Looking after your bones
Updated: Sep 6, 2018
There are many factors that contribute to good bone health. Dietary calcium, along with adequate vitamin D, are both crucial in order to obtain Peak Bone Mass, and minimise the loss of bone mineral density with age.
Have you heard the saying that "osteoporosis is a disease of the young that manifests in the old"?
During the first two decades of our lives, we have the opportunity to build good strong bones. A diet that includes the recommended minimum two serves of dairy products a day (or calcium-fortified non-dairy alternatives), as well as a variety of non-dairy calcium-rich foods, will supply our bones with the calcium they need. Vitamin D, obtained from sensible sun exposure, as well as from oily fish, egg yolks and fortified dairy products, is essential for our bodies to make use of the calcium we eat.
Other factors have a positive effect on bone health: a diet rich in vegetables and fruit provides a host of beneficial vitamins and minerals, ensuring adequate dietary protein, and participating in regular weight-bearing exercise (walking, running, resistance training) are all important.
There are also lifestyle factors that can negatively impact bone health: a diet high in salt, regular consumption of carbonated beverages (especially cola), low body weight, smoking, excessive caffeine consumption, and alcohol intake over guidelines.
Over 99% of the calcium in our bodies is contained within our bones and teeth.
As we age, we experience a loss of bone mineral density, but this can be minimised by maintaining a healthy, calcium-rich diet, and regular physical activity. As you can imagine, if we have achieved a good Peak Bone Mass (PBM) by our early twenties, we have built up some pretty big deposits in our "calcium bank", so the small withdrawals that come naturally with age won't have such a detrimental effect on our health. There is no cure for osteoporosis - prevention is the key.
Some examples of calcium-rich foods:
Milk, yoghurt and cheese: low-fat versions are preferable, to minimise the intake of saturated fat
Dairy alternatives: ensure these have been fortified with calcium. Some non-dairy milks are little more than sweetened water. There are some good fortified soy milks around that also contain other important vitamins and minerals for bone health.
Tinned fish: sardines and salmon eaten with the bones is best.
Fortified breakfast cereals and multigrain breads.
Beans and chickpeas.
Broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, spinach, kale.
Nuts (especially almonds) dried fruit (especially figs) and sesame seeds.
For further information, check out the following links: https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/search/?q=bones