5 Ways to Build Strong Bones
Osteoporosis, a condition of weak and fragile bones, is thought to be a problem for the aging. The reality is there is plenty we can do throughout our lifetime to make sure our bones stay healthy and strong as we age. While many of us associate strong bones with our mother’s or grandmother’s recommendation to “finish your milk” at mealtime, there’s a lot you can do to keep your bones strong and lower your risk of osteoporosis.
- Make Healthy Food Choices: Your bones need a variety of nutrients, including calcium, and vitamins C, D, and K. Calcium is the largest component of bone mineral and found to be a nutrient missing in the diet of many Americans. In fact, numerous studies show low calcium intake throughout life is linked to low bone mass and broken bones. Dairy products are ideal in providing the right amounts of calcium and other essential nutrients in one convenient package, specifically vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12 and zinc. The major source of dietary calcium in the American diet is milk and other dairy foods like yogurt and cheese. Calcium is also present in some dark green vegetables, legumes, and fortified foods including juices and soy products.
- Make Physical Activity a Priority: Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle is considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. In addition to a calcium-rich diet, regular weight-bearing exercise, like walking or jogging, is essential for the development and maintenance of strong bones. Muscle-strengthening exercises such as lifting weights, using elastic exercise bands and weight machines are also good for strengthening bones and preventing fractures.
- Don’t Forget the Vitamin D! Enough vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. We get vitamin D through foods we eat—such as fatty fish like mackerel, salmon and tuna, and in some fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereals. Our bodies can also produce vitamin D through exposure to sunlight.
- Limit Foods that Prevent Calcium Absorption: While many of us start our day with a cup of coffee and end it with a glass of red wine, some studies have shown that excess caffeine and alcohol consumption can cause bone loss or interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Instead of cutting them out of your diet completely, stick to these dietary recommendations: for alcohol, that means one drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men. Like alcohol, enjoy your cup of joe, but keep it in moderation!
- Role-Model Positive Eating Behaviors: There is a clear link between the eating habits of parents, and the food preferences and nutrient intakes of their children. When parents eat better, drink more milk and eat more fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods, so do their children. Chances are if you are including more calcium-rich foods in your family’s meal plan AND everyone is enjoying the same meal, then your bodies and bones benefit from it!
Whether you are young and still building bone or older and trying to preserve it, these simple steps can help keep your bones healthy and strong.