Bones provide the structure of your body. They protect your organs and anchor your muscles. Weight-bearing activities and adequate calcium consumption are crucial for building strong bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis, which can lead to bone fractures . Changing your diet can help aid bone healing after a fracture and can improve your bone health.
Calcium is a mineral your body uses for healthy bones and teeth and for proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. Calcium must be obtained through food because the body cannot produce it. Most adults need between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day. The best food sources of calcium include yogurt, milk, soy milk, cheese, tofu with calcium, soybeans, bok choy, kale, broccoli, almonds and almond butter.
Calcium is useless without vitamin D because this powerhouse vitamin moves calcium from the gastrointestinal tract to other parts of the body. Most people require at least 600 or 800 international units of vitamin D per day. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, so focus on consuming the ones that do to get your daily dose. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are some of the best sources. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D, and cheese, egg yolks and beef liver contain smaller amounts. Mushrooms also contain vitamin D, and some varieties are even being treated with UV light, which dramatically increases their vitamin D content.
Other Important Nutrients
Several other nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin K and vitamin C, have also recently been shown to be important for bone health. Magnesium helps your body absorb calcium and is found in pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, spinach and beans. High-potassium diets reduce calcium loss in the urine. Potassium is found in potatoes, yogurt, cantaloupe, bananas and spinach. High intakes of vitamins K and C are associated with a lower risk of bone fractures. Vitamin K is found in kale, spinach, collard greens, lettuce and broccoli. Rich sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers and tomato products.
To Supplement or Not to Supplement?
It is preferable to meet nutrient needs through your diet. For individuals who are unable to meet their calcium requirements by consuming at least three rich sources per day, such as yogurt, milk and cheese, supplemental calcium may be used. Consult with your doctor to determine whether a supplement is right for you. Spread calcium supplements throughout the day with 500 to 600 milligrams at each meal to optimize its absorption. A good rule of thumb is to begin each day with a supplement, then aim to consume at least two dietary sources of calcium so that you can skip the second daily dose. If you cannot or your doctor recommends a supplement regardless, take a second dose after dinner.
Is This an Emergency?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Calcium and Bone Health
- National Institutes of Health: Bone Health for Life
- National Institutes of Health: Vitamin D
- Current Osteoporosis Reports: Osteoporosis Prevention and Nutrition
- Therapeutics and Clinical List Management: The Use of Calcium and Vitamin D in the Management of Osteoporosis
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Magnesium