Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones; it literally means “porous bones.” Our bones are strong throughout our 20s and reach their maximum strength at age 30. By the time we go through menopause, whether it is early or around the average age of 50, our bones start to thin at a faster rate. There are many ways to help put on the brakes. One of the best ways is through our diet. There are certain foods that can help increase our bone thickness at any age.
The cornerstone of strong bones is calcium. Every woman should get 1,000 milligrams per day through age 50. Once they turn 51, they will need to get 1,200 milligrams every day. Milk is the best source of calcium: a single eight-ounce cup of milk has 300 milligrams on its own. However, there are many people who do not drink milk at all. In this case, a cup of yogurt has just as much calcium as a glass of milk. Also one ounce of Swiss cheese has nearly as much calcium as both yogurt and milk. Many people avoid yogurt and cheese due to being lactose intolerant, but swiss cheese is actually very low in lactose. There are also products available that are completely lactose-free.
If milk and dairy products are not in your diet, there are other ways of getting calcium, such as orange juice fortified with calcium. One serving has up to 240 milligrams of calcium. Breakfast cereal may contain as much as 1,000 milligrams of calcium in each serving. Another excellent source of calcium is sardines. Eating three ounces of canned sardines delivers a little more calcium than a cup of milk. Salmon is another fish that is high in calcium. This fish not only contains calcium, but another important vitamin for your bones, Vitamin D. Vitamin D is best thought of as the key that allows the Calcium to get into your bones. Every woman should have at least 600 IU of Vitamin D per day.
For those women who are not fish eaters, you might be surprised to discover that many vegetables offer a good source of calcium. These vegetables are of the dark, leafy, and green variety. Examples of these are Chinese cabbage, kale, bok choy, collards, and turnip greens. One cup of these vegetables contain 200 milligrams of calcium. Tofu is another great source of calcium. A half of a cup contains as much as 861 milligrams.
If dairy and fish are not in your diet, supplements are an easy way to boost your calcium intake. To get the most bang for your buck, you should not take more than 500 milligrams at one time. This usually is equivalent to 1 pill. In order to get the daily 1,200 milligrams, you should take one pill in the morning and one pill in the evening. Many calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken with food.
The last item on the list for super bones is performing regular weight-bearing exercises. I know that this is not a food but it is equally important. This includes any activity that uses your own weight or outside weights as resistance—such as walking, running, dancing, tennis, weight lifting, and yoga. These activities allow your bones to actually create more bone material, which increases your bone strength. So think twice when you are at the grocery store or eating at a restaurant and choose the foods that will help keep your bones nice and strong. If you add regular exercise to a healthy diet, you can help prevent osteoporosis and its impact on your health.
Melissa Waddell, WHNP, a Hampton Roads native, is a nurse practitioner at Atlantic Ob/Gyn with locations in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. For more information, please call 463-1234 or visit www.atlanticobgyn.com.