One million Aussies now find themselves affected by the pain of osteoporosis, which ramps up fracture risk. HFG dietitian Melissa Meier has simple strategies to look after your bones.
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones thin, weak and brittle, increasing the risk of breaks and fractures as you age. Luckily, the right diet and lifestyle can help improve the health of your bones. Here’s what you can do:
1 Get plenty of calcium
Consuming enough calcium is vital for your bone health, not just when you’re growing, but throughout adulthood as well. That’s because when your diet is low in calcium, your body will take it from your bones, reducing your bone density.
The best sources of calcium are dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. Other foods, however — like canned salmon with edible bones, tahini, or almonds with the skin on — provide a calcium boost too. Plant-based milk alternatives can also be useful, but check for at least 100mgof added calcium per 100ml.
2 Step outdoors
Vitamin D, otherwise known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, is crucial for bone health because it increases calcium absorption. So, head outside during your lunchtime, or go for a long outdoor walk on the weekend. Remember to remain sun-safe, especially in the summer months. You can also get some vitamin D from eggs, and from oily fish such as salmon and tuna.
3 Ensure you eat a balanced diet
Several other nutrients play a role in bone health, so it’s important that your diet is as varied as possible. Enjoy a range of foods from each of the five food groups to set you on the right nutrition path. These groups are vegies and legumes (remember to ‘eat the rainbow’ of vegies); fruits; whole grains; lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds; and milk, yoghurt and cheese.
4 Do more huff & puff
Weight-bearing exercises like power walking, jogging or tennis, and resistance training help prevent osteoporosis. The stress they place on your bones makes them stronger and also encourages bone growth.
5 Quit smoking
It’s well known smoking is bad for lungs — but it can affect bone health too! Smokers have lower bone density than non-smokers — so if you smoke, really try to quit the habit.
6 Shake off the salt
When your kidneys remove sodium from your body, they take some of your calcium too, so do your best to eat less salt. Seventy-five per cent of the salt in Australians’ diets comes from packaged supermarket foods. Try these easy, everyday tips to reduce your salt intake:
. Limit the amount of packaged foods you eat.
. Choose ‘reduced-salt’ or ‘no-added-salt’ products.
. Avoid using salt in cooking or at the table.
7 Be careful with caffeine
Caffeine can accelerate calcium loss, so limit coffee or tea intake to two or three cupsa day, and drink water more.