Food for healthy bones–Healthy body Healthy bones are essential for a healthy body. If your children’s or parent’s bones are not healthy, then their health can be compromised in many different ways. Weak bones can lead to fractures and Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when bone mass and quality deteriorate, leading to weak bones and an increased risk of bone fracture. The bone in the spine, hips, and wrists breaks easily, causing the patient a lot of pain.
Food for the healthy bones
A healthy balanced diet will help you build healthy bones from an early age and maintain them throughout your life.
You need sufficient calcium to keep your bones healthy and vitamin D to help your body absorb calcium.
Poor bone health can cause conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis and increase the risk of breaking a bone from a fall later in life.
You should be able to get all the nutrients you need for healthy bones by eating a balanced diet.
A good diet is only one of the building blocks for healthy bones, which also includes exercise and avoiding certain risk factors for osteoporosis.
Adults need 700mg of calcium a day. You should be able to get all the calcium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
Good sources of calcium include:
- milk, cheese and other dairy foods
- green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach
- soya beans
- plant-based drinks (such as soya drink) with added calcium
- bread and anything made with fortified flour
- fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and pilchards
Although spinach contains a lot of calcium, it also contains oxalate, which reduces calcium absorption, and it is therefore not a good source of calcium.
Adults need 10 micrograms (400 International Units or IU) of vitamin D a day.
It’s difficult to get all the vitamin D we need from our diet and we get most of our vitamin D from the action of the sun on our skin.
From late March/April to the end of September, you can make vitamin D from sunlight by having short daily periods of sun exposure without sunscreen. However, everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter when we cannot make vitamin D from sunlight.
For babies and children, see vitamins for children.
Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D, and the Department of Health and Social Care recommends that these people should take a daily 10 microgram (400IU) vitamin D supplement all year round. These groups are:
- people who are not often outdoors, for example if they are frail, housebound or living in a care home
- people who usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors
- people with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin
Good sources of vitamin D:
- oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
- egg yolks
- fortified foods, such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements as well as osteoporosis drug treatments if they have concerns that your calcium intake may be low.
Find out more about treating osteoporosis.
Women lose bone more rapidly for a number of years after the menopause when their ovaries almost stop producing oestrogen, which has a protective effect on bones.
There are no specific calcium or vitamin D recommendations for the menopause, however a healthy balanced diet, including calcium, summer sunlight and vitamin D supplements, will help slow down the rate of bone loss.
Non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt), but vegans will need to get it from other foods.
Good sources of calcium for vegans include:
- fortified soya, rice and oat drinks
- soya beans
- calcium-set tofu
- sesame seeds and tahini
- brown and white bread (in the UK calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
- dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots
The vegan diet contains little, if any, vitamin D without fortified foods or supplements but, for everyone, sunlight on the skin in spring and summer is the main source of vitamin D. Remember to cover up or protect your skin before it starts to turn red or burn (see how to make vitamin D from sunlight).
Other vegan sources of vitamin D are:
- fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and plant-based drinks such as soya drink (with vitamin D added)
- vitamin D supplements
Read more about sources of calcium and vitamin D in the vegan diet.
During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, women who follow a vegan diet need to make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals for their child to develop healthily.
Read about being vegetarian or vegan and pregnant for more information.
If you’re bringing up your baby or child on a vegan diet, you need to ensure they get a wide variety of foods to provide the energy and nutrients they need for growth.
Read baby and toddler meal ideas for more information.
What you should know about taking calcium to boost your nutrients
Experts agree that the ideal way to get the nutrients you need to stay healthy is from food. But when it comes to taking calcium, some people may not find it practical or possible to meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) from diet alone. For adults, the RDI is 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily, which rises to 1,200 mg per day for women over age 50 and men over age 70.
If your doctor advises you to take a calcium supplement, how do you choose among the dizzying array of available choices, which include pills, chewable tablets, flavored chews, and liquids? The following information may help you decide.
What form of calcium?
The calcium in supplements is found in combination with another substance, typically carbonate or citrate. Each has benefits and downsides. Calcium carbonate supplements tends to be the best value, because they contain the highest amount of elemental calcium (about 40% by weight). Because calcium carbonate requires stomach acid for absorption, it’s best to take this product with food. Most people tolerate calcium carbonate well, but some people complain of mild constipation or feeling bloated. Some well-known calcium carbonate products include Caltrate, Viactiv Calcium Chews, Os-Cal, and Tums.
Calcium citrate supplements are absorbed more easily than calcium carbonate. They can be taken on an empty stomach and are more readily absorbed by people who take acid-reducing heartburn medications. But because calcium citrate is only 21% calcium, you may need to take more tablets to get your daily requirement. Calcium citrate products include Citracal and GNC Calcimate Plus 800.
How much calcium per serving?
Reading the labels with an eye toward cost and convenience may help you sift through your options. Check the serving size and the “% Daily Value” for calcium and multiply the percentage by 10 to find out how much elemental calcium the product contains. For example, if the label says a serving of the product contains 40% of the Daily Value, it has 400 mg of elemental calcium.
While products that yield a high amount of calcium may seem to be the best bet at first blush, they may not serve you best. Because your body has difficulty absorbing more than 500 mg of calcium at a time, more of the mineral may go to waste. So, while you may think that you’ve met your daily requirements by taking that 1,000-mg calcium pill, you may actually be only halfway to your target. Calculate your cost per serving based on how many tablets or chews the package contains, and consider whether you might find it inconvenient to take several tablets a day.
Here are some final tips for choosing and taking calcium supplements.
- Avoid products made from unrefined oyster shell, bone meal, dolomite, or coral, as they may contain lead or other toxic metals.
- Don’t exceed the daily dose recommended by the manufacturer—doing so increases the risk for side effects.
- If you take iron or zinc supplements, tetracycline antibiotics, or levothyroxine (used to treat hypothyroidism), take them several hours before or after takingcalcium to avoid potential negative interactions.
- Make sure you’re also getting enough vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. If you aren’t getting enough from sunlight, your diet, or your multivitamin, you may want to choose a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D.
Who develops osteoporosis?
According to the National Institutes of Health, half of all women over age 50 and a quarter of men older than age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Post-menopausal white and Asian women are at the highest risk for osteoporosis. About 25% of women with osteoporosis will develop a vertebral deformity, and 15% will break a hip. Osteoporosis also causes broken hips in men, although not as often as in women. Hip fractures are associated with an increased risk of death within the year after the bone break.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Not enough calcium in the diet.
- Age over 50.
- Small, thin body build.
- Family history of osteoporosis.
- Being a white or Asian woman.
- Use of certain medications such as breast cancer treatments, seizure medications, steroids.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
Symptoms of bone loss do not occur until osteoporosis develops. Even then, in its early stages, osteoporosis may not cause any symptoms. Symptoms that develop as osteoporosis worsens may include:
- Breaking bones easily.
- Back pain.
- Stooped posture.
- Gradual loss of height.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
The outward signs of osteoporosis (height loss, easily broken bones, dowager’s hump) combined with a patient’s gender and age are strong signs that the patient has osteoporosis. A technology called dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the state-of-the-art technique for measuring bone mineral density (how much calcium is in the bones) and to diagnose osteoporosis.
How can osteoporosis be prevented?
To promote lifelong healthy bones and reduce calcium loss:
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D throughout your life.
- Enjoy regular exercise, especially weight-bearing activity like walking or jogging.
- Don’t smoke.
- Go easy on the caffeine and alcohol.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a bone density screening by DXA in all women aged 65 years or older. They also recommended a screening test for women under the age of 65 who are at risk for fractures. This test shows the strength of the bones so that preventative measures against fractures can be started if necessary.
Calcium content of various foods
- Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 415 mg per serving.
- Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 6 ounces 375 mg per serving.
- Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces 338–384 mg per serving.
- Mozzarella, part skim, 1.5 ounces 333 mg per serving.
- Sardines, canned in oil, with bones, 3 ounces 325 mg per serving.
- Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces 307 mg per serving.
- Milk, nonfat, 8 ounces 299 mg per serving.
- Milk, reduced-fat (2% milk fat), 8 ounces 293 mg per serving.
- Milk, buttermilk, 8 ounces 282–350 mg per serving.
- Milk, whole (3.25% milk fat), 8 ounces 276 mg per serving.
- Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup 253 mg per serving.
- Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone, 3 ounces 181 mg per serving.
- Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup 138 mg per serving.
- Instant breakfast drink, various flavors and brands, powder prepared with water, 8 ounces 105–250 mg per serving.
- Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve, ½ cup 103 mg per serving.
- Ready-to-eat cereal, calcium-fortified, 1 cup 100–1,000 mg per serving.
- Turnip greens, fresh, boiled, ½ cup 99 mg per serving.
- Kale, fresh, cooked, 1 cup 94 mg per serving kale, raw, chopped, 1 cup 90 mg per serving
- Tofu, soft, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup 138 mg per serving ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup 84 mg per serving.
- Soy beverage, calcium-fortified, 8 ounces 80–500 mg per serving.
- Chinese cabbage, bok choi, raw, shredded, 1 cup 74 mg per serving.
- Bread, white, 1 slice 73 mg per serving.
- Pudding, chocolate, ready to eat, refrigerated, 4 ounces 55 mg per serving.
- Tortilla, corn, ready-to-bake/fry, one 6″ diameter 46 mg per serving.
- Tortilla, flour, ready-to-bake/fry, one 6″ diameter 32 mg per serving.
- Sour cream, reduced fat, cultured, 2 tablespoons 31 mg per serving.
- Bread, whole-wheat, 1 slice 30 mg per serving.
- Broccoli, raw, ½ cup 21 mg per serving.
- Cheese, cream, regular, 1 tablespoon 14 mg per serving.