November is national osteoporosis month. Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that slowly weakens bones. Osteoporosis is caused by low bone mass; which increases the risk for bone fractures. Diet and lifestyle play an important role in keeping our bones strong and healthy. Maintaining strong healthy bones has a direct affect on our overall health and well being. Fortunately, we can improve our bone health with a healthy diet and exercise. Let’s take a look at how our diet can reduce our risk of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can affect anyone at any age. In Canada, most people with osteoporosis are over 50 years old. Women are two times more likely to get osteoporosis than men. Furthermore, our bone peak mass is at the age of 25 years. Nutrition plays a key role in preventing osteoporosis, calcium and vitamin D have an important role. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. So how much calcium and vitamin D. Men and women under the age of 50 are recommended to take 1000 mg of calcium and 400- 600 IU of vitamin D. Those over the age of 50 should take 1200 mg of calcium and 600-800 Iu of vitamin D.
Sources of Calcium:
Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese are a source of calcium and most products are fortified with vitamin D. However, if you follow a plant based diet or are intolerant to dairy their are many non dairy calcium rich foods:
Plant based milk, fortified (soy, almond, and/or rice)
Soy beans, cooked
Tofu (with calcium sulphate)
Salmon with bones (canned)
Calcium is also found in spinach, swiss chard, rhubarb and sesame seeds but is not absorbed very well due to their high oxalate content. Oxalate has a high affinity for calcium and binds to it, impairing our body’s absorption of calcium.
Vitamin D also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is activated by the sun. Vitamin D helps to keep our bones string and healthy by improving calcium absorption. In Canada, during some parts of the year we see very little sunshine to produce adequate vitamin D. Some foods contain vitmain D and some are fortified:
Sources of Vitamin D :
Plant based milks (fortified)
Orange juice( fortified)
Egg yolk, cooked
Because there are very few vitamin D food sources it is recommended that older adults supplement their diets with a vitamin D supplement. Before taking any supplements talk to your doctor and review with your pharmacist to ensure you are taking the right amount and form of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Physical activity play a key role in strong bones, bone loss, and protection against osteoporosis. Experts recommend of a variety of aerobic, resistance, and balance exercises for bone health. Always talk to your doctor before starting any physical activity.