Strong bones are very important for the body, especially as you age. Maintaining proper care of your bones can prevent the collapse of the bones due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is one of the most important causes for bone fracture in half of all women over 50-years-old, and one out of four men in the world. Osteoporosis weakens the bone considerably and affects about 10 million Americans.
Calcium, protein, and vitamin D are three important food components for developing stronger bones. Collagen, a protein is the most important constituent of bones, while vitamin D helps to absorb calcium for building stronger bones. According to Institute of Medicine’s guidelines adults require between 600 and 800 international units (IUs) of vitamin D every day, and between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily. Higher levels are required by women who are in postmenopausal stages, adolescent girls and women who are pregnant or nursing.
Normal eating provides a total of 250 mg of calcium. An average adult, adolescent girls and postmenopausal women require calcium-rich foods to meet the requirements.
Some of the foods that give adequate quantities of calcium include:
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese
- Fortified juices, cereals, and oatmeal
- Beans and legumes
- Dark leafy greens, like broccoli and bok choy
- Salmon and sardines with bones
- Nuts such as almonds
If the daily diet does not meet the calcium requirement, one can opt for a calcium supplement like calcium citrate.
Vitamin D, the key that unlocks calcium in the body, is synthesized in the presence of sunlight. In most cases, the body synthesizes enough of this vitamin when exposed to sunlight.
When the exposure is less, one can include good sources of vitamin D like:
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna
- Cod liver oil
- Fortified dairy products
- Fortified cereals
- Beef liver
- Fortified orange juice
Diet should also contain good amounts of protein, the third most important component for healthy bones.
Bone health decreases considerably when the body does not get enough exercise. Patients who are put on bed rest, or had limb immobilizations, have reduced exercise and have a profound effect on their skeletal system. They lose up to 10% of bone density in certain regions of the skeletal system.
Wendy Kohrt, PhD, a professor of medicine and the director of research for geriatric medicine at the University of Colorado, suggests that weight-bearing exercises can build up to 3% of bones. Regular physical activity also strengthens the existing bone. A recent study, the Nurses' Health Study (NHANES) shows that women who walked for an average of four hours in one week, had a 40% reduced risk of hip fracture.
Some of the common weight bearing exercises include:
- Foods that are rich in calcium include dairy products, fortified juices, beans and legumes, dark leafy greens, salmon, and nuts.
- One should incorporate adequate amounts of calcium to develop stronger bones.