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Adults have more than 200 bones in their bodies. Each one is important. Bones help support the structure of the body, protect vital organs and allow us to move. We need to keep bones healthy with good nutrition.

Bones are comprised of a protein called collagen and a mineral called calcium phosphate. Collagen provides structure while calcium phosphate gives our bones strength. While bones are constantly being rebuilt and remodelled, as we age we lose more bone mass than we can rebuild. Bones become thinner and more prone to breaking.

Top tips for keeping bones strong

1. Choose calcium-rich foods.
Calcium helps support bone structure and function. Ninety-nine percent of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. A diet low in calcium may lead to compromised strength. Your calcium intake depends on your age and gender:

Age group Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) per day
Adults 19-50 years 1000 mg
Adults 51-70 years

1000 mg
1200 mg

Adults great than 70 years 1200


Foods that may help you meet your calcium needs are: dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, fortified non-dairy beverages like soy, rice or almond milk, canned salmon with the bones and sardines, leafy green vegetables like collard greens, kale and broccoli.

Dietitian recommend those looking to add more calcium into their breakfast should incorporate Greek yogurt and leafy greens like frozen kale into smoothies.

Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, benz_photography.

2. Get enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D is necessary for absorbing calcium. It helps the body use calcium and phosphorus to build and maintain strong bones. It also plays a role in muscle function to help increase balance, which may decrease the risk of falls. Too little of this vitamin can lead to calcium loss from bones which can subsequently cause fragile bones in adults.

Find vitamin D in foods, such as, milk and margarine, fortified soy beverages, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel, and cooked egg yolks.Health Canada recommends that men and women over 50 take a vitamin D supplement. Consult your healthcare provider for more information.

Salt-laden foods can decrease calcium levels. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Adam Kuban.

3. Limit high sodium foods.
Eating foods, such as processed foods such as fast food, salted nuts, chips or canned foods with added salt, may cause calcium loss. Instead of grabbing the salt shaker, cook meals at home using fresh ingredients, season foods with fresh herbs or spices, and snack on foods with protein and fiber like fruit and unsalted nuts.

4. Stay active.
Regular physical activity, as recommended by your healthcare provider, can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing activities including walking and dancing can help keep bones strong. Talk to your healthcare provider before participating in or starting a new physical activity routine.

Limit your intake of coffee to keep bones strong. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Hani AlYousif.

5. Be mindful of caffeine.
Too much caffeine can decrease the amount of calcium your body stores. Limit caffeine to 400 mg per day, which is about four 8-oz coffees per day. Remember that soda pop, coffee and tea are just some examples of drinks that typically contain caffeine.

6. Avoid alcohol and smoking.
Smoking cigarettes and alcohol consumption interfere with the balance of calcium and impairs the body’s ability to use the mineral in your diet, which impacts bone strength.

What’s the bottom line?
Eating a healthy balanced diet and exercise may help keep your bones strong.  Many older adults are not aware that they have weak bones until they have a fall. Since we naturally lose bone mass with age, it’s important to have discuss bone health with your healthcare provider.

Need some expert advice on how to take better control of your bone health? Work with a registered dietitian to understand how you can meet your nutritional needs. Registered dietitian services are available through Shoppers Drug Mart.

Emily Campbell has a master of science in foods and nutrition and is a registered dietitian, works for Shoppers Drug Mart.

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