How to Prevent Osteoporosis
Since the 1940s, much has been learned about osteoporosis — what causes it and how it can be prevented. As a person grows old, it is normal to experience some bone loss. But a person who has osteoporosis loses a great amount of bone density and tissue beyond what is considered normal. The advantage of people today is that information is available regarding what to do and what to eat to prevent osteoporosis and keep the bones healthy.
The Role of Calcium in Preventing Osteoporosis
Calcium is a mineral that plays an important role in keeping healthy bones. The body uses calcium daily, and so it is necessary to take in calcium everyday as well. When the body does not get enough calcium to replace what was lost, the result is bone loss.
Calcium can only be sourced from the food you eat. The daily recommended intake of calcium is 1,200 milligrams for adults 51 years old and older; 1,000 milligrams for adults 19 to 50 years old; and 1,300 milligrams for children 9 to 18 years old. According to statistics, Americans are able to obtain only half of the daily recommended amount of calcium, which is equivalent to just one and a half servings of dairy products per day. For women 20 years old and older, the average consumption of dairy foods is only one serving per day.
Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and frozen desserts, are rich sources of calcium. One cup or one ounce of dairy food gives 300 milligrams of calcium. When you eat low fat and low moisture dairy foods, you actually get more calcium. Dairy foods also contain phosphorus, which is a mineral that works in tandem with calcium.
Other Sources of Calcium
There are many non-dairy food items that are good sources of calcium. Leafy greens, for example, can provide 150 to 270 milligrams of calcium per serving. Eat sardines or salmon with bones, tofu and almonds for an added dose of calcium. There are calcium-fortified products as well like orange juice and cereals that you can consume.
If you’re lactose intolerant and can’t have milk, you might want to try some dairy products like yogurt and see if it doesn’t give you as much trouble as milk. If you’re not getting the recommended amount of calcium from what you eat each day, it might be better for you to take a daily supplement.
The Role of Protein in Preventing Osteoporosis
Protein is also important when it comes to bone health. Foods that are good sources of protein are meat, fish and poultry, nuts and seeds, dry beans and peas, dairy products and eggs. Women who are 19 years old and above need 46 grams of protein per day; men of similar age need 56 grams per day. It’s better to eat protein in moderation, as increasing or decreasing protein in the diet can impact the way your body uses calcium.
More Nutrients that Promote Bone Health
People need vitamin D in preventing bone loss because it plays an important role in calcium absorption. Adults not older than 50 need 400 to 800 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day, while adults over 50 years old need 800 to 1,000 IU every day. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. In fact, just 15 minutes of sun exposure can provide the daily requirement for vitamin D. However, for those who don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun, perhaps because of a cold climate, there are 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D supplements recommended for you. Drinking milk gives the benefit of getting extra vitamin D, too, since most milk are fortified with vitamin D.
Many other vitamins and minerals are needed to prevent bone loss, namely vitamins A and C, zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, and flouride. By eating a variety of food, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, grains, and meat, you’ll surely get every nutrient that you need.
When Do You Need to Take Supplements?
If you want to avoid bone loss and keep osteoporosis at bay, getting the recommended amount of nutrients is a must. As much as possible, get the nutrients from natural food sources, instead of popping multi-vitamins in your mouth. You need three to four servings of dairy foods every day, but if you just can’t have that much in your diet, vitamin supplements will do — have 400 IUs of vitamin D and a separate calcium supplement to avoid undesirable interaction between the nutrients.
Photo credits: “Osteoporosis Prevention” by Pain Pix via Flickr, CC by 2.0