March Health Series: Optimizing Bone Health

| Sarah Johnson, MS, RD

When it comes to bone health in the United States, it can be a bit “out of sight, out of mind” for most of us. However, the prevalence of osteoporosis (bone loss) is already high and, sadly, only rising.  Decreased bone density can lead to limitations in our independence as we age due to concerns around mobility and increased risk of falls, all of which can have a profound impact on quality of life. Diet, lifestyle, and medication all play a role in our bone health. It can be overwhelming to know where to begin, so here are the five things you can do that will make the greatest impact on your bone health:

  1. Calcium: Calcium is usually the first nutrient that comes to mind when we think of bone health.  Intake of calcium is especially crucial during childhood as our bones are developing, but it is not too late.  Keeping calcium intake high later in life helps protect against bone loss. Good sources of calcium are dark leafy green vegetables, dairy, almonds, and fortified cereal and milk alternatives. Aim for 1,000 mg of calcium per day.
  2. Vitamin D: When it comes to bone health, Vitamin D is key.  Even if you are consuming adequate amounts of calcium, if your vitamin D is low, your body will not be using it effectively, leading to weak bones and high risk of stress fractures.  While the sun is our #1 source of vitamin D, depending on where you live, this can be challenging much of the year. Most of us need to rely on food sources and supplements to get our full daily dose of vitamin D. Food sources include salmon, egg yolks, and fortified cereals and juices. Supplements are widely available. Talk to an MD or dietitian about the right dose for you. Most adults need between 600 and 1,000 IU per day. 
  3. Protein:  Most people do not think of protein when they think about bone health, however protein is an important component of bone tissue.  A diet sufficient in protein is essential for maintaining bone density, as well as supporting muscle health, which indirectly impacts bone health as well. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, beans, and dairy.  It is ideal to eat a variety of protein sources to ensure you are getting a mix of all essential amino acids. Aim for protein at each meal
  4. Magnesium: Magnesium is a key player in bone development and bone metabolism.  A diet deficient in magnesium is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. Good sources of magnesium are dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, avocados, and bananas.  Aim for 300-400mg of magnesium each day.
  5. What’s in your cup? There are three common drinks that can be detrimental to bone health. 
    • Soda: Soda contains phosphoric acid, which leaches calcium from bones over time, leading to reduced bone density.
    • Excessive Caffeine: excessive caffeine intake interferes with calcium absorption, causing more to be excreted than absorbed, leading to reduced bone density.
    • Alcohol: Heavy alcohol intake interferes with the absorption of calcium and other key nutrients, weakening bones over time.

By recognizing the importance of bone health and taking these preventive measures to maintain our bone density, we can reduce our risk of osteoporosis and fractures, helping us enjoy a higher quality of ACTIVE life well into our later years. Click here to learn more about our dietary services at Live Your Life and contact us today for a free consultation!  

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