The infrastructure of bones is laid in our mother’s womb and by the time we achieve adulthood the process of building bones is complete. Though the base has been built; it is still very important to keep on cementing it all through our lives.
Without going into the technicalities of how bones are formed let us talk about the nutrients essential for maintaining their health. Ask anyone and the reply would be: calcium. Calcium is famous for its role in the healthy upkeep of bones and teeth. Amount of calcium we need changes at different stages of life, its requirement peaking in adolescence, pregnancy and lactation. With age the efficiency to absorb calcium declines, which is one of the reasons why seniors need to consume higher amounts of calcium.
Milk and milk products are the most readily available dietary sources of calcium. Besides calcium they also provide protein and other micronutrients which are important for bone health. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, bok choy (Chinese cabbage); fish with soft, edible bones like sardine, salmon; nuts especially almonds; fruits like oranges, apricots, dried figs and tofu. Calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and flours also contain significant amounts of calcium. These non-dairy foods provide a suitable alternative for lactose-intolerant people.
Give me some sunshine….. Vitamin D the Sunshine Vitamin is needed for proper absorption of calcium from our diet. Food sources of vitamin D are limited, and comprise oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardine, halibut, oysters and shrimp, egg yolk and liver. Milk and some fortified cereals also provide Vitamin D. Vitamin K: required for apt mineralization of bones. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage; liver, cheese and soybean provide good amount of vitamin K.
Magnesium plays an important role in forming bone mineral. Good sources being green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, unrefined grains and fish. Other nutrients needed for maintaining healthy bones are boron, fluoride, Vitamin C and phosphorus. Good sources of boron consist of avocado, nuts, peanut butter; fluorine – water, fluoridated toothpastes; phosphorus – milk, milk products, peas, meat, eggs, etc.
Few More Pointers:
- Move it or lose it– Weight bearing exercises (e.g. walking, running, strength training, dancing) help build bone mass and strength in youngsters, maintains bone density in adults, and slows down bone loss in elderly.
- Avoid smoking: it hampers the work of bone-building cells and increases the risk of fracture.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption: high intake (more than 2 standard units per day) has been linked to increased risk of hip and other fractures.
- Use salt and caffeine in moderation, as these can promote calcium loss from the body, especially if calcium intake is inadequate.
For elderly with reduced appetite, low activity levels or medical conditions, supplements of above mentioned nutrients may be required. Other people at risk of developing weak bones include pregnant and nursing mom and people with certain medical conditions, for example liver or kidney problems where the diet of a person may be compromised.
Love thy bones. They will support you as long as you support them.
Link to study highlighting the role of above mentioned nutrients in preventing osteoporosis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15883457