Bones and joints are responsible for keeping the human body strong and moving, but they can deteriorate over time and with heavy physical activity. Whether you are growing, aging or regularly active, it is essential to maintain your bone and joint health in order to stay fit and prevent the onset of degenerative conditions such as osteoporosis. Eating foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C and selenium will help keep your bones and joints healthy.
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Milk or Milk Alternatives
Calcium is important because of its role in building and maintaining strong bones, thereby promoting healthy joint function, and milk is one of the best sources of calcium available. One cup of milk, skim or whole, contains more than 300 milligrams of calcium, about 30 percent of your recommended daily intake. Some milk producers fortify milk with added vitamin D, which is important because it promotes calcium absorption. For the lactose intolerant, there are many milk alternatives of comparative nutritional value; for example, 1 cup of soy milk or 1 cup of almond milk has 300 milligrams of calcium.
Yogurt, like milk, is rich in calcium, and certain brands contain essential vitamin D to promote absorption. One 8-ounce serving of yogurt contains approximately 400 milligrams of calcium, though brands and types of yogurt differ. Yogurt is also a good source of protein, which helps build and repair tissue in the body. Choose plain low-fat yogurt when possible; yogurt with added fruit or flavoring usually contains less calcium and protein.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables, such as collard greens, spinach and kale, tend to be moderately high in calcium and high in vitamin C and selenium. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for the protection and function of cartilage in the body because it provides cushioning and support for major joints. Selenium, too, is thought to support bone and joint health, because it has antioxidant properties that protect against damage and play a critical role in producing new cells. One cup of cooked collard greens contains more than 250 milligrams of calcium, about 25 percent of your RDA, and 35 milligrams of vitamin C, more than 30 percent of your RDA.
Breakfast cereals are often fortified with vitamins and minerals to make them more nutritious. Read nutrition labels carefully, and look for cereal with at least 20 percent of your RDA for calcium and vitamin D. For example, 1 cup of fortified cereal could contain up to 100 percent of your RDA for calcium and vitamin C and 25 percent or more of your RDA for vitamin D. Eating 1 cup of a cereal rich in these nutrients with a cup of fortified milk provides the daily value of almost every nutrient necessary for bone and joint health.