Nutrition and weak bones
Drinking milk is good for your bones because it is high in calcium and fortified with vitamin D.
Heather Little-White, Ph.D., Contributor
The condition of weakened bones is known as osteoporosis. Mayoclinic.com defines osteoporosis as "porous bones", a condition which "causes bones to become weak and brittle - so brittle that even mild stresses like bending over, lifting a vacuum cleaner or coughing can cause a fracture.
In many cases, bones weaken when you have low levels of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals in your bones."
The Mayo site adds that a common result of osteoporosis is fractures with most of them in the spine, hip or wrist.
Osteoporosis is often considered a woman's disease. In fact, women make up more than 80 per cent of the people with osteoporosis.
According to The 2004 Surgeon General's Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis, one out of every two women over 50 years old will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime, with the risk of fracture increasing with age.
Menopause causes bone loss in women in its first five years, because the body produces less oestrogen, the female sex hormone that helps to keep bones strong.
Osteoporosis thins and weakens bones, putting you at risk of broken bones. Normally, old bones break down and are replaced with new bones.
Osteoporosis creates an imbalance in this rebuilding cycle when bone breaks down but no new bone forms. This process speeds up after menopause. Osteoporosis also affects many men. Low bone density is becoming another common condition besides osteoporosis.
Who is at risk?
Knowing your risks can help you protect against fractures.
There is a close relationship between nutrition and osteoporosis. You may think you are doing everything right to take care of your bone's health including eating a healthy diet and exercising.
If you are past menopause, you should be doing more in terms of nutrition. You can take steps to keep bones strong and healthy throughout life including getting the right nutrients either through diet or supplements.
Eat a variety of foods rich in calcium, vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals essential for long-term bone health. Bones are more than calcium and need adequate amounts of protein, vitamins D, K, and the right amount of phosphorous.
Calcium and vitamin D
The two most important nutrients to fight weak bones are calcium and vitamin D. Both work together as calcium is a key building block for bones while vitamin D allows for the absorption of calcium. Not only does vitamin D improve bone health by helping calcium absorption, but it may also improve muscle strength.
Getting enough vitamin D is just as important as getting adequate amounts of calcium. Calcium and vitamin-D supplements are most effective taken together in divided doses with food.
Getting your recommended daily dose of calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals can help protect your bone health. Useful foods are low-fat or skimmed dairy foods, beans, canned sardines with bones, canned salmon with bones and fortified cereal, juice or soy milk.
If you are lactose intolerant and cannot digest milk, you have to consume other food sources or take supplements. Yogurt is an excellent option for those who are lactose intolerant as the enzymes in the yogurt break up the lactose.
The National Academy of Sciences has made recommendations for the daily amounts of vitamin D.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends the amounts of calcium needed for each age.
Eating a calcium-rich diet, for example, can help your bone health. You have plenty of other choices of calcium-rich foods.
Foods Portion Calcium(mg)
Plain low-fat yogurt 8 oz. 415
Cheese, cheddar 1.5 oz. 306
Spinach (no salt) 1 cup 245
Canned salmon 3 oz. 181
Almonds 24 nuts 70
Strengthening your bones
How do you know that your bones are weakening and you may well be suffering from osteoporosis?
In the early stages of bone loss, there are no symptoms, not even pain. However, with the onset of osteoporosis and weakened bones, you may have any of the following symptoms:
The strength of bones depends on their size and density. Bone density depends, in part, on the amount of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals in bones. When your bones contain fewer minerals than normal, they are less strong and eventually lose their internal supporting structure and fracture.
Your doctor can recommend a bone mineral density test to determine if you have low bone mass.
1 cup sliced carrots, fresh or frozen
11/2 cups sliced green beans, fresh or frozen, thawed and drained
1 14-ounce block firm tofu, drained
1 1-pound can whole tomatoes, drained
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen, thawed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds
If fresh carrots and green beans are used, they will be crunchy unless partially pre-cooked. Steam them for 5 minutes, if desired.
Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and quarter the canned tomatoes.
Combine all ingredients except almonds in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
Transfer into a greased 2-quart casserole.
Top with almonds.
Bake uncovered at 375 degrees until vegetables are cooked and tender,
Servings: 12, 1/2 cup each
Calories per serving: 64
Calcium per serving: 69 mg