Like other cells in your body, your bones constantly change and are rebuilt. Your bone strength and density naturally diminish with age; bone health is also affected by your lifestyle, how much physical exercise you get and your daily diet. Research published in the December 2000 "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" determined that nutrition is an essential factor in the production of bone mass. Because your body must get the building blocks for healthy bones from the food you eat, poor nutrition negatively impacts bone density.
Milk is often associated with bone health because it is rich in calcium. This mineral is essential for bone formation, repair and development. Dairy products, almonds and certain vegetables are good sources of calcium. Most male and female adults between the ages of 19 and 50 require about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. and this requirement rises to 1,200 milligrams for adults 71 or older. Women ages 50 to 70 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need between 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams a day depending on their age.
Minerals and vitamins work together in your body and calcium requires other nutrients to help build and repair bone. You must also have the minerals phosphorus and magnesium in your diet in order for your body to absorb calcium. Phosphorus is found in a variety of foods, including meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. Magnesium is commonly found in vegetables, grains and certain types of nuts.
The National Institutes of Health advises that you also need certain vitamins to effectively absorb calcium and maintain bone health. These include vitamins A, C, D and K. Vitamin D is needed for your body to use calcium from food. This is why foods such as milk and breakfast cereals often have added vitamin D. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that that adults need 600 international units of vitamin D a day.
Eating foods that are high in sodium is not only harmful for your heart, it may also lead to unhealthy bones. The National Osteoporosis Foundation advises that too much sodium in your diet causes your body to lose calcium and thus diminishes bone density. Do not have more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Less is better. Avoid or limit processed, packaged and canned foods and don't add more table salt to your meals. Additionally, while protein is an important part of a daily balanced diet, eating too much meat and other protein-rich foods can also lead to calcium loss. You can prevent this by eating foods that are high in protein and calcium such as low-fat dairy products. Heavy alcohol consumption and too much caffeine also contribute to bone loss.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Nutrition in Bone Health Revisited: A Story Beyond Calcium
- MayoClinic.com: Osteoporosis
- National Institutes of Health: Calcium in Diet
- MayoClinic.com: Calcium and Calcium Supplements: Achieving the Right Balance
- The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases - National Resource Center: Bone Basics
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: Food and Your Bones
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.