Healthy bones week is the 3rd of August to the 10th of August. I therefore thought I would take the opportunity to help raise awareness about bone disease and how to keep your bones in top health.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis is not something many people tend to worry about whilst they are young. It does not seem like an immediate threat to our health so it is easy to put on the backburner. However, because many younger people do not take their bone health in to consideration, osteoporosis is rather common in western cultures.
The three key messages for bone health
- Calcium, calcium, calcium! Making sure you are getting enough from your diet.
- Sunshine for its vitamin D. However, you must not forget to sun smart when out in the sun.
- Consistently undertaking exercise that is weight bearing.
Calcium plays a vital role in the healthy development and maintenance of the skeleton. Calcium is stored in bones and teeth whereby it provides strength and form. When we do not consume enough calcium orally, our bones can develop a ‘low bone density’ (low bone strength) which is known as osteoporosis. If we do not eat enough calcium, our body will remove stored calcium from our bones for use in other parts of the body. Hence your bone density will gradually diminish. This condition frequently leads to fractures.
General information on calcium rich food is provided below.
Dairy and dairy alternatives
The best sources of calcium are dairy products. They are absorbed most efficiently by the body. Examples include milk, yoghurt and cheese.
Other good sources are the dairy alternatives like soy milk, oat milk and soy yoghurt that have been fortified with calcium. These can have just as much, if not more, calcium than cow’s milk – check the nutrient information panel to ensure they have been fortified.
Fish with small edible bones are another source of calcium. An example is tinned salmon.
Some vegetables, nuts and legumes also contain calcium but in smaller quantities when compared to milk based products.
Calcium may also be poorly absorbed from some plant foods due to their oxalic acid or phytic acid content which inhibits absorption. For example, when compared to milk, the calcium absorbed from beans is approximately 50% and only 10% from spinach .
- Oxalic acid rich foods: Spinach, beans, rhubarb
- Phytic acid rich foods: Nuts/ seeds, soy isolates, grains, some beans (raw)
A note on sodium and protein intake
The amount of sodium you eat will also affect your calcium requirements! This is because calcium and sodium are excreted in the same way in the kidneys .
A high intake of protein can also increase the excretion of calcium via urine – this may mean that those with a high protein intake have higher calcium requirements .
Vitamin D is important because it allows the body to absorb calcium. It achieves this by forming calcitrol – a hormone that is also known as ‘active vitamin D’ . When there is not enough calcitrol to absorb dietary calcium, the body will tap in to the bodies calcium stores.
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D can be obtained from the sun and diet. Unfortunately vitamin D is not present in many foods. Vitamin D rich foods include:
- Egg yolks
- Fortified milk
- Vitamin D activated mushrooms
- Oily fish e.g. mackerel, sardines
Weight bearing activity
In order to reap the benefits, it is important that exercise is ongoing and frequent. The impact from exercise actually assists in keeping your bones strong.
- Kids who have adequate nutrition and exercise throughout their childhood/ adolescence will have the best bones possible to carry them throughout their life.
- Bone building and bone density is at its peak during childhood and adolescence. It is important to make the most of this time!
- From young adulthood onwards, the focus is shifted from bone building to the maintenance of bone strength and healthy bones.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about bone health or other nutrition related issues, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns.
Contact us today.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values: Calcium. National Health and Medical Research Council.
- The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases
National Resource Center. Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age. National Institutes of Health. 2012.
For more information
For a very extensive list of the calcium content of different foods (per 100g), follow the link below:
The link below will provide you with the best exercises for bone health: