It is important to focus on bone health, especially as we get older. Poor bone health can lead to osteoporosis, a condition that puts you at a higher risk for fractures in the spine and in other parts of the body. Osteoporosis doesn’t just affect women–men can get it, too. This is why we all need to focus on getting enough calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients that are critical to bone health.
Certain foods can help improve your bone health, while others can put you at a higher risk for weakened bones.
What to Eat
1. Dairy Products
Dairy products are a great source of calcium, essential for strong bones. Some dairy products are also fortified with vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium from our food. We need 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day, and 1,200 milligrams is recommended for those over the age of 50, especially for women.
Milk, which has 300 milligrams of calcium in an 8-ounce glass, is a great source of calcium. Whether you like to drink whole milk, 2% milk, or skim milk, you will get the same amount of calcium. Alternatively, you can get about the same amount of calcium from a cup of yogurt. Cheese can also be a great source of calcium, but you only need a one-ounce serving to get about 200 milligrams of calcium, so don’t go overboard.
If you can’t have dairy, you may be able to get calcium and vitamin D from soy products. Many soy products like tofu or soy milk are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. A cup of fortified soy milk usually has about about the same about of calcium as a cup of regular milk, and calcium-enriched tofu has about 400 milligrams of calcium per half-cup serving.
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna contain vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. If you can’t get fresh fish, canned tuna is also a good source of vitamin D, with one can containing about 39% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin D. Salmon and tuna are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which recent research has suggested may be helpful for bone health as well.
Popeye was right–spinach can help to make you, and your bones, stronger. One cup of cooked spinach contains about 25% of your recommended daily calcium intake, in addition to containing fiber, iron, and vitamin A. Other dark, leafy greens like kale, bok choy, and collard greens also contain lots of calcium.
5. Calcium-fortified foods
There are many foods that do not naturally contain calcium, but have calcium added. In particular, a lot of breakfast items, like cereal and orange juice, are fortified with calcium. Fortified orange juice can often contain about the same amount of calcium as milk, and fortified cereal may have even more. However, the amount of calcium can vary, so you’ll need to check the nutrition label to determine the exact amount.
What to Avoid
1. Salty Foods
Foods that are high in sodium can cause your body to lose calcium, which can lead to bone loss. Limit your intake of processed and canned foods, which tend to be high in sodium, and try to avoid adding too much salt to the foods you cook. Look at nutrition labels–if the % Daily Value for sodium is more than 20%, skip it.
2. Excessive Alcohol Intake
Heavy drinking has been known to contribute to bone loss. You should have no more than 2 to 3 drinks per day.
Caffeinated beverages such as soda, coffee, and tea can decrease the body’s absorption of calcium, which can negatively affect bone health.
The right foods can help with bone health, but many of them also contain other nutrients our bodies need, like antioxidants. In order to be at your healthiest throughout your life, it is crucial to maintain a healthy diet.