We all know that children need a diet rich in calcium and other nutrients, to grow strong and healthy bones. But in truth, we never stop growing – we may stop gaining height, but our bodies are constantly regenerating and producing new cells to replace old ones.
The bones that make up your skeleton for example, are completely replaced over a ten year period; so diet continues to play a major role in our bone health.
However, cell production does slow as we age, meaning that we may lose bone density. This can lead to stooping, and loss of height as our bones compress; osteoporosis; and an increased risk of broken bones.
Some members of the older population are even more vulnerable, such as:
- Women – After menopause, as a woman’s body produces a lot less of the hormone oestrogen. It is one of the key hormones necessary in managing our bone density and after menopause, there is a significant decline in this hormone and hence the required increase in needs.
- Cancer Patients – If you’ve ever had chemotherapy, your bone density will have suffered.
- People with a Low BMI (Body Mass Index) – Strong bones are denser and therefore weigh more, meaning that individuals with a lower BMI, are likely to have a lower bone density as well. The other is that people with heavier frames put more weight on their bones and this helps to maintain stronger bones.
There’s Life in These Old Bones Yet!
Because our bone cells are continually renewing, it’s never too late to take steps to improve your bone health.
- Enjoy the Outdoors – Vitamin D is essential for strong healthy bones, and the best source of Vitamin D is regular sunshine.
- Exercise – Weight-bearing exercise can halt and even reverse mineral loss in bones, so include activities such as walking, weight training, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing in your daily life.
- Eat well – A healthy diet including a variety of nutrient-rich foods is essential.
While it’s all very well to say that a good diet is important, what foods are particularly beneficial for bone health?
Nutrients for Bone Health
- Calcium – The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend women over the age of 50, consume 4 serves of dairy per day to maintain their calcium levels. For men up to the age of 70, it’s 2 ½ serves; over 70, it increases to 3 ½. If you’re not a fan of dairy, canned sardines and salmon with bones, kale, Chinese cabbage and broccoli also provide calcium, however do check with a dietitian to ensure you are receiving adequate calcium from your diet, as you may need a supplement.
- Magnesium – Green leafy vegetables aren’t just a good source of calcium, they also contain magnesium. Or try artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and raisins.
- Potassium – Bananas are probably best known for their high potassium content, but you could also turn to prunes, tomato products, raisins, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, papaya and orange juice.
- Vitamin C – Colourful foods such as red and green capsicum, oranges, grapefruit, broccoli and cauliflower, strawberries, brussel sprouts, papaya, and pineapples are great for boosting your Vitamin C levels.
- Vitamin K – Once again, dark leafy vegetables come up trumps: kale, spinach, turnip greens and brussel sprouts.
These days, many items in the supermarket have been fortified (boosted with extra nutrients), such as cereals, breads, some juices, soy and rice milks.
Handle with Care
What you may not realise is that there are also some foods which may have a detrimental effect on your bone health. These include:
- Sodium – not just bad for your blood pressure!
- Legumes – such as chickpeas, lentils, etc – IF they are not soaked in water before cooking.
- Too much meat – (multiple servings) and protein with each meal can also cause the body to lose calcium.
- Too much caffeine
If you are concerned about the bone health of anybody over the age of 50 (including your own), make sure you book a consultation at Sunshine Coast Dietetics.
* source: www.pcrm.org