Eating a nutrient-rich diet is important for strong bones and for overall good health. It is important to consume the recommended amount of calcium, vitamin D, and protein each day, the nutrients necessary to build and maintain healthy bones.
The way best is get the calcium you need each day is from the food you eat. Most people can easily get at least half of the calcium they need from calcium rich foods such as fat-free and low-fat dairy foods, certain green vegetables, canned fish eaten with bones, and calcium-fortified foods. The body uses calcium best when it is spaced through the day. It is best to include a calcium rich food at each meal or snack. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider if you do not think you are getting the calcium you need from the foods you eat. Calcium supplements should only be taken with the advice of your healthcare provider. It is important not to consume too much calcium, particularly from supplements.
Protein is essential for healthy bones. It is recommended to fill 1/4 of your plate with a lean protein source such as lean meat, fish, skinless poultry, eggs, beans, soy foods, or a low-fat dairy food.
The Whole Foods Approach to Healthy Bones: Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Several population studies have linked higher intakes of fruits and vegetables with less bone loss and higher bone mineral density. It is not clear why fruits and vegetables promote healthy bones. Some scientists believe that fruits and vegetables may contain dietary factors that are better for bones. Could it be nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, or a combination of vitamins in fruits and vegetables that promote healthy bones? Could it be the phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) that some fruits and vegetables contain that are beneficial to bones? Another theory is that fruits and vegetables may affect the body's acid-base balance (making it less acidic) resulting in improved use of calcium by the body. Perhaps individuals with a higher intake of fruits and vegetables just have a better overall diet contributing to stronger bones. Controlled clinical studies will help us to better understand the fruit and vegetable link to bone health. For now, we know it is wise for bone health and for overall good health to fill half of your plate with varied, deeply colored fruits and vegetables.
Supplements, Multivitamins, and Bone Health
There is no strong evidence that isolated nutrients taken as supplements such as vitamins C, E, K, phosphorus, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, boron, strontium, or silicon are beneficial for strong bones in the general healthy population. For most healthy people, supplementation with nutrients other than calcium (when needed) and vitamin D are not required. However, supplements may be needed by individuals with medical conditions, people diagnosed with nutritional deficiencies, and frail older adults eating nutrient-poor diets. It is important to speak to your healthcare provider about your nutritional needs.
Some healthcare providers recommend the use of a daily multivitamin as nutritional insurance to protect overall health. If you are advised by your healthcare provider to take a multivitamin, it is important to read the Nutrition Facts on the label. Be sure to choose a multivitamin appropriate for your age and/or gender. It is best to select a multivitamin that contains 100% of the daily value (%DV) of most vitamins and minerals. Most multivitamins contain a small amount of calcium. The vitamin D content can vary greatly, usually from 400IU to 1000IU per daily dose. It is wise to to select a brand that contains more beta-carotene and less retinol as the vitamin A source.
The Importance of Research
Poor nutrition is a risk factor for osteoporosis that can be changed. Therefore, it is important that research continues to identify the dietary factors that influence bone health. Observations that certain dietary factors appear to have an impact on bone health need to be further tested in controlled clinical studies.