Adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet help maintain your bone strength, reducing your risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak because of the loss of bone density. Although you can take supplements that provide calcium and vitamin D, the best way to get adequate calcium is by eating calcium-rich foods.
One in every two women and one in four men older than 50 will have a bone fracture caused by weak bones in their lifetime. Fortunately, following a healthy-bones diet can help to increase bone strength and reduce the risk for osteoporosis.
Calcium in the body
Calcium is needed for several essential bodily functions, and if you don't consume enough, your body will steal from your bones to get it, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says.
Adults 19 to 50 need about 1,000 mg of calcium and 600 IU vitamin D a day to protect their bones, help control high blood pressure, and maintain heart and muscle health. Adults 51 and older need about to 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium and 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D a day.
The best way to get calcium is through your diet, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says. High-calcium foods include milk, cheese, sardines with bones, and kale.
Other dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified with vitamin D and contain only small amounts. If you have only limited exposure to sun because of climate or you can’t get outdoors, be sure to include good sources of vitamin D in your diet or talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.
More steps to take
These additional recommendations can strengthen your bones:
Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise, such as jogging, hiking, aerobics, weightlifting, dancing, and walking. Exercise builds bone strength, helps slow bone loss, and strengthens the muscles around your bones. Try to exercise at a moderate pace for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.
Make low-fat milk fortified with vitamin D the standard drink with meals. This is true not only for children and teens, but also for adults.
Don't smoke. Smoking can decrease estrogen levels, which increases osteoporosis risk.
Limit alcoholic beverages. People who drink heavily tend to have more bone loss and more fractures.
Avoid excess sodium, which increases the amount of calcium released from the body.