Ten ways to boost your bone health at the kitchen table

If you're finding it difficult to include calcium in your meals, here are some clever tips to help you add this important mineral and other bone healthy nutrients to your daily diet.

IOF Healthy Bones Tips - Yoghurt for breakfast

1. Start your morning with yoghurt for breakfast

Yoghurt is highly nutritious - providing numerous vitamins and minerals – and is also relatively low in calories. A 150 g serving of yoghurt not only contains approximately 200 mg of calcium (around one fifth of most people’s daily needs), it is also an excellent source of protein and potassium. Yoghurt has other advantages too. It’s a milk product that is soured and thickened by the action of probiotics, a type of ‘good bacteria’ which helps maintain a healthy digestive system and is thought to boost the immune system and provide other health benefits. Compared to milk, yoghurt contains lower amounts of lactose so that it can be enjoyed by people who have some degree of lactose intolerance. If you feel you need a more filling breakfast, try adding some fruit, nuts or whole grain cereal to your yoghurt.

IOF Healthy Bones Tips - Having a coffee? Make it a latte machiatto

2. Having coffee? Make it a latte macchiato per favore

Adding milk to your coffee is an easy way to boost your calcium intake. A large latte may contain up to 450 mg of calcium, and if you drink it with skimmed milk (low fat), the calorie count will drop to 160 as compared to 400 calories with regular milk. Find other ways to add milk to your diet – whether in soups or desserts, that extra splash of milk can help you top up your daily calcium intake.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - Soy milk or tofu anyone?

3. Soy milk or tofu anyone?

Although unfortified soy milk contains only small amounts of calcium, most commercially available soy milks are fortified with calcium carbonate and therefore will often contain the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk. Soy milk is a good option for those who are lactose intolerant or on a vegan diet. Tofu, also known as bean curd, can be used in savoury and sweet dishes and seasoned or marinated to suit the dish. Tofu has a low calorie count and relatively large amounts of protein. It is high in iron and depending on the coagulants used in manufacturing (e.g. calcium chloride, calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate), it is often high in calcium. Depending on the brand, a half cup of tofu made with calcium sulfate can provide up to 430 mg of calcium.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - One glass of wine per day keeps the doctor away

4. One glass of wine per day keeps the doctor away

Did you know that one glass of red wine with your dinner may be beneficial to your bone health? Danish researchers have recently shown that resveratrol, a natural compound found in red wine (and chocolate!) may stimulate bone-forming cells within the body. This adds to the list of other health benefits attributed to red wine. Research has shown that the antioxidants in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of "good" cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. But don’t forget - moderation is the key. Excessive alcohol consumption (more than two units a day) is a risk factor for osteoporosis and fractures, besides being harmful in other ways.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - Calcium from the ocean ​try wakame

5. Calcium from the ocean - try wakame

Seaweeds are virtually fat-free, low calorie and are an amazingly rich source of vitamins and minerals. One of the most common seafoods is Wakame, an edible brown seaweed or kelp common in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines. With 150 mg of calcium in a 100 g serving, it’s a great non-dairy source of this important mineral, and also contains vitamin D – an essential vitamin for bone and muscle health. Wakame is an extraordinarily rich source of iodine, missing in almost every other food and is also a source of vitamins A, C, B2, magnesium, iron, folates and omega-3 fatty acid. There are many easy-to-make recipes for wakame salad, some of which include sesame, another calcium-rich ingredient.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - Cheese please

6. Cheese please

Cheeses are a delicious source of calcium and protein, two of the key nutrients for bone health. Whether melted or sprinkled as topping, spread or sliced, there are a many ways to add cheese to your daily diet. And of course, cheese paired with nuts or fruit makes an elegant finale to any meal. 

But not all cheeses are created equal. The calcium and fat content varies widely. A 30 g. portion of natural hard cheese (such as parmesan or cheddar) offers approximately 240 mg of calcium - double the amount contained in the equivalent portion of soft cheese such as mozzarella, camembert or brie. Depending on the type, cheese can be very high in fat and sodium, so check the labels to select cheeses that are lower in fat and sodium content.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - Cut the carbs, go for protein

7. Cut the carbs, go for protein

Protein is a building block for strong bones and muscles. In children and adolescents it is essential for optimal bone development, and in older adults it helps preserve bone mass. Lack of protein robs the muscles of strength, which heightens the risk of falls, and contributes to poor recovery in patients who have had a fracture. Lean red meat, poultry and fish, as well as eggs and dairy foods, are excellent sources of animal protein. Vegetable sources of protein include legumes (e.g. lentils, kidney beans), soya products (e.g. tofu), grains, nuts and seeds.

Research has shown that to maintain muscle mass, seniors may need more protein per kilogram of body weight than their younger counterparts. Protein intake of 1.0-1.2 g/kg of body weight per day is probably optimal for older adults. As a normal part of ageing, kidney function declines and with it the ability to process and excrete acids. Therefore in older people a diet high in meat and cereal grains should be balanced with adequate fruits and vegetables.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - Be a winner with green veggies

8. Be a winner with green veggies

It can’t be overstated – vegetables are great for overall health. Studies have also demonstrated that higher fruit and vegetable consumption has beneficial effects on bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Although they don’t pack as much of a calcium-punch as do dairy foods, green vegetables such as broccoli, cress, kale, collard greens and bok choy can provide significant amounts of calcium. Try mixing these as a side-dish in your meals to turbo charge your diet with calcium! A serving of broccoli for example will supply you with around one-tenth of your daily recommended calcium intake.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - Add these vitamin D boosters to your meals

9. Add these vitamin D boosters to your meals

Among its many benefits, vitamin D enhances your body’s ability to absorb calcium from foods. Most of your vitamin D needs will come from exposure to ultraviolet B rays from the sun. However, particularly in the winter months, you should try boosting your vitamin D levels by consuming vitamin D rich foods. Try adding oily (fatty) fish to your menu plan at least once a week. This type of fish (for e.g. whitebait, trout, salmon, cod, eel, and mackerel) has numerous other health benefits too, including a high quantity of omega-3 fatty acids. One portion of grilled salmon provides almost 300 IU vitamin D, which is about half the public intake recommendations for people aged under 70. Egg yolks and mushrooms too are natural nutritional sources of vitamin D. One egg provides up to 10 percent of recommended daily intake for adults under age 70.

IOF Tips for Healthy Bones at the Table - Some mineral waters are calcium​ boosters

10. Some mineral waters are calcium boosters

If you feel like a cold fizzy drink, don’t automatically go for colas or other carbonated sodas. These usually contain too many calories and have no nutritional benefit. Mineral waters in contrast often contain significant amounts of calcium and other healthy minerals – as well as being calorie-free.  A study has shown that mineral waters containing high levels of calcium were beneficial to bone metabolism in older women with low dietary calcium intake (less than 700 mg/day). Check the labels of the mineral waters available in your supermarket and compare the calcium content as these may vary widely. Some waters may provide 150 mg or more of calcium per litre.

LYB logoThis article appeared in our monthly Love Your Bones newsletter sent to IOF members.

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