Your bones play a significant role in your body. From providing structure, protecting your organs, and anchoring muscles, it’s important to treat your bones with care. Building strong and healthy bones during childhood is important, but don't worry, you can still protect your bone health into adulthood thanks to diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors. In this blog, I’m covering what you need to know about bone health including risk factors and prevention strategies. Read on to learn more!
Types of Bone Disease
A reduction in bone mass is natural as you age. When you’re young, new bone is added faster than your body breaks down old bone. This increases your bone mass. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. I'm sorry to say that after that, you start to lose more bone mass than you gain.
There are two types of bone disease: osteopenia and osteoporosis. Osteopenia is less severe than osteoporosis. Osteopenia means that you have a lower bone mineral density than is ideal and this makes you more susceptible to bone breaks and fractures. Having osteopenia increases your chances of developing osteoporosis. This is a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. Osteoporosis risk largely depends on the amount of bone mass you build up by the time you're 30 years old as well as how quickly you lose it with age.
Overall, the higher your peak bone mass is, the more bone you have "stored up" which means that you are less likely to develop osteoporosis as you age.
Whether or not you develop osteoporosis depends on several risk factors, some of which include:
- being over age 50
- hitting menopause
- having a family history of osteoporosis
- having a low body weight and/or being small and thin
- using steroid medication for a long period of time
- having celiac disease, Crohn's disease, or other digestive disorders
How to Decrease Your Risk
As an adult, there are risk factors you can control to help maintain healthy bones and to avoid premature bone loss. Making changes to your diet, having an active lifestyle (with an emphasis on weight-bearing exercises like lifting weights, walking and running), and eliminating poor lifestyle habits (such as excess alcohol consumption) will not just help you prevent osteoporosis, but will also improve your overall health and well-being.
Nutrition for Optimal Bone Health
Some of the most important nutrients for bone health are calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. You need all of these nutrients for a strong skeletal structure, so let’s talk about how you can get them in your diet!
Calcium is essential for supporting your skeleton and maintaining bone mass. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will pull from a stored supply of calcium within your bones. This can cause them to weaken and increase the risk of bone fractures. To keep your bones healthy, it's recommended to consume between 1000-1300 mg a day (depending on your age). You can get calcium from supplements or food items such as leafy green vegetables, dairy products, and plant-based fortified foods.
Some examples of calcium-rich options include:
- 1 cup steamed kale = 100 mg calcium
- 1 cup steamed broccoli = 60 mg calcium
- 3 oz. canned sardines = 325 mg calcium
- 6 oz. yogurt, plain, low fat = 310 mg calcium
- 1 Tbsp chia seed= 75 mg calcium
- 1/2 cup firm tofu= 250 mg calcium
- 1.5 oz cheese= 300 mg calcium
- 4 oz calcium fortified orange juice= 175 mg calcium
- 8 oz. cow's mik or other fortified milk alternative (almond, soy, coconut) = 300-350 mg calcium
Vitamin D is another essential nutrient for bone health. It helps your body absorb calcium. You should always try to have a vitamin D and calcium food source together. This will maximize the absorption process and boost the effectiveness of each nutrient. A minimum of 400 – 800 IU of vitamin D every day is essential (although research supports much higher amounts). You can get vitamin D through supplements, as well as red meat, egg yolks, and fortified foods.
Some examples of vitamin D-rich serving sizes include:
- 3 oz. cooked salmon = 575 IU vitamin D
- ½ cup mushrooms = 375 IU vitamin D
- 1 cup cow's milk or other fortified milk alternative (almond, soy, coconut) = 125-175 IU vitamin D
- 1 large egg = 45 IU vitamin D
You can also get vitamin D with all-natural sunshine! It was previously thought that sunscreen could inhibit vitamin D production, but one recent finding indicates this isn't the case. It concluded that the benefits of sunscreen use can be obtained without compromising vitamin D levels. Let's hope more studies are released confirming this same finding!
I recommend that you ask your doctor to order a vitamin D blood level if you haven't had it done before. It's crucial to address any low blood levels with a diet and supplementation to avoid any negative effects.
Vitamin K is an overlooked nutrient that is incredibly important for bone health. Research suggests that Vitamin K is essential for synthesizing a protein called osteocalcin which is important for maintaining bone strength. This means that a poor intake of this vitamin is linked to low bone mass, fracture risk, and osteoporosis.
There are two forms of vitamin K (vitamin K1 and vitamin K2), but scientists have more recently found that vitamin K2 is by far the most important when it comes to bone health. It wasn't until 2006 that the USDA even began differentiating between food sources of the two!
However, there are very few vitamin K2 food sources in the Western diet. The highest source is natto, fermented soybeans that are a common food in Japan, but difficult to find in the Western world. Rumor has it that you need to plug your nose to eat it! Other vitamin K2 sources include goose liver and certain fermented cheeses. It goes without saying that this nutrient may need to be supplemented!
If you're at risk for poor bone health, contact me to evaluate your dietary needs. If you think you may need supplemention, check out my recent article on 3 Supplements to Support Your Bone Health. Nutrition Dynamix also offers a micro nutrient blood panel that checks all of the important bone nutrients that are mentioned above!
Schedule an appointment today to talk about how diet changes can help you! Your health insurance may be able to cover your visits at no cost to you. Nutrition Dynamix takes pride in assessing each patient’s individual needs. There is no single diet that is perfect for everybody’s health.
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