We use our bones and joints every day, but they can easily deteriorate over time. Therefore, it is essential to keep them healthy in order to stay active and prevent conditions such as osteoporosis. The best strategy is to have a balanced diet with an adequate intake of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C. Here are five foods to keep your bones and joints in the best shape possible:

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Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are naturally rich in calcium (a glass of milk contains about 300mg calcium). Healthy eating guidelines recommend skim or semi-skim milk in order to limit the intake of saturated fat. If you are lactose intolerant, you can choose lactose-free milk, soy milk, rice milk, oat milk or almond milk. However, their nutrition profiles aren't equal. Only soy milk can provide a similar amount of protein as regular milk whereas rice, oat or almond milk provides very little protein. When choosing milk alternatives, read the nutrition labels and choose products that are high in calcium and low in sugar.

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Chinese broccoli

Green vegetables such as Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage and kale and are moderately high in calcium and vitamin C. Spinach provides calcium, but the absorption is poor because it is also high in oxalic acid. One cup of cooked Chinese broccoli contains 88mg calcium and 24.8mg vitamin C. Our body requires Vitamin C to produce collagen, which helps strengthen our bones and cartilage. Fruits and vegetables, in particular oranges, grapefruits, red and green peppers, and kiwifruits, are the best sources of vitamin C.

See also: 5 Foods To Eat For Healthy Skin

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Tofu can have a high calcium content if calcium sulphate is used for coagulation, as the nutritional content of tofu varies widely depending on how it is made. Generally, the firmer the tofu, the higher it is in calcium, protein and fat. Research has found that calcium absorption from calcium-set tofu is comparable to that from cow's milk.

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A 3-ounce serving of oil-canned sardines contains 325mg calcium and 164IU vitamin D. The majority of the calcium is found in their soft, edible bones. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and therefore plays a key role in bone health. Sardines are also rich in omega-3 which can reduce inflammation in joints and may help control joint pain and morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis. Try to eat oily fish (salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, mackerel and sardines, etc.) at least twice a week. Alternatively, consume chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts or canola oil as plant-based sources of omega-3.

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Mushrooms can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, similar to how our skin synthesises the vitamin in response to sun exposure. According to the USDA Food Composition Database, white mushrooms with UV exposure contain 1046 IU of vitamin D per 100g, while those without UV exposure contained just 7 IU. Research found that vitamin D in mushrooms can be boosted by at least 150 IU (over 600 IU in many cases) after 15 minutes of sun exposure. When UV intensity is lower, similar increases can be achieved after 30 to 60 minutes. Might be a good idea to start putting your mushrooms in the sun before consuming them for better bone health.

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Extra tips

- The majority of the vitamin D in our body is made when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Generally, 5 to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure two to three times per week during summer months is sufficient for most people.

- Maintaining a healthy body weight is important, as being overweight increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis, while being underweight increases the risk of developing osteoporosis.

See also: 5 Flat-Belly Foods To Eat This Summer

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