Eating well protects, strengthens bones

Authorities on the subject say that next to genetic factors, healthy eating choices have the most impact on osteopenia and osteoporosis vulnerability. Making healthy food choices can help prevent bone loss, and food is also one of the most important treatments once bone loss is discovered.

The two fundamental nutrients in osteoporosis and osteopenia prevention and treatment are calcium and Vitamin D.

Calcium is also required by the muscles for tone and contraction, by the nerves, and for blood clotting and immune responses. If your diet is deficient in calcium (and most people’s are), the other bodily requirements take calcium from the stored calcium bank in your bones.

If you begin to eat a diet rich in calcium, then the debt can be paid back, but if you continue to rob the bank and eat poorly, bone thinning and weakening will continue.

As we develop throughout childhood and early adulthood, our bones continue to mature and thicken as long as our diet is well supplied with calcium.

This is why it is pivotal that we encourage calcium-rich food choices for our children and set a good example ourselves.

The recommended amount of calcium per day is 1,200 mg which is a difficult amount to ensure. The upper limit is 2,500 mg, which is almost impossible to take in without using a calcium supplement.

Some foods such as rhubarb and spinach are very calcium-rich but they also contain oxalates which bind the calcium making it not well absorbed.

Some of the very best sources of calcium are fat free or low fat, organic yogurt, organic soy milk, organic tofu with calcium, organic edamame, organic frozen yogurt, bok choy, white beans, kale, collard greens, broccoli, almonds and almond butter.

I specify organic because to load up on non-organic foods in order to be healthy is foolish. Why would you want to contaminate your body with GMO, pesticides or bovine growth hormone and antibiotics? For dairy and soy especially, you must go organic!

Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium properly. In children without sufficient Vitamin D, we are familiar with the disease Ricketts, in which a child’s legs are bowed because their leg bones are weak from lack of calcium disposition.

In adults, lack of Vitamin D causes osteopenia and osteoporosis. Vitamin D can be made in the body with just 10-15 minutes of sunshine on your skin three or four times a week.

A safer way, rather than risk skin cancer, is to obtain your Vitamin D in food or to take a supplement to reach the 800 IU of required daily Vitamin D.

Best foods for Vitamin D are wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and fortified fat-free, organic milk or yogurt, organic soy milk or egg yolks.

There are some other vital nutrients that help keep bones strong, too. Magnesium can help neutralize acids formed metabolically in the body that leach calcium out of your bones.

Best sources of magnesium are pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, sweet potatoes and starchy beans.

Potassium helps neutralize metabolic acids as well, and is abundant in fruit and vegetables, most notably yellow colored and dark colored ones.

Vitamin K is essential for the formation of osteocalcin which is a protein found only in bones. Vitamin K is also important for blood coagulation, so those on blood thinners should consult their doctor before making changes to their intake of Vitamin K-containing foods.

Foods rich in Vitamin K are kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, endive, all varieties of lettuce, parsley, broccoli and other greens.

These foods will help you build and retain strong bones. Being aware of good dietary habits will not only help you keep your bones strong, but keep all of you healthy and strong. You are what you eat!


Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at, 212-1451 or


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