Though you may think your bones are just a hard and dormant support structure for your body, they are actually dynamic, growing tissue with new bone constantly replacing old bone. How can you keep your bones strong over time? Feed them the right nutrients and engage in regular weight bearing physical activity. Strong bones help protect your organs from injury, allow your body to move and support good posture.
Several vitamins and minerals are important for bone health. However, the top two that provide the most impact are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium, the primary mineral found in bone, contributes to the strength and hardness of bone tissue. Over time, inadequate calcium intake can lead to weak, porous bones.
National survey data shows that many Americans are not getting enough calcium in their diet. In women ages 19-30 and 31-50 only 28% and 33% are getting above the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) set for calcium. The best dietary sources of calcium are dairy foods and fortified nutritional foods such as protein shakes. Green leafy veggies also contain calcium but in very small quantities. For instance, 1 cup of broccoli contains only one-sixteenth of the recommended intake for the average adult aged 19-50! So eat broccoli too, but be aware of the proportion of calcium coming from it versus other foods and take a calcium and vitamin D supplement if your doctor recommends it.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium you consume. Most of us aren’t getting enough vitamin D either, which has set the stage for a vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency epidemic in this country. Few foods contain vitamin D. Most milk is fortified with it and it is also fortified in some brands of orange juice, yogurt and breakfast cereal. Egg yolks, liver and some types of fish naturally contain vitamin D.
In addition to eating a nutritious diet packed with calcium and vitamin D, everyone needs regular physical activity including resistance training (strength training) and weight bearing exercise. Lifting weights, rock climbing, gymnastics, running and walking are examples of activities that help build bone strength. If you choose to run or walk, be sure to lift weights for your upper body too so you build those bones as well.
Calcium and Bones. NIH.
What We Eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006.