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Six Tips for Stronger Bones

Kiwi fruit, one of many fruits and vegetables that help keep your bones and muscles strong. Picture source: Flickr, by: Jonycunca

If you receive Nutrition Action Health Letter, a newsletter published monthly by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and one of my favorite reads, then you might have seen this. The November featured article was on preventing osteoporosis and fractures.

The article is a bit technical, based on an interview with Bess Dawson-Hughes, a professor of medicine at Tufts university School of Medicine, and tapped into drug treatments. It offered lifestyle tips that each one of us can do to have healthier stronger bones. Some tips, such as getting enough calcium, we know already. But what really intrigued me to write this post is the notion that eating more fruits and vegetables can maintain your bone strength.

Why should you care…now?

Since osteoporosis hits at a later stage of life, you might think you’re too young to worry about it now. The truth is, it’s a silent disease, no symptoms until something goes terribly wrong. Yet, we reach our peak bone mass–think of it as the maximum bone strength you can ever have–at the age of thirty.  When you take care of bones early, they will support you to do all the things you want to do as you age.

Five Tips for Having Stronger Bones:

1. Get Enough Calcium:

Make sure you eat 3 servings of dairy every day. A serving is a cup of milk or yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free products or soy milk. You can get calcium from other foods too. Additional calcium is needed if you are over 50. In numbers, that is 1,000 mg calcium for people 19-50 years old and 1,200 mg for people over 50. Men: do not exceed 1,500 mg calcium a day for prostate health.

2. Get Enough Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is necessary to absorb the calcium. While we should be able to make it simply by getting some sun, the latest research is showing that many people are deficient and a supplement is necessary. Check with your doctor before you take one, but the recommendation is 400 IU for adults under 60 and 800 for adults over 60 (although the needs may be higher but it’s not official yet).

3. Get Enough Fruits and Vegetables:

That’s the interesting one. To put it in simple words, when there’s too much acid in your body (due to diet and some diseases), your body starts to break down muscles and bones to neutralize it. Fruits and vegetables lower the acidity and spare muscles and bones. While we should eat more of all fruits and veggies in general, some of the best neutralizing fruits and vegetables are raisins, apricots, kiwi, watermelon, pears, oranges, spinach, and zucchini.

4. Get Enough–but not too much–Protein

Because as we age, we start to lose muscle. When you don’t have enough muscles, you are more likely to fall. When you fall, you are more likely to have a fracture. But you don’t need too much. In fact, most protein foods increase the acid load. The trick here is balance: enough to support your muscles but not too much to increase the acid. How much? Divide your weight in pounds by 2, and the result is the number of protein grams you need a day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you need 70 grams of protein a day. To put it into perspective, you can get 8 grams of protein from a cup of milk, 2 tbsp of peanut butter, or 3 ounces of chicken/fish/meat.

5. Get Enough Exercise:

Specifically weight-bearing exercise, such as aerobics, running, jogging, dancing, tennis, hiking, jumping rope, stair climbing, fast walking, or using an elliptical machine. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.

6. Watch for Too Much Vitamin A:

And that’s vitamin A from your supplements. No more than 2,330 IU for women and 3,000 IU for men.

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Jônatas Cunha November 4, 2010, 1:42 pm

    LIKE ARTICLE, VERY INTERESTING INTERESTING. HERE IN BRAZIL
    OUR FAVORITE FRUIT IS banana, papaya, watermelon, apples, oranges and pears. HOW MUCH MORE IS YOUR NATURAL POWER, MORE HEALTHY BODY IS … AH … CAN USE MY PICTURES WILL …
    Ouvir
    Ler foneticamente

  • Amy (Super Healthy Kids) November 7, 2010, 7:45 am

    Thanks for the tips! At a very young age of 30 I was diagnosed with osteopenia. I took medication for a year and it got better, but it really scared me thinking my future of osteoporosis was inevitable. Since then, I’ve added more dairy and protein, and I’m hoping it will help.

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD November 8, 2010, 8:49 pm

      Thanks Amy for the comment and it’s great that you are doing something about it. Don’t forget to eat more fruits and vegetables and also to do weight bearing exercises.

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD November 8, 2010, 8:53 pm

    Jonatas: Thank you for letting me use your picture. Papaya is not very common here… great suggestion though…

  • Lauren Slayton November 9, 2010, 2:48 pm

    Love this for 2 reasons. First, I too thought article (like many in CSPI) was very technical. Perhaps, I am losing my science head, in any event happy you thought so too. Second- the reasoning behind fruits and vegetables for bone health was new to me too. See? We agree. Great post.

  • The Food Hunter November 10, 2010, 2:18 pm

    Thanks for this great bit of information.

  • rebecca subbiah November 13, 2010, 10:21 am

    great post will tweet 🙂 hope your well Mummy Nour 🙂

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD November 13, 2010, 9:34 pm

      Thank you Rebecca! Always appreciate your comments!

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD November 13, 2010, 10:13 pm

    Lauren: Thanks for the comment. Yes, CSPI articles tend be a bit technical but I don’t mind it. I like some science but it could also be the fact that I’m doing my MS in nutrition and recently took advanced metabolism. Fruits and veggies and acidity was new to me–not that we don’t have enough reasons to eat them.

    The Food Hunter: Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you liked it.

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