Maintaining bone health is important throughout our lives, not just when we reach our later years. Our skeletons go through various stages as we grow as children and teenagers before we mature as adults. Our bones are constantly broken down and built up to keep us healthy and able to lead active lives.
Despite our bodies natural coping mechanisms, lifestyle choices and aging can weaken bones over time. One in two women and one in five men in the UK aged over 50 will break a bone, largely due to poor bone health. Eating the right foods early can maintain skeletal health and prolong bone ageing. Here are some of the best foods to boost bone health alongside some to avoid.
Dairy products – Calcium-rich foods are examined most when discussing bone health and dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are most associated with calcium. We all need around three portions of calcium a day, one of which could be a 200ml glass of milk or a serving of yogurt, to maintain healthy bones, as well as good muscle development, healthy blood pressure, and healthy skin.
Healthy greens – Other food sources absorb as much, if not more, calcium than dairy products. Green, leafy foods, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and okra should also be incorporated into your diet. Avoid spinach as only 5% of its calcium content is absorbed.
Fish – Fish eaten whole with bones are most effective, such as pilchards, sardines and whitebait.
Vitamin D –Vitamin D is also essential for bone health. One of the best ways to boost your levels of the vitamin is to expose your skin to sunlight for around 15 minutes every day. However, if the weather is overcast, there are some great foods to eat: fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel; eggs, particularly the yolk; tofu; and beef liver. Fruit juices, cereals and many other products now include artificial vitamin D, these are called fortified products. Please check the label beforehand.
Bone-friendly diet for children – Our bones grow fastest during childhood and puberty, and 11 to 18-year-olds require 800 to 1,000mg of calcium compared to 700mg for adults. Children who have a healthy, varied diet, with dense bone mass from an early age are better protected from Osteoporosis later in life. Feed your children the following foods to provide the vitamins and minerals they need:
Fruit and vegetables – At least five portions a day. Avoid large amounts of acidic fruit juice to avoid dental issues
Carbohydrates – Staples like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice
Protein – beans, nuts, eggs, fish, seeds and meat
Dairy – milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.
We recommend that children under the age of five should take a vitamin D dietary supplement, alongside other at-risk groups, including pregnant women and those aged 65 or over.
Women over the age of 50 should increase their intake of calcium as hormone changes during menopause causes calcium loss.
Foods to avoid
Processed food – Processed food (any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way) contains a high amount of salt which can cause your kidneys to excessively excrete calcium.
High sugar foods – Sugary snacks can inhibit calcium absorption and reduce a chemical called phosphorus which is needed to maintain bone health. Switch from refined sugar foods, like sweets and fizzy drinks, to natural alternatives like sweet berries.
Caffeine – Many of us prefer a drink of caffeine during the day to stay energised, however, caffeine actually saps calcium from our bones, leading to poorer bone strength. Do not reach for an energy bar as an alternative to your morning cup of coffee as they almost always contain high levels of sugar. Try increasing your intake of protein, seeds and fibre for all-day energy.
Steve Daily, musculoskeletal operations manager lends his advice: “A healthy balanced diet will help maintain good bone health, when combined with regular weight bearing exercises, this assists with maintaining bone density and helps prevent fractures. Horder Healthcare run a number of provided exercise classes that will greatly assist with maintaining good bone health. For further information please click here.”
For more information on how to improve your bone health, watch the following video by the award-winning dietitian, nutritionist and best-selling author: Azmina Govindji RD MBDA.