Strong Bones for Life: Fight Off Osteoporosis
Eat for Your Bones, Starting with Calcium
Calcium is the mineral that makes bones strong. Women under 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day (about three 8-ounce glasses of skim milk, one cup of calcium-fortified cereal, or three 8-ounce servings of low-fat yogurt). To absorb and use that calcium, you also need 400 to 800 international units of vitamin D2 or D3 (fortified milk, egg yolks, and saltwater fish are excellent sources). After age 50 -- or after menopause, if that comes earlier -- you need to raise your intake to 1,200mg of calcium and 800 to 1,000 international units of D, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Try to get as much calcium as possible from food. Dairy products are the best source; broccoli, kale, tofu, and canned salmon with bones are also good sources, as are fortified foods like juices, cereal, and bottled water. For a list of calcium-rich foods from the National Institutes of Health, see LHJ.com/calcium.
But eating more calcium is not the be-all and end-all. Research suggests that women whose diet is rich in fruits and vegetables (at least nine servings a day, seven days a week) have higher bone mineral density than those who eat less produce, possibly because the nutrients slow how fast bone is dissolved. Also, some foods can reduce your ability to absorb calcium. Don't take calcium supplements for two hours or more before or after eating cereal or bread with 100 percent wheat bran. Get extra calcium if you drink lots of caffeinated drinks -- adding milk to coffee will do the trick. Soft drinks containing phosphoric acid may leach calcium from bones. And sodium causes excess calcium excretion when you sweat or urinate, another reason to cut back on salt.