Let's Talk Bone Health

By Katie Driessens, RD, LDN, CDE, CLC
Contract Clinical Educator at VMS BioMarketing

During this National Osteoporosis Month, I wanted share some information about bone health that has been very helpful to patients, caregivers, and anyone else in a position to support or provide education for with people managing this serious condition.

While several risk factors for osteoporosis are not within our control, the good news is we do have some control of our bone health using nutrition tailored to our needs! One excellent way to foster bone health is by enjoying a nutritious diet throughout your entire lifespan. Two important nutrients to incorporate into a daily routine that influence bone health are calcium and vitamin D.

Bones contain about 99% of the body’s calcium, making it a necessary nutrient for maintaining strong bones. The body does not make calcium, so it is essential to get enough calcium from food. If the body is not provided with enough calcium, it can take the calcium it needs from your bones for other body functions. However, this is not ideal for bones! The general recommended intake of calcium ranges from 1,000-1,200mg per day for adults. Children ages 9 to 19 need approximately 1,300 mg/day. Younger children ages 4 to 8 need 800 mg per day, and toddler ages 1 to 3 years require about 500mg per day.

Where can you find calcium? The following are some excellent examples of foods containing calcium:

  • Beans (pinto, kidney, great northern)
  • Fortified cereal
  • Dairy or non-dairy alternatives (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Dark green vegetables (collard greens, kale, broccoli, spinach)
  • Sardines and canned salmon
  • Seeds (poppy, sesame, chia)
  • Tofu

Vitamin D is another nutrient that helps to absorb calcium from food to mineralize bone tissue. The sun is a source of Vitamin D, but it may not be enough to consistently meet the needs of the human body. It is important to consider the frequency of sun exposure, the latitude in which the sun exposure is occurring, and other factors. Food sources of vitamin D can be a more reliable and consistent way to meet vitamin D needs. Getting lab work done for an assessment of your vitamin D levels can help determine if the current plan of getting your vitamin D needs met is enough or not. The general recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 400IU for children and 600-1,000 IU per day for adults. However, if lab work shows an insufficient or deficient amount of vitamin D in the blood, doses much higher than this may be prescribed temporarily from a physician. Talk with your doctor about pursuing this.
Good sources of Vitamin D can be found in foods including:

  • Cereals (check the food label)
  • Cod liver oil
  • Dairy or fortified non-dairy alternatives
  • Egg yolks (a minimal amount)
  • Fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna)

Between the two nutrients listed above – calcium and vitamin D – dairy or non-dairy alternatives are a commonality. Consider these sources, if not contraindicated, as an option to obtaining plenty of calcium and vitamin D to ultimately support bone health. Working with a registered dietitian and your doctor can help tailor a nutrition plan for you that provide the right amount of these two important nutrients and also factors in your other health history. Supplements can also help meet the calcium and vitamin D needs. Be sure to check with your healthcare team to determine the appropriateness of the specific supplements you are considering. Your bones will thank you!

Sources

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Care Manual
Calcium. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements