Boosting Your Bone Health

Women acquire between 85-90 percent of their bone mass by age 18. If there is not enough calcium deposited in bones during childhood, they may become weak later in life, leading to bone disease such as osteoporosis. Bones don’t come with a lifetime guarantee.

If your diet is low in calcium, your body will take calcium out of your bones to keep blood calcium at normal levels. Calcium and vitamin D are the major nutrients for making bones strong and healthy. Women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day for healthy bones.

After age 50, a woman’s calcium needs jump to 1,200 milligrams per day. Good sources of calcium include:

  • fat-free or low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese
  • tofu
  • canned salmon with bones/sardines
  • fortified cereals and juices
  • cooked spinach or kale
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • dried figs
  • sesame seeds
  • almonds

As women age, their bodies do not absorb calcium as well. Vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium. There are three ways to get vitamin D:

  • sunlight
  • food such as salmon, mackerel, egg yolks, fortified milk or soymilk
  • vitamin supplements. For women younger than 50, the daily recommended amount of vitamin D is 400-800 IU; this amount goes up for women older than 50, to 800-1000 IU per day

Some simple variations to include calcium sources in your diet are as follows:

  • For breakfast, use milk instead of water with your cereal and oatmeal. Drink plenty of calcium-fortified orange juice
  • For lunch, eat yogurt as your dessert, choose milk instead of soda and add cheese to your sandwich
  • For dinner, prepare tomato soup and macaroni and cheese with milk. Have pudding made with milk or frozen yogurt for dessert

If you really don’t like dairy products or they don’t like you, then try some of these tips to increase the amount of calcium in your diet without upsetting your stomach:

  • Use milk in preparing hot chocolate, mashed potatoes, oatmeal and soups
  • Make a fruit smoothie using yogurt and frozen fruit for a light refreshing meal or snack
  • Use nonfat plain yogurt to replace part or all of the sour cream, mayonnaise or cream cheese in recipes
  • Use canned salmon, instead of tuna, for sandwiches and casseroles
  • Serve a stir-fry packed with calcium-rich foods like broccoli, bok choy and tofu
  • Make a sandwich spread from calcium-fortified cottage cheese and chopped veggies
  • Mix part-skim ricotta cheese and cinnamon and raisins to spread on bagels or English muffins

Claudia Ulintz, RDLD

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