Osteoporosis Prevention Through Nutrition and Diet
To ensure that people are getting enough calcium to build and maintain strong bones, doctors recommend eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as nonfat milk, low-fat yogurt, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, and leafy green vegetables.
According to the National Institutes of Health and National Osteoporosis Foundation, adults who are 19 to 50 years old should get 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Adults who are over age 50 should get 1,200 mg/day.
One 8-ounce glass of skim milk has the same amount of calcium as whole milk, 300 mg.
Because most women take in only half or a third as much calcium as they need through their diet, many doctors recommend calcium supplements to make up the difference. Newer studies are casting some doubt on this practice, however, because of the possible increased risk of heart disease with calcium supplementation; more research is needed. Ideally, calcium should come from dietary sources.
To help the body absorb calcium from either food or supplementation, doctors recommend vitamin D (800-1000 International Units daily).
Calcium supplements can inhibit the absorption of certain drugs. Check with your doctor before beginning calcium supplements. You may need to take your supplements at a different time than your other medications.
Other Dietary Ways to Maintain Bone
In addition to eating calcium-rich foods, you should also avoid phosphorus-rich ones, which can promote bone loss. High-phosphorus foods include red meats, soft drinks, and those with phosphate food additives. Excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine are also thought to reduce the amount of calcium absorbed by the body and should be avoided.
To help keep estrogen levels from dropping sharply after menopause, and thus help prevent osteoporosis, some practitioners advise postmenopausal women to consume more foods containing plant estrogens, especially tofu, soybean milk, and other soy products. However, there is no evidence to prove that these foods help prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.
Here are two easy ways to increase the amount of calcium in your diet:
- If you don't have a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance, add nonfat dry milk to everyday foods and beverages, including soups, stews, and casseroles. Each teaspoon of dry milk adds about 20 mg of calcium to your diet.
- Add a little vinegar to the water you use to make soup stock from bones. The vinegar will dissolve some of the calcium out of the bones, for a calcium-fortified soup. A pint can contain as much as 1,000 mg of calcium.
Osteoporosis Prevention Through Exercise
Not only must you get enough calcium in your diet, you must also exercise to maintain strong bones. Studies have shown that weight-bearing exercises -- those that put stress on bones, such as running, walking, tennis, ballet, stair climbing, aerobics, and weightlifting -- reduce bone loss and help prevent osteoporosis. To benefit from the exercise, you must do it at least three times per week for 30 to 45 minutes. Although swimming and bicycle riding are great cardiovascular exercises, they do not appear to prevent osteoporosis, because they do not put enough stress on bones.