"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below."
As supplements such as collagen and glucosamine grow in popularity, many of us are quickly learning that we don’t need to live in pain from weak bones and creaky joints. Although certain supplements help maintain bone and joint health, the key to keeping your body strong starts in the kitchen. A well-balanced diet focused on key nutrients is the first step in pursuing pain-free running and promoting bone and joint health.
What nutrients are important for bones and joints?
You need more than a glass of milk to protect your bones and joints from the normal wear and tear that comes with aging. Getting the recommended amount of the following nutrients on a daily basis can protect your joints in the long run.
Calcium: “This mineral serves many purposes in the body, but it’s essential for strong bones,” says Anthony Kouri, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Toledo Medical Center. “It’s not a nutrient that occurs naturally in the body and must be consumed through food,” he adds. Adults need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily.
Vitamin D: “It’s necessary for the absorption of calcium, and individuals who lack this vitamin can have very soft bones and even develop limb deformities,” says Kouri. The recommendation for vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) per day.
Collagen: Found in animal connective tissue, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s found in skin, muscles, bones, and tendons, and it is a nutrient being studied for maintaining joint health and treating arthritis pain. There is no daily recommendation for collagen, but meat eaters get plenty on a daily basis.
Vitamin C: This immune-boosting nutrient promotes collagen synthesis. “In addition, vitamin C stimulates the cells that build bone, and it enhances vitamin D’s ability to absorb calcium,” says Kouri. Vitamin C recommendations vary from 75 to 120 milligrams, based on gender and pregnancy status.
Omega-3s: This healthy fatty acid has been shown to lower the levels of inflammation in the body. Since running is a common cause of acute inflammation, eating optimal levels of omega-3s can protect the joints. There is no set recommendation for the amount of omega-3s you should have in a day, but the National Institute of Health recommends 1.1 grams of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid—an essential fatty acid your body can’t make on its own) for women and 1.6 grams of ALA for men.
Magnesium: About 60 percent of total magnesium is stored in the bones, and not eating enough can lead to osteoporosis. It also plays a role in activating vitamin D.
Vitamin K: This nutrient acts as a shuttle for calcium to get to the bone, explains Kouri. Adult men need 120 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K per day, while women need 90 mcg.
Luckily, these nutrients aren’t hard to come by. Incorporate these 11 foods into your weekly diet to reap the running benefits.
This vibrant yellow, peppery spice contains a compound called curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been studied for its joint health potential, and research suggests it may relieve the symptoms associated with arthritis. You can add turmeric to everything from scrambled eggs to lattes to roasted veggies.
2. Bone Broth
Because bone broth is made by boiling bones, it’s rich in collagen and protein. Many people use it as a base for soups or sauces, and some even choose to drink it like hot tea.
[Build a killer midsection in the kitchen for effortless miles on the road with Eat for Abs!]
“These purple gems contain potassium and magnesium, as well as vitamin K,” says Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., New York City-based dietitian and nutrition partner with Sunsweet. “Research in the journal Osteoporosis International shows that eating five to six prunes daily may help prevent bone loss,” Gorin adds. Although dried prunes may not be in your daily repertoire, try eating them as a snack or using them to sweeten baked goods.
4. Fortified Milk
Everyone knows that the calcium in milk does a body good, but fortified milk is also one of the rare food sources of Vitamin D, according to Gorin. “Getting enough vitamin D may also help prevent hyperparathyroidism—an excess of the parathyroid hormone in the blood that may cause osteoporosis, joint pain, and other issues,” says Gorin.
Don’t eat dairy? That’s okay, since a ½-cup serving of tofu has a little less than half of your daily calcium needs. And as a bonus, research suggests eating soy may reduce joint pain. Tofu is easy to cook and takes on the flavor of any sauce or marinade.
These dark, sweet berries are packed with two beneficial nutrients—polyphenols and vitamin C. First, research suggests the polyphenols in blueberries may reduce joint pain from osteoarthritis. And a serving (a handful or a cup) of blueberries provides 16 percent of your daily vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production.
7. Bell Peppers
Vitamin C is usually synonymous with citrus, but one medium bell pepper contains more than a day’s worth of this vitamin. In addition to stimulating collagen, vitamin C is also an inflammation-fighting antioxidant. Those two things combined make these veggies ingredients great for joints.
8. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are loaded with both magnesium and potassium, two important nutrients for bone health. “Magnesium activates vitamin D, so low levels can affect bone health,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., author of Fertility Foods Cookbook: 100+ Recipes to Nourish Your Body. “Plus, potassium also helps neutralize acids in the body that cause calcium to escape from bones,” adds Shaw.
9. Bok Choy
“Bok choy (and other dark leafy greens) are a great way to get more calcium in your diet without having to go the dairy route,” says Shaw. Plus, leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamin K, which aids with bone formation.
Mushrooms are one of the few food sources of vitamin D, and one study found that eating white button mushrooms may be as helpful as taking a vitamin D supplement. As an added bonus, research suggests that using mushrooms as a substitute for beef is a good way to reduce calories in your diet.
While not always the most popular food, sardines are loaded with inflammation-fighting omega-3s, bone-building calcium, and its side kick vitamin D. Either you love them or hate them, but you can’t deny that this tiny fish packs a nutritional punch. Try them on a seedy bread, like the Scandinavians do, or add them to a salad. If you really hate sardines, salmon is a good alternative.
You Might Also Like