Caring for Your Skeleton
A skeleton is not just a spooky Halloween decoration, it is the supporting structure of your body. Comprised of 206 bones, your skeleton facilitates movement and protects your body’s most vital organs. One of the best ways to keep your bones strong, sturdy and healthy is through a nutritious, well-balanced diet. Learn more about the foods that benefit your bone health at every age.
Your skeleton relies on a nutritious, balanced diet to stay strong and sturdy. As we grow older, bones start to lose density and strength, which places us at an increased risk of fractures. While a decline in bone density with age is difficult to avoid, you can help reduce your risk of fracture with the proper nutrition.
A nutritious diet, complete with the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats can help support strong bones at every stage of life. So, be sure to swap out a few Halloween sweet treats for some of the following nutritious ingredients to keep your skeleton healthy.
Bones contain about 99 percent of the body’s calcium, making it an essential ingredient for maintaining and building strong bones. Your body does not make calcium on its own, which is why it’s imperative to incorporate consistent calcium in your diet. If you don’t provide your body with enough calcium, it will take the calcium it needs from your bones, weakening them as a result.
You can find calcium in the following foods and beverages:
- Beans (pinto, kidney, great northern)
- Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Dark green vegetables (collard greens, kale, broccoli, spinach)
- Fortified foods (milk alternatives-soy, almond, coconut milks; fortified orange juice, some breakfast cereals)
- Sardines and canned salmon
- Seeds (poppy, sesame, chia)
The recommended intake of calcium ranges from 1,000-1,200mg per day for adults. The recommendation for toddlers (ages 1-3) is 500mg per day; children (ages 4-8) is 800mg per day and adolescents (ages 9 to 19) is 1,300mg per day.
Working closely with calcium, our body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium from food to renew and mineralize bone tissue and to promote a healthy immune system and muscles. While the sun is a source of Vitamin D, you can find the Vitamin D your body needs in several foods and dietary supplements year round.
Vitamin D can be found in the following foods:
- Egg yolks
- Fatty fish (swordfish, salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna)
- Fortified foods (milk, milk alternatives, some orange juices, cereal and yogurt,)
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 400IU for children and 800-1,000 IU per day.
Daily protein intake can indirectly help reduce the risk of a fracture. Consuming enough protein helps maintain muscle substance and strength, which may reduce the risk of falls and subsequently, fractures.
Protein-rich foods include:
- Dairy products
- Meat (lean beef, chicken, pork)
- Nuts and seeds
- Plant-based protein (almonds, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, quinoa)
- Soy products
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is .8 grams per kg body weight, depending on health status and activity level.
Magnesium plays an important role in regulating the absorption and metabolism of calcium and Vitamin D, as well as in forming the bone mineral that gives bones their compressive strength. One of the best ways to maintain proper magnesium levels is by staying well-nourished and following a nutritious, balanced diet.
Good sources of magnesium include:
- Green vegetables (collard greens, kale)
- Seeds (poppy, sesame, chia)
- Vegetables: tomato, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra
- Whole grains
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 400mg per day.
Following a well-balanced, nutritious diet is beneficial to our health in more ways than one, especially when it comes to our bones. Whether you’re an adolescent, teen or elderly adult, a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition promotes bone health and helps reduce risk of osteopenia (when bone growth is slower than bone loss) and osteoporosis (when bone density and quality are more fragile than normal). There are many creative and delicious ways to incorporate the nutrients you need into your favorite snacks and meal. Making nutrition a daily priority can help keep you and your skeleton healthy and happy.
Our nutritionists offer a few other tips for maintaining your bone strength:
- Monitor sodium intake
- Limit caffeine
- Physical activity
- Smoking cessation is another lifestyle factor that can positively impact bone mass