Important Nutrients for Bone Health

Three nutrients important for healthy bones are calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. Here is some useful background, plus some tips on incorporating foods that are rich in these nutrients into your daily diet.(Be sure to consult your doctor for advice regarding appropriate doses of these three nutrients.)

Besides regular weight-bearing exercise (see related article!), getting enough calcium in your diet is a key element to preventing osteoporosis. One general guideline for women who are past menopause is 1,200 mg of calcium each day.

Vitamin D and calcium go hand in hand: without vitamin D, calcium can’t be absorbed. While our bodies synthesize vitamin D through the exposure of our skin to sunlight, that can be tricky in the cloudy Northwest—and even in summer,when you block the sun’s rays with sunscreen. Vitamin D supplements are usually needed, with the recommended daily amount being 600–800 international units.

Magnesium is a mineral, and it plays a critical role in your body, including maintaining healthy bones and a healthy heart. Magnesium exists in your body in significant amounts, with the major portion contained in the skeleton. Deficiencies of this mineral can lead to your bones becoming brittle, which in time increases the risk of fractures. Most people on average need to consume 300–400 milligrams of magnesium a day.

Boosting Your Diet for Good Bone Health

Increasing your intake of dietary sources that are rich in calcium, vitamin D and magnesium can support a personal health goal to maintain strong, resilient bones. As always, work closely with your medical provider to create a care plan that’s right for you.

Calcium. Calcium is found in dairy products (for example, milk, yogurts and cheese), fortified juices, canned salmon and some plant sources such as tofu. Try making “tuna melts” with salmon instead of tuna, or enjoy plain, low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit for a mid-morning snack.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D is in milk and some yogurt and can also be found in eggs, mushrooms and some fortified foods. Starting your day with a hardboiled egg or having a glass of milk instead of your midday soda can help.

Magnesium. Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. Fresh fruits and vegetables also provide a modest amount of magnesium.

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