I received a question recently from one of our wonderful fans, Elyse. Like many women concerned about their health, she was wondering what foods will help keep her bones strong as she gets older.
Bone density is dependent upon a number of nutrients, most notably calcium. Women between the ages of 19 – 50 need about 1000 milligrams per day, and for 50+, it increases to 1200 mg.
Dairy is indeed a good source of bioavailable calcium. A cup of plain yogurt contains about 400 mg, and a 1.5 ounce serving of cheese or 1 cup of milk each contain about 300 mg. Other sources of calcium include:
Swiss chard (~100 mg per cup, cooked)
Broccoli (~60 mg per cup, cooked)
Raw almonds (~90 mg per 1/4 cup)
Salmon, canned (with bones) (~190 mg per 3 ounces)
Fortified soymilk (300 mg per 1 cup)
Other important nutrients to consider with bone health are vitamin K, vitamin D, boron, and strontium.
Good sources of vitamin K include spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, collard greens, kale, rapini and arugula. A number of studies have linked higher vitamin K intakes with higher bone densities and a lower risk of hip fracture, in both women and men. Aim for a daily intake of about 200 micrograms of vitamin K, which you can get in half a cup of most cooked greens.
Vitamin D helps our body to absorb calcium. We aren’t able to obtain our body’s requirements from our diet, though, and depending upon sunshine to form it in our skin, isn’t reliable enough (especially if you live in higher latitudes, have darker skin, are elderly, wear sunscreen, or cover up in the sun). The benefits of vitamin D go beyond bone health, and may play a protective role against cancer and in supporting the immune system. Aim to obtain 1000-2000 IU/day from both food and supplement sources.
Boron reduces excretion of calcium from the body and strontium activates bone-building osteoblasts. Both of these actions may play a possible role in the suppression of osteoporosis. Minimize caffeine, alcohol, and salt consumption, as these can cause bone loss when used in excess.
Weight-bearing or resistance exercises will also help to keep your bones strong, as they stimulate new bone formation.
Stay active – it’ll keep a spring in your step!