I remember growing up watching my grandmother suffer with severe osteoporosis and hearing my mother warn me how important it was for me to take care of my bone health. It’s true that whether you are already a senior and noticing a difference in your bones or whether you are a younger person seeing your elder’s concern, maintaining strong bones is something to start working on now. This means primarily making sure you are getting the right nutrients through healthy eating habits and exercise to keep bones healthy. The two most important of these are to make sure you have a diet adequate in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is needed for bone structure while vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium as well as contributes to the growth of bone. Ideally, you start getting both of these when you are young to build a good foundation for strong bones, but even if you didn’t, it’s never too late to start. Even if you find yourself facing osteoporosis, you can reduce the effects and strengthen bones now by stocking up on calcium and vitamin D. So how much of each of these is the optimal amount for you? It varies according to age, gender, and other factors, but the recommended amounts of calcium if you are between 18 and 50 years of age is 1000 milligrams and over the age of 50 women need 1200 milligrams while men only need this amount after the age of 70. Vitamin D is measured in international units or IU’s. Before the age of 50 200 IU’s is the recommended amount and after that age 400 to 800 IU’s are recommended. You may need to check with your healthcare provider to decide on the exact amount for your situation and as to whether you may need a calcium supplement or not because too much calcium can also be detrimental causing heart problems and kidney stones. Since a lot of the vitamin D we get is from exposure to sunlight, this can also vary especially for those who have to avoid the sun due to risk of skin cancer, and is an area where your healthcare provider can be useful in determining the right amount of supplementation for you. If you are past the age of 30, your bones are beginning the process of getting thinner. For women, this process increases after menopause. This makes it important to start establishing healthy eating habits now at whatever age you are to get your bones strong enough to carry you through into your golden years. The main way to do this is by adding foods with calcium and vitamin D into your diet. Here are some ways to do just that.
Milk and dairy products made from milk are undoubtedly one of the best sources for calcium. You get 300 milligrams of calcium out of one eight ounce glass of milk. The good news is that this is true whether the milk you drink is whole, skim, or low-fat so you can still reduce fat and get the same amount of calcium. That eight ounce glass of skim milk is 90 calories, but for those calories you get 30% of the calcium you need for the day. You can also get milk that is fortified with vitamin D so that your eight ounce glass is doing double duty. You can also get other dairy products that are fortified with vitamin D such as yogurt. If you’re looking to get more protein in your diet then Greek yogurt is a winner, but if you’re looking for more calcium and vitamin D, go with the non-Greek varieties. Just one cup of yogurt gives you the same amount of calcium as that eight ounce glass of milk so if you don’t like drinking milk, this may be the solution for you. And good news for those who are lactose intolerant – dairy products that are lactose free still contain the calcium you need. Cheese is another dairy product that you can look to for calcium, but it does also have more fat so go easy on it. More weight gain means more weight your bones and joints have to deal with. A small amount of cheese goes a long way as a source of calcium with one and a half ounces having 30% of the amount you need for the day. Egg dishes that include the yolk can help you add some extra vitamin D to your day if you need a bit more as they can give you six percent of your daily recommended amount.
If dairy just doesn’t settle well with you or you are just looking for some alternatives for calcium and vitamin D then take a look some types of fish. Sardines are a great source of calcium and three ounces of them gives you more calcium than one cup of milk. Salmon and other fatty fish not only give you vitamin D, but also omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to help in reducing bone loss. Three ounces of sockeye salmon will give you all the vitamin D you need for the day. Olive oil, edamame, walnuts, blue green algae, wild rice, flax seeds and chia seeds are all high in omega-3. In fact, AFA bluegreen algae not only gives you omega-3 but is another food source for calcium. Get the nutritional punch of algae as well as the probiotics and enzymes to help with digestive and immune system support in these packets of wholefood supplements. Or even better, you can get all this plus the nutritional support of marine and freshwater algae, tonic mushrooms, and sprouted grasses and grains with this wholefood algae supplement program. This combination gives your immune system the support to fight inflammation and the antioxidants to help your body to fight off free radical damage. And since omega-3’s have been found to have an impact on bone health, this supplement gives you not only the organic flaxseed oil and olive biophenols for extra omega-3, but also has AFA bluegreen algae, organic reishi and oyster mushrooms for immune support and ubiquinol the active form of Coenzyme Q10 found to support energy production, heart health and immune system support.
There are many green veggies you can get calcium from. For example, a cup of cooked spinach not only provides about a fourth of the calcium you need for the day, but also gives you fiber, iron and vitamin A. Collard greens are another green leafy vegetable that give you 25% of your calcium for the day. Other calcium rich greens include bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale and turnip greens.
Soy and soy products such as tofu or soy milk that is fortified with calcium are another good source for this bone supporting mineral. You can get 400 milligrams of calcium from just half a cup of tofu and about 300 milligrams from a cup of soy milk. Studies have found that soy contains isoflavones that add to strong bones and can help reduce the risk of bone disease in some cases.
5. Fortified Foods
There are many other foods these days that are fortified with calcium and/or vitamin D. Many brands of orange juice for example have been fortified with calcium and can give you as much as milk. Many brands of cereal have been fortified with vitamin D and calcium and can give you as much as 1000 milligrams of calcium in one cup. Look for whole grain, low sugar cereals to maintain a healthier diet.
6. Let The Sun Shine In
As we’ve already said, vitamin D is needed in order for the body to absorb calcium from foods. Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D from being exposed to sunlight. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight or have been warned to stay out of the sun because of the damage it can do to skin then you may need to consider taking a vitamin D supplement. This is something to talk over with your healthcare provider to see if it is appropriate for you, but if it is recommended he or she will probably advise taking around 600 IU daily if you are under the age of 70 and 800 IU for those over 70.
Besides diet changes, the next best thing you can do for your bones is the right exercise. Regular strength training and weight bearing exercise will strengthen bones and reduce bone loss. The combination of strength training with weight bearing will cover arm bones, spine, leg bones, and hips. Good exercises to incorporate for bone health include walking, dancing, tennis, yoga, jumping rope, skiing, taking the stairs, and other high-impact type exercise in which you use your body weight or gym type weights to put stress on your bones and muscles. This type of exercise makes your body add more bone giving you a higher bone density level.
There you have 7 ways to boost your bone health no matter what age you are and no matter what shape your bones are in now. Don’t wait until you suffer with the pain of bone loss or joint pain. Start now adding in the right exercise and getting your calcium and vitamin D and you can get your bones ready to face the after 30 challenges that come as we age.
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