I have always been impressed by the fact that the largest animals, in need of having the biggest, strongest bones, are herbivores. Horses, giraffes, and elephants, all weighing well over 1,000 pounds, sustain their bone strength by eating vegetation. That’s right vegetables, not milk! Horses eat mainly grass and other plants, giraffes browse on the leaves of bushes and trees, and elephants graze on grass, tree leaves, flowers, wild fruits, twigs, shrubs, bamboo and bananas.
Vegetables are often overlooked as an important component for those wanting to maintain or build strong bones, yet they should be a staple in every diet for those concerned about bone loss. Vegetables, in particular leafy greens, contain not only calcium, but also vitamin K, magnesium and other minerals and nutrients needed to build bone. One cup of green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, and kale can provide you with just as much calcium as 1 cup of milk.
Plant foods are also an excellent source of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps to limit excessive demineralization of bone as well as activates osteocalcin, the main protein in bone, which secures calcium molecules inside of the bone. Green leafy vegetables along with nuts, seeds, and legumes are among the best food sources of magnesium. About 50 to 60% of a person’s magnesium is stored in the bone, and as such, it plays a key role in bone metabolism.
A diet rich in plant foods also helps to maintain an alkaline/acid balance in the body (called the pH). The pH of blood is critical to sustain life and when the pH of the blood starts getting low (becomes more acidic) the body has to find a way to increase it, or make it more alkaline. Calcium, one of the main alkaline minerals, gets released from the bones to restore the acid/base balance. So a diet high in foods that increase the acidity in our blood can cause leeching of calcium from our bones, making them weak and fragile. Increasing vegetables and greens in your diet will provide the key alkalizing minerals that maintain a healthy pH and strong bones.
What is the most important food to strengthen your bones and keep them healthy? Green leafy vegetables! Eat like horse and you will have strong bones for life!