A few weeks ago I was invited to do a nutrition seminar for a group of women, the topic of the night was bone health and Osteoporosis. Diet plays such a big role in the maintenance of our bone health. By the age of 30 our bone density begins to decline, so by the time we get to our 60’s our bones may not be as strong, leading to a higher risk of fractures. Osteoporosis tends to affect more women than men based on their unique physiology, hormonal changes and nutrition patterns.
Here’s a snippet of that talk.
To paraphrase a cliché, you are not simply what you eat but also what you absorb. You can eat the world’s best diet but if you can’t absorb the nutrients, the food hasn’t served you well. As we age, stomach acid becomes less effective. This leads to the inability to absorb some nutrients, including calcium.
Many of us today have an overly acidic diet – we eat too much meat, consume too much dairy, too many grains, etc. All of these raise the acidity levels in our body. The blood, in an effort to maintain a balanced pH will do what it must in order to reduce the acidity. It does this by pulling calcium from our bones into the blood stream. Calcium is alkaline and works to buffer the acidity in our blood. In order to prevent this from happening we should take care to reduce the acidity in our diet and increase more alkaline foods.
Certain animal products such as red meat and pork can acidify the blood as well as:
Refined grains (white bread)
Sticking to a more alkaline diet by reducing the above foods, including red meat and pork, will help prevent osteoporosis. Alkaline foods such as fruits and vegetables, and healthy proteins sources, including chicken, fish, turkey, legumes, nuts, seeds, and eggs, will help with the buffering also and thus can prevent calcium loss from bone.
Milk and dairy products are often promoted as food that is good for the bones and prevents osteoporosis because of high calcium content. However one of the most common allergens in today’s society is cow’s dairy.
So, what other sources of calcium can we look to?
Fortified juices and milk alternatives, such as rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, soy etc.
Daily portions of nuts and seeds – especially almonds and sesame seeds.
Fish, especially sardines and salmon (If canned – ideally, with bones)
And don’t forget dark green leafy vegetables which, apart from offering you calcium, contain a wealth of nutrients. We would all do well to ensure we include 1-2 cups of dark green leafy vegetables on a daily basis.
I mentioned calcium earlier as one of the important minerals for bone density but in addition to calcium there are many other nutrients which are important for bone health. For example, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and many others also contribute to the formation of healthy, strong bones.
When buying calcium supplements, avoid calcium carbonate as it is most difficult to absorb (ie: Tums). Instead choose calcium citrate, mallet or chelate. (Carbonate-4%, Citrate-45% absorption)
Include magnesium in a 2:1 ratio of calcium magnesium. Food sources of magnesium include, kelp, millet, tofu, beet greens, Swiss chard, leafy greens, buckwheat, brown rice, walnuts, pecans, kidney beans, and dark chocolate. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption by as much as 30-80%. Of course our skin makes this vitamin in response to sunlight but from September-June in Canada we don’t get adequate expose so supplementing is crucial. You can get small amounts of vitamin D in egg yolks and fish oils but supplementing is recommended for optimal health.
- Calcium citrate 800-1200 mg/day (choose a citrate or a chelate over a carbonate)
- Magnesium 400-800 mg/day
- Vitamin D 1,000 IUs minimum, year-round