Preventing Osteoporosis: Smart Eats for Stronger Bones

Milk Pour

Weak and brittle bones are typically thought to be a senior health concern, however, no matter what age you are, how you treat your bones today strongly impacts your bone health for the rest of your life.

Bones are living tissue and your body constantly creates new bones to replace its older bones. By about the time you reach the age of 30, your bones begin to break down faster than they are rebuilt. This causes the bones to shrink and become less dense, resulting in poor bone health and disease.

May is National Osteoporosis Month and a time to take a closer look at the disease affecting more than one out of three Americans and what we can do to offset our risk. Osteoporosis occurs when bones become porous, brittle and prone to fracture. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, more than half of women over 65 years old suffer from osteoporosis and 15-25 percent of men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Not only does poor bone health result in fractures, but it also leads to disabilities, chronic pain and an inability to partake in everyday activities.1

So how do you prevent osteoporosis and ensure bone health throughout your life? A healthy diet high in calcium and Vitamin D can play a crucial role. Calcium is vital to supporting bone and teeth structure and Vitamin D improves bone growth and the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

Adults up to age 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day and 200 international units (IU) of Vitamin D. After age 50, adults should aim for 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 400-600 IU of Vitamin D.

Following are my recommendations for the best foods to ensure ample calcium and bone health.

  • Milk – Eight ounces of fat-free milk will provide 30 percent of your daily dose of calcium ( about 300 mg calcium). Look for brands fortified with Vitamin D to get double the benefits. Check out Kroger’s CarbMaster Nonfat Milk, which is available in three flavors including nonfat, chocolate and vanilla. It contains up to 40 percent of your daily calcium and only 60 calories per cup!  Typically, drink 2-3 cups milk (or foods with the equivalancy in calcium) to consume needed calcium daily. Add milk to cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, soup and mashed potatoes.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables – A cooked cup of spinach, broccoli or collard greens can contain upto 25 percent of your daily calcium plus they are loaded with other nutrients like fiber, iron and Vitamin A.  Add greens to any spaghetti meat sauce or stew or bean dish, or even a smoothie.
  • Low-fat cheese – Great options include light cheeses such as from Cabot or Laughing Cow, which are high in calcium and lower in calories and fat ( 150-200 mg calcium; 50 calories per oz).
  • Yogurt –Enjoy Greek yogurt like nonfat Fage, which contains more calcium and more protein than most yogurts (250 mg calcium, 23 gm protein per 1 cup).
  • Salmon – A 3-ounce piece of salmon contains more than 100 percent of your Vitamin D serving for the day so load up!
  • Sardines – These small fish usually found in cans, can make a great addition to pasta or salads as they have surprisingly high levels of both Vitamin D and calcium.
  • Breakfast Calcium Boost – Get a calcium boost at breakfast time! Along with milk in cereal or oatmeal, choose calcium and Vitamin D- fortified orange juice. Look for Tropicana Pure Premium or Minute Maid Pure Squeezed with Calcium and Vitamin D (350 mg calcium per cup).
  • Add it up. How much calcium do you consume daily? Keep track and make sure you are getting the proper amount in your diet.

Emerging research also indicates the following nutrients play an important role in increasing bone density: Vitamin K (found in green vegetables), magnesium (found in leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, bran and whole grains) and foods rich in omega-3 (found in seafood) and boron (found in apples, avocados, dates and nuts, and fruit and vegetables). These nutrients and vitamins lower the body’s acidity and calcium loss. Eat these foods regularly for added bone strength.

For more ideas on how to increase bone density and help prevent osteoporosis with a healthy diet, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

1 The National Osteoporosis Foundation

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