Your bones support your whole body, but you need to support your skeleton back. Since they’re mainly made of calcium, it’s easy to understand what you need to change about your diet to improve your bone health. The way your body handles this essential mineral, however, is more complicated than you might expect, so you’ll need to do more than just increase your calcium intake to enjoy better bone health with good nutrition.
In addition to calcium, bones also need vitamin D and magnesium to stay healthy. You need to source each of these nutrients in high quantities to protect your bone integrity, but finding vegan sources of vitamin D, especially, can be hard. Oddly enough, however, certain organisms on Earth strongly mimic our own vitamin D synthesis abilities, and you can source magnesium from plants. Check out the five foods you need to be eating to improve your bone health:
Just like human beings, mushrooms generate vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. While mycorrhizal fungi are admittedly weird, they have impressive nutritional benefits that are even more important for vegans.
Also known as winged beans, goa beans contain the highest calcium concentration of any legume.
It isn’t the milk or dairy in chocolate that makes it high in magnesium—it’s the cacao beans themselves. Even vegans can have chocolate if it’s 100%-cacao, which means it contains nothing but pure cacao beans.
Walnuts are great sources of alpha linolenic acid, a fatty acid that prevents bone breakdown. These tree nuts also contain plenty of essential nutrients to keep your bones strong and healthy.
High in iron and vitamin C, spinach also contains relatively high amounts of calcium, which makes this natural food perfect for boosting bone health.
Your body needs vitamin D to process calcium, and mushrooms are one of the only plant sources of this essential nutrient. Many mushrooms synthesise vitamin D, and exposure to ultraviolet light increases vitamin D levels in fungi even further.
You can eat edible mushrooms raw, cooked, or dried. It’s most common to cook mushrooms into dishes with other foods, but you can also snack on dried mushrooms on the go if you like the taste.
Many types of mushrooms mimic animal tissue. Fungi are the only known life forms aside from humans and synthesised yeast to synthesise vitamin D from sunlight, for instance. Mushrooms also contain B vitamins, also only commonly found in animal sources. It’s unclear how mushrooms came to have their impressive properties, but these powers are certainly under-appreciated.
You don’t have to be a professional chef to make mushroom burgers. Check out some recipes online, and serve up some vegan patties to all your friends.
Beans contain tons of nutrients, including calcium. Goa beans, however, contain the most calcium of any legume. If you’ve sworn off meat and dairy entirely, anxiety over how much calcium you eat can be a real concern, and adding goa beans to your diet can help ease your mind.
Goa beans are more like snap peas than they’re like black beans. Therefore, it’s best to use these beans to accentuate dishes instead of serving them as the main course.
Winged beans are relatively hard to cook, so they aren’t used much in Western food. They contain around twice the calcium present in pinto, black, or garbanzo beans, however, so they deserve wider acceptance.
Winged beans add something new to stir-fry that you probably haven’t tried before. Toss these long, green beans in with the rest of your ingredients when it’s time to pan fry your delicious meal.
Dark chocolate contains lots of magnesium, which your body needs to defend the calcium-dominant parts of your bones. 100%-cacao chocolate contains less calories, but you still get all the magnesium you need to maintain healthy bones.
The only rule to remember with chocolate is that it melts. As long as high temperatures aren’t a problem, you can snack on 100%-cacao chocolate cocoa nibs whenever and wherever you like.
Chocolate has gotten a bad name since it’s usually paired with dairy and sweeteners. The cacao part of chocolate, however, is very nutritious, and it’s worth incorporating into your diet if you don’t mind a little bit of bitterness.
You can make your own chocolate with cacao and your favourite sweetener. If you want to keep things simple, spread some raw honey on top of 100%-cacao wafers.
Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that’s good for bones. This fatty acid has a number of wide-ranging benefits, and walnuts also contain reasonably high concentrations of calcium. If you’re looking for a calcium-rich nut, however, almonds are the clear winner.
Walnuts are highly portable on their own, but they tend to break apart and get crushed. Consider baking your walnuts into confectionaries to make this fatty-acid-rich snack even easier to take with you on the go.
While it’s true that walnuts are extremely calorie-rich, they also contain lots of nutrients your body needs. In moderation, nuts can be very nutritious.
Crushed walnuts blend well with a base of rice or your choice of carb for a homemade protein bar recipe. Add some antioxidant goji berries for a tangy, nutritious punch.
While you’ll need more than just spinach to get your daily value of calcium, this leafy green contains more calcium than most other vegetables. Spinach also contains lots of other nutrients, and boiling it gets rid of oxalates, which reduce calcium bioavailability.
Spinach bakes well into savoury baked goods. The next time you crave something crunchy and salty, consider spinach as a great baking ingredient for calcium, vitamin C, and many other nutrients.
While other leafy greens, like kale and chard, have sharper tastes, spinach’s mild flavour profile makes it more eligible for sandwiches, baked goods, and smoothies.
Even if you’re averse to gluten, you can still make a delicious shepherd’s pie with nutritious spinach as a base. Popular gluten-free flour alternatives for the crust include almond, rice, and cassava.