Calcium and Bone Health - Eating to Protect Your Bones and Prevent Osteoporosis

Ms. Anupa Mahanty    20-02-2016 Consult

Calcium is a key nutrient for your body to stay strong and healthy.It is an essential building block for lifelong bone health in both men and women. Whatever your age or gender, everyone can benefit from eating calcium-rich foods, limiting those that deplete calcium, and getting enough magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins D and K to help calcium do its job.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, one that plays many vital roles. Your body uses it to build healthy bones and teeth,  send messages through the nervous system, help your blood clot, your muscles contract, and regulate the heart's rhythm, among other things.
If you don't get enough calcium in your diet, your body will take calcium from your bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones or osteoporosis.

Calcium and Osteoporosis Connection
Osteoporosis is a "silent" disease characterized by loss of bone mass. Due to weakened bones, fractures become commonplace, which leads to serious health risks such as the inability to walk. People with osteoporosis often don't recover after a fall and it is the second most common cause of death in women, mostly those aged 60 and older. Men are also at risk of developing osteoporosis, but typically 5 to 10 years later than women. Fortunately, osteoporosis is preventable for most people, and getting enough calcium in your diet is the first place to start.

How much Calcium do you need?

0-6 months

210 milligrams / day

7-12 months

270 milligrams / day

1-3 years

500 milligrams / day

4-8 years

800 milligrams / day

9-18 years

1,300 milligrams / day

19-50 years

1,000 milligrams / day

50+ years

1,200 milligrams / day

Food - Best Source of Calcium
Your body is able to absorb more calcium from food than it can from supplements. On top of the better absorption rates, calcium from food often comes with other beneficial nutrients that help calcium do its job.Furthermore, using high-dose calcium supplements may increase your risk of kidney stones and heart disease. Doctors advise that you get as much of your daily calcium needs from food as possible and use only low-dose supplements to make up any shortfall
Good Food Sources of Calcium:
  1. Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, curd, paneer and cheese.
  2. Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try turnip greens, mustard greens,  romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, , cabbage, green beans.
  3. Legumes: For another rich source of calcium, try black beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas.
  4. Herbs and spices: For a small but tasty calcium boost, flavor your food with basil, thyme, cinnamon, garlic, oregano, rosemary.
Other food sources of calcium include salmon, tofu, oranges, almonds, sesame seeds. 

Beyond Calcium: Other Nutrients for Healthy Bones
When it comes to healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis, calcium alone is not enough. There are a number of other vital nutrients that help your body absorb and make use of the calcium you consume. The most important of these are vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K. 

Calcium and Vitamin D - Vitamin D is another critical nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and regulates calcium in the blood. Your body synthesizes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. So,get some sun exposure everyday and consume vitamin D rich foods.
 Good food sources of vitamin D include:
- Eggs
- Cheese
- Butter
- Cream
- Fish
- Shrimp
- You may also want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Optimal vitamin D intake is between 1,000 IU and 2,000 IU (international units) per day

Calcium and Magnesium - Magnesium helps your body absorb and retain calcium. Magnesium works closely with calcium to builod and strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. Since your body is not good at storing magnesium, it is vital to make sure you get enough of it in your diet. Magnesium is found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, seafood, legumes.

Calcium and Phosphorus - Phosphorus works with calcium to build bones. But again, it's important to get the balance right: too much phosphorus will cause your body to absorb less calcium and can even be toxic. While the RDA for adults is 700 mg a day, most people get enough phosphorus from food without needing supplements. Good sources of phosphorus include:

- Dairy
- Fish (cod, salmon, tuna)
- Pork
- Poultry
- Lentils
- Nuts
- Whole Grains

Calcium and Vitamin K - Vitamin K helps the body regulate calcium and form strong bones. Include vitamin K in your diet by eating green, leafy vegetables 

For lifelong bone health, Exercise is the Key - When it comes to building and maintaining strong bones, exercise is essential. Studies show that the risk of osteoporosis is lower for people who are active, especially for those who do weight-bearing activities at least three times a week. Exercise also increases your muscle strength and coordination, which helps you avoid falls and other situations that cause fractures.
There are many different ways to include weight-bearing exercises in your life. Some examples are walking, jogging, stair climbing, weightlifting, racquet sports, and hiking. Find something that you enjoy doing and make it a regular activity.

Minimize Calcium Draining Substances
There are a number of foods and substances that, when consumed in excess, drain calcium from your bones and deplete your body's calcium stores.
  1. Salt - Eating too much salt can contribute to calcium loss and bone breakdown. What you can do: reduce packaged  foods,  and processed  foods which are often high in sodium.
  2. Caffeine - Drinking more than 2 cups of black coffee a day can lead to calcium loss. You can buffer the effects to an extent by drinking coffee with milk.
  3. Alcohol - Alcohol inhibits calcium absorption and disrupts your body's calcium balance in a number of ways. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to no more than 7 drinks per week.
  4. Soft drinks - It's best to avoid drinking soft drinks and sodas regularly. In order to balance the phosphates in soft drinks, your body draws calcium from your bones, which is then excreted. 
Hoping you start taking steps to improve your bone health and enjoy the benefits at every stage of your life!!