You know that calcium is critical to strengthen teeth and prevent osteoporosis—but it’s not the only nutrient that you need for healthy teeth and bones. Magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, copper, zinc, and other nutrients play a crucial role in maintaining bone density.
Protein is also important—while it was once thought that a high-protein diet caused the body to lose calcium, more recent research suggests that a high intake of protein actually boosts intestinal calcium absorption. Several studies also point to a link between protein intake and improved bone mineral density.
Plenty of plant foods are rich sources of calcium and other supportive nutrients for vegan or dairy-free diets. Keep your skeleton healthy and strong with these seven bone-building foods.
1 Collard greens. Especially important for people who don’t eat dairy, collard greens are an excellent source of calcium, with about 270 mg per cup of cooked collards. They’re also high in magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and other nutrients needed for bone health. Turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens, and kale are also great sources of calcium and other bone-building nutrients. While spinach is rich in calcium, it’s also high in oxalates, compounds that are thought to inhibit calcium absorption, though studies are mixed.
Recipe Tips: Simmer chopped collards in broth with diced sweet potatoes, onions, and white beans; combine shredded collards, carrots, green apples and red cabbage with a tahini-honey dressing for a colorful slaw; toss torn collard leaves with olive oil and garlic salt, roast until crispy, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
2 Cottage cheese. This unsung hero of the dairy world is rich in calcium—one cup has 138 mg, or about 14 percent of the RDI. Cottage cheese is extremely high in protein (25 grams per cup) and selenium, which may play a part in bone health. Some studies suggest that calcium from dairy is more efficiently absorbed by the body than calcium from other foods.
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