No Bones About It: Tips to Build and Maintain Good Bone Health Through Nutrition
The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 20 men have osteoporosis by the age of 65. Osteoporosis prevention is most successful when good nutrition and exercise habits begin at a young age and that a healthy lifestyle is maintained through adulthood.
Follow along as Megan Stanley MS, RD, LDN, discusses the make-up of our bones and how incorporating the right nutrients into your diet can help you improve and maintain bone density!
Nutrition is an important factor in reaching and maintaining peak bone mass. When it comes to bone health, the most important nutrient is calcium. Calcium is the major structural component of bone and is also needed for other cell functioning like muscle cell function. If calcium intake through food or supplements is inadequate, your body will pull calcium from your bones for cell use, weakening them in the process.
The recommended intake of calcium for individuals above four years of age is 1,000-1,300 mg per day. The highest concentration of calcium is found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Other foods, such as dark leafy greens and some fish contain calcium as well, and many foods like cereal and juice are fortified with calcium.
Consuming 3 servings of calcium-rich foods per day generally meets your daily needs. However, if you are lactose intolerant or avoid dairy, a calcium supplement may be beneficial.
Vitamin D is another important nutrient for good bone health, as it is necessary for proper absorption and utilization of calcium. Vitamin D can be obtained through the diet, but few foods naturally contain vitamin D. As humans, we get most of our vitamin D from the sun as it synthesizes through our skin. However, in colder months, many people become vitamin D deficient and may need a supplement. Individuals with darker skin have a harder time synthesizing vitamin D and are at higher risk for deficiency. If you are taking a calcium supplement, look for one that includes vitamin D too.
Lastly, consuming enough protein and calories to match your needs and activity level impacts bone health. Protein is necessary for producing hormones that signal bone-building and is important for bone structure. Overall calorie intake is important for energy and hormone balance. Low energy availability, or not eating enough calories to support daily needs and activity, affects hormones that regulate bone turnover, which can lead to a higher level of bone breakdown.
Other risk factors that affect bone health are inactivity, smoking, alcohol use, and amenorrhea. As mentioned earlier, incorporating exercise into your routine is important for bone health. Check out our video on physical activity for bone health for more information on this topic!
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