Functional Foods for Bone and Joint Health
Our bones are alive. They are constantly remodeling themselves based on our needs. The remodeling processes occurs due to specialized cells that build or remove bone. The bone builders are called osteoblasts and the bone removers are osteoclasts. Certain vitamins and minerals can signal osteoblasts or osteoclasts to start remodeling our bones. These include calcium, Vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin K, and boron.
Vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium have an interconnected relationship (like many of our micronutrients) when it comes to bone and joint health. Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium. Calcium combines with phosphorus to form calcium phosphate which is the main mineral found in bone. Calcium and magnesium work together to strengthen the bones. About 50-60% of the magnesium in our bodies is found in our bones. Magnesium is involved in bone formation and affects the levels of parathyroid hormones and vitamin D. Parathyroid hormone is released based on the blood levels of magnesium and calcium and signals the osteoclasts (removers) to go to work.
Vitamin D levels are linked to the function of the osteoblasts (builders). Vitamin C and Vitamin K have also been shown to stimulate the osteoblasts and inhibit the function of the osteoclasts. It makes sense that we would need more builders than removers to maintain our skeletal structure. Boron has been shown to strengthen our bones, as well. Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis have been linked to lower boron levels.
Collagen has been linked to optimal joint health. Our intestines absorb the collagen, then it accumulates in the joints and repairs the cartilage. This may provide an effective treatment for people with joint issues like osteoarthritis.
Obtaining these micronutrients in food is ideal, but sometimes a supplement is necessary (like Vitamin D). But here are some functional foods for bone and joint health. For collagen, think about bone broth, fish with the skin on, and chicken. Vitamin D is found in mushrooms, eggs, fish like salmon, herring, and tuna and cod liver oil.
Calcium can be found in grass-fed dairy, broccoli, spinach, avocado, almonds, and sesame seeds. Magnesium can be found in seeds like pumpkin or chia seeds, kelp, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, buckwheat, and dulse (which is a type of seaweed). Vitamin K can be found in broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, cabbage, asparagus, green beans, eggs, butter, and oats. Boron is found in avocados, raisins, apples, peaches, pears, peanuts, beans, and coffee.
Some of these micronutrients have also been shown to protect against osteoporosis (the thinning of bone) and reduce the risk of bone breaks in older individuals. These have also been shown to help with reducing pain from osteoarthritis. Incorporating some of these foods into your diet along with movement and exercise can help to strengthen your bones and joints.
Image: The Joyful Food Co.