead of depositing in our blood vessels. So fermented soy intake is linked to less hardening of blood vessels and lower mortality. In addition regular natto intake is linked to less osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women. For this reason, if you tolerate soy, I recommend including organic, non-GMO fermented soy into your diet.

Vitamin K2 is also found in aged cheeses. And Vitamin K1 is converted to K2 by our gut bacteria – another reason to invest in healthy gut flora. Lastly, if supplementing with Vitamin D, look for a product that also contains Vitamin K2.

Nutrient dense foods are an important part of building strong bones and joints and we’re not limited to dairy products. I hope you can incorporate a couple new foods for your bone health. If you’re trying natto or miso for the first time, let me know what you think!

Dr. Carin

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