My Top 8 Tips for Healthy Bones
Posted on July 19th, 2019
Following on from my previous article “An Introduction to Bone Health”, I thought I’d share my top 8 tips for healthy bones.
1) FUEL UP WITH A VARIED BALANCED DIET
Our body’s need a range of different vitamins and mineral to grow strong including Vitamin C, Iron, Copper, magnesium and Zinc, as well as the ones we more commonly hear of, spotlight focus to come. The best way to obtain these nutrients in through food.
Protein is also an important macronutrient for bone health. The recommended amount of protein for adults in the UK is roughly 0.8g/Kg. Those undertaking frequent exercise, especially strength training may require more. Most of us in the UK however greatly exceed requirements so protein is not something to necessarily worry about too much.
It is also important to nourish ourselves adequately, as low body fat % in female will inhibit oestrogen production and accelerate the activity of osteoclasts which break down bone. In turn compromising bone density and increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
2) SPOTLIGHT: CALCIUM
Calcium is the major building block of bones. The recommended amount for adults is 1000mg / day. However adolescents, post menopausal, pregnant and lactating women require more. Dairy is an excellent source of calcium with a 250ml serving of milk containing roughly 280mg. Just to put this into perspective, 100g broccoli contains nearer 45mg and a portion of almonds 62mg. Other great sources include small fish with bones, tahini / sesame, fortified milks, tofu and figs.
3) SPOTLIGHT: VITAMIN D
Whilst calcium is the building block for bones, one of Vitamin D’s many roles is to help us absorb the calcium from food, obviously important for bone health. The best source of vitamin D doesn’t come from food but from the sun. 10-15 minutes outside in the sunshine during the summer months should help us meet our needs. However, research shows many individuals in the UK are vitamin D deficient and the general and the broad advice is that we should supplement between September and March. Individuals with darker skin may especially benefit from supplementation because its more difficult to make vitamin D. You can always ask your GP for a test to assess levels which can be done with a simple blood test.
4) SPOTLIGHT: VITAMIN K
Vitamin K is equally important for bone health, involved in many reactions which aid calcium uptake and bone mineralisation. Vitamin K actually refers to several different types of vitamins but I want to focus on K1 and K2. K1 is found in dark leafy greens and wholegrains. Much of K2 is actually produced by your gut bacteria. Again we should be able to get adequate vitamin K from the diet.
Physical activity increases bone turnover, the breakdown and building of bone tissue which in turn keeps bones stronger. The NHS recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week which works out as 22 minutes per day. Just FYI you do not need to be in lycra for it to count as movement – house work, dancing, gardening or whatever it is that gets your body moving in a way that you enjoy counts.
When it comes the bones the best exercise may be strength and resistance training which puts some stress and load on bones to help them become stronger. This includes stuff like pilates, weight training, yoga, resistance bands, hill walking and dance. The most important thing is to pick something you enjoy and equally support activity with food and rest.
6) CAUTION: FIZZY DRINKS, CAFFEINE & SALT
Just a note to say these aren’t “bad,” but if there featuring very frequently it might be worth having a think about. In the UK, a traditional glass of milk has been replaced by a lot of fizzy drinks which may be a double whammy of potentially adverse impacts for bones. Fizzy drinks don’t contain calcium and contain caffeine, which may decrease intestinal calcium absorption. There is also some evidence that phosphoric acid in fizzy drinks interferes with calcium absorption.Salt may increase urinary loss of calcium when consumed in excess.
7) CAUTION: ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES
Alcohol can interfere with vitamin D and Ca absorption, as well as impact hormone balance which is crucial in bone health. Smoking directly contributes to reduced bone mass and bone mineral density.
8) DON’T IGNORE A MISSING PERIOD
If you’re repeatedly missing periods it is really important you speak with your GP. These hormones are essential for many systems in our body, not least bones. Lack of oestrogen means osteoclasts (the cells that break down bone) are more active and this could risk osteopenia and osteoporosis in the future.