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Health & Fitness Tips

How to Build Beautiful Bones


Ironically, cultures like ours have the highest risk of osteoporotic fracture, despite the fact that we have the highest dairy -- and thus, calcium -- intake. How can this be when we're eating our bone-building yogurt, calcium-rich broccoli, and taking our supplements daily?

It turns out that calcium intake is only part of the total bone health picture. Dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors together determine how healthy your bones will be as you age. Total intake of other nutrients, along with any habits that are bone-damaging like smoking, drinking, and over consumption of fat, sugar, salt and processed foods, are important factors in the risk of osteoporosis. So are lack of sunlight and a sedentary lifestyle.

Although there are various ways to treat osteoporosis,

there is no cure. The best way to reduce your risk is to build strong bones before the age of 30. But it's never too late to bone up for good health. Here's how:

Eat a Healthy Bones Diet: Include these foods in your daily diet, which give your bones the balance of nutrients they need:

A colorful variety of fruits, natural fruit juices, and vegetables 
Whole grains and whole grain products (bread, cereal, rice, pasta)
Animal protein (fish, meat, poultry, eggs)
Nuts, nut butters, seeds or beans
Healthy fats and oils (olive and flaxseed oils are top choices)
Fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh)

Work It: Be sure to participate in regular exercise, 30-60 minutes most days of the week. Include regular weight-bearing exercises to help build and maintain your strength and balance.

Battle the Bulge: Maintain a healthy weight. Keep your Body Mass Index in a healthy range (18.5-24.9).

Don't Party Hearty: Avoid tobacco and excess alcohol (no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men; 1 drink = 12 oz. beer, 1 oz. liquor, 4-5 oz. wine).

Master This Mineral: Get enough calcium each day. Calcium recommendations range between 1000-1500 mg per day depending on age. Be sure to assess your daily intake of calcium through food before adding any supplements. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Just 'D' It: Be sure to get enough vitamin D as well. Vitamin D recommendations are 400-800 IU (international units) per day. Enjoy 15 minutes of sunshine daily to maintain internal vitamin D production.

What's Up, Doc?: Discuss your current dietary and lifestyle habits, as well as family history, with your healthcare provider. Follow-up with proper testing. Ask your physician about a bone density test, and be sure to check with your insurance about coverage. Also, ask your physician about follow-up testing and make an appointment to discuss your results.

Do 'Em Good: Be a good role model for your children. With the best defense against


osteoporosis being building strong bones before age 30, it is important to encourage our children to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and participate in regular exercise.

by Jennifer May, M.S., R.D., M.S.


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