The bone thinning condition osteoporosis can be fatal – people who fracture easily have a shorter lifespan, and those with hip fractures are much less likely to recover. But you can protect your bones from osteoporosis with the right foods.
Up your calcium intake
Calcium is the best-known nutrient for bones. The recommended daily intake for women is 800mg, or 1,200mg if you’re at risk of osteoporosis. Rich sources of calcium include milk, yoghurt, cheese, pulses, dark green leafy veg such as kale, and dried fruit. Some brands of tofu can also be high in calcium.
If you need to take a calcium supplement, choose one with calcium citrate, rather than calcium carbonate, for maximum absorption.
Up your calcium intake
Oily fish, such as salmon, contains vitamin D, which your body needs to process calcium effectively. You can also absorb this vitamin via the action of sunlight on your skin, or take a vitamin D supplement.
Choose the right drinks
There is some research to show drinking too much caffeine could reduce your calcium levels. It’s thought the chemical causes calcium to be leached from bones and then excreted through urine
Fizzy drinks have a similar effect, possibly due to the phosphoric acid and caffeine used in some types of colas. Instead choose green tea. Research in Taiwan – where green as well as black tea is commonly drunk – found habitual tea drinkers had significantly higher bone mineral density.
Limit your meat intake
Experts have always been puzzled by the fact Asian countries have low levels of osteoporotic fractures, even though dairy doesn’t feature heavily in their diets. It could be that Western diets, high in animal protein, are to blame. Protein is acid-forming, which causes calcium to be leached from bones in a bid to neutralise it.
A US study on post-menopausal women following a high-protein weight loss diet found that, although they did lose weight, they also lost up to 1.4 per cent of their bone density, increasing their risk of osteoporosis.
Hold the salt
Too much salt in your diet is bad for bones – Australian research suggests that it increases calcium excretion from the body. High salt intakes also push up your blood pressure, which may exacerbate this loss. Stick to less than 6g a day to stay healthy.
Go for vitamin C-rich foods
High levels of vitamin C may help to strengthen bone and prevent fractures in elderly patients, research has found. Vitamin C helps manufacture collagen, the 'cement' that holds the bone matrix together. You can find vitamin C in oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, kiwi fruit and berries, or take a supplement.