What should I eat to keep my bones healthy?

It is good that you are concerned about your bone health. It is estimated that approximately 10 million people today have osteoporosis, which is a disease in which you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. Researchers hypothesize that about half of the women over 50 and up to 1 in 4 men will fracture a bone because of osteoporosis. Eating a proper diet and getting physical activity can greatly reduce risk of bone disease. The first nutrient that is important for building bones and keeping them healthy is calcium. This nutrient comes from a variety of sources including: fortified foods (orange juice, tofu, and soymilk), dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), and green vegetables. Daily calcium requirements vary slightly depending on the organization. The Institute of Medicine updated the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for calcium in 2010. They suggest that kids aged 9-18 take in approximately 1,300 mg of calcium each day. Adults aged 19-50 (and men from 51-70) should consume around 1,000 mg per day and women aged 51-70 should aim for 1,200 mg per day.

The next nutrient important for bone health is vitamin D. This vitamin helps to maintain serum calcium and phosphate concentrations which can assist with the mineralization of bone. To prevent osteoporosis, the National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests that people get ~800-1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. A few food sources of vitamin D include: fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), and small amounts of vitamin D can be found in cheese, fortified foods, and egg yolks. Since there are not that many good food sources of vitamin D, researchers suggest that supplementation may be needed.

The key to optimizing good bone health is to take in the above mentioned nutrients but also to consume a varied diet filled with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition, physical activity and being at a healthy weight are also very important in keeping bones strong. A combination of strength training exercises in addition to getting your heart rate up can not only strengthen your bones but also help prevent obesity. Finally exercises that focus on optimizing balance can help prevent falls which can keep bones safe!

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