What you should eat for healthy bones

Building up healthy bones starts from childhood. This is because most of our bone mass is built by 20 to 30 years of age. Therefore how good our bone mass is by this age decides how weak or brittle it may get later in life. Our body is continuously building new bone and losing old one.

Bone health is affected by calcium intake, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, age, gender (women particularly post menopause are more prone to oesteoporosis), race (Asians and whites are at a higher risk), hormonal imbalance, hyperthyroidism, gastric diseases or gastric surgeries including weight loss surgeries that cause malabsorption, certain medications (cortisone).

How to build strong bones
· The best possible habit to develop for healthy bones is being physically active from childhood onwards. If you have not been active till now it is never too late. Adding exercises at any age and continuing it will help slow the loss of bone mass even in later life. For strengthening bones of the lower body like spine, hips and legs, do weight bearing exercises like walking, jogging, climbing stairs, running, or even gardening. And to increase bone strength for upper spine and arms, do strengthening exercises.
· Get a good intake of calcium. The best source of calcium is milk. It is also the best absorbed source among foods. Everybody needs milk or yogurt throughout their life. Someone who gets his 2 glasses of milk is quite safe on the calcium front.

How Indians can get calcium is by using the following in their diet
Milk all kinds including full fat, low fat, skimmed or flavoured, Yogurt or buttermilk
Paneer, cheese – all kinds (especially Cheddar cheese)
Ice cream
Fish especially small ones where soft bones can be eaten
Ragi, amaranth
Legumes particularly Soybeans
All green and leafy vegetables like mustard greens, coriander, parsley, spinach, grape leaves, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, okra etc
Nuts, green olives and seeds especially sesame seeds,
Oranges, cherries, tangerine, strawberries, apricot, fresh dates, fresh figs
Breads with milk added
Milk based desserts – custard, kheers, rasamalai, rasagulla , sesame laddoo etc
Calcium fortified juices

· Get enough Vitamin D. There is good calcium absorption when sufficient Vitamin D is available in the body. When your diet lacks Vit D, there is loss of calcium. Exposure to just 15 minutes of sunlight also helps by stimulating the synthesis of Vitamin D. Good sources of Vitamin D are egg yolk, fish liver oils, oily fishes, milk and fortified cereals.

What not to do

· Avoid smoking – smoking causes loss of calcium
· Avoid alcohol – reduces calcium absorption and bone formation
· Restrict intake of soft drinks especially in growing children.

Parvathy R Krishnan

The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. She is presently a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Parvathy blogs at http://premadiet.blogspot.in/

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Image: sxc/iliana