As I touched on in my previous blog, it’s important to have nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet in order to give your bones the best possible chance. Include enough dairy, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, as they are an important source of calcium. Foods rich in Vitamin D include egg yolks, fish (especially salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel), and some margarines. That said, sunlight is the most important source of Vitamin D. For information about safe sun exposure and how much sunlight we need daily for Vitamin D production, visit Cancer Council Australia. Phosphorus can be found in milk, grains and protein-rich foods. Choosing green leafy veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes gives a magnesium boost.
What if you cannot eat enough of the right foods to make strong bones? Well, nature did intend for us to get everything we need from the food we eat – and drink – rather than supplements. Milk contains nine other essential nutrients besides calcium. And of course, the pleasure of eating nutrients cannot be underestimated. Who would rather take a calcium supplement than enjoy a delicious banana smoothie?
If you’re unable to take in enough calcium through your diet, taking a calcium supplement is convenient, inexpensive and easy. Supplements often contain Vitamin D as well, preventing the need to purchase a Vitamin D-specific one.
In 2010, there was a report published and, subsequently, widely reported in the media saying that older women, in particular, could be at increased risk of heart disease when taking calcium supplements. It seems higher than normal levels of supplementation may be of concern. However, more research is needed. To be on the safe side, leading authorities suggest that, if calcium supplements are recommended by doctors or health professionals for adults of any age, these should be continued and taken at a dose of 500-600mg daily. If this affects you, chat to your GP before making any changes.
Finally, besides getting your nutrition right, keeping a healthy weight, as well as participating in regular weight-bearing and strength exercise, can all assist in the development and maintenance of strong bones. These, accompanied by steering clear of smoking, excessive alcohol and caffeine, give your bones the best chance possible of being strong and carrying you through the years!
By Alison Walsh BSc (Physiol), BA (Psych), M.Nutr & Dietetics, Grad Cert Sports Nutr, Cert of Paed Nutr & Dietetics, APD
Editor’s note: Our resident dietitian, Alison Walsh, reveals how to keep your bones healthy and strong for years to come.