If you want to keep your bones strong and healthy, here are some good foods to add to your diet.
When you think about what to eat to improve your bone health, a big glass of milk is probably the first thing that comes to mind.
Milk is a great source of calcium. And calcium, along with vitamin D, is a necessity for strong bones. But milk isn’t the only option for preventing osteoporosis — many different foods contain calcium and vitamin D and can help you build your bone strength. Take a look at your diet to see what foods you can add to your meals and be good to your bones.
Here are some suggestions of foods that improve bone health.
Calcium builds bones, strengthens them and slows the rate of bone loss. Dairy foods provide some of the best sources of calcium. While that includes milk, it also means that yogurt and cheese can benefit you. Choose low-fat or non-fat versions of these foods when you can.
If a lactose intolerance makes it difficult for you to eat dairy, you still have lots of choices. You can look for lactose-free dairy products or see if lactase enzyme tablets or drops can help. You can also buy juices, soy milk, cereals and snacks that are fortified with calcium. Canned fish — with bones — such as salmon and sardines or shrimp provide calcium, too.
And don’t forget about vegetables. The National Osteoporosis Foundation lists broccoli, collard greens, turnip greens, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage, dandelion greens and mustard greens as good options.
The National Institutes of Health keeps a chart on its web site with the recommended amounts of calcium by age group.
Vitamin D helps your bones by helping your body absorb calcium. Milk is usually fortified with vitamin D, and sometimes cereal, orange juice, soy milk and yogurt is as well. There aren’t many foods that provide natural sources of vitamin D, but you can get some from fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms.
Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, you run the risk of skin damage and cancer from exposure. Many people choose supplements or medications instead. You should check with your doctor.
Your bones can benefit from additional nutrients beyond calcium and vitamin D. Fruits and vegetables with lots of potassium, magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin C all can promote bone health. A well-balanced diet will ensure you get some of these nutrients daily, but if you worry about imbalances, you can consider taking a multivitamin. Multivitamins and supplements, however, cannot replace all the nutrients you get from food sources.
Other areas to watch:
- About 5 ounces of protein for women and 5.5 ounces for men can help improve bone health, but too much protein is detrimental, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
- Beans should be soaked in water for several hours to reduce the level of phytates, a substance that interferes with your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Too much sodium can cause you to lose calcium and contributes to bone loss.
- Heavy drinking can lead to bone loss.
The risks of osteoporosis increase with age, but people of all ages can benefit from a bone-friendly diet. If you have questions about osteoporosis or what else you can do to strengthen your bones, contact the Osteoporosis Treatment Program at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center at (305) 937-5802. We want to help, educate and support patients suffering from osteoporosis.