Healthy Bones at Every Age
A big part of the healthy bones puzzle is our diet. We know that calcium is a key compound found in bones. Calcium is also an important nutrient for nerve function and muscle tissue. If your body does not have enough calcium in the blood for these processes, it will take the calcium out of your bones.
So how much calcium do we actually need a day?
Like every nutrient, the amount of calcium you need a day largely depends on your age, gender and medical history. Below are the calcium recommended daily amounts depending on your age/gender:
Children – over 4 years of age – 700-1000mg / day
Adolescents – 1300mg / day
Pregnancy/lactation – 1000mg/day
Pre-menopausal women and men under 70 years – 1000mg/day
Post-menopausal women and men over 70 years – 1300mg/day
What are the best ways to meet this recommended daily amount?
Did you know that low fat calcium products usually contain more calcium than full cream products? Low fat dairy milk, cheese and yoghurt are rich sources of calcium. These foods belong to the dairy food group - one of the five food groups recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines
Calcium can also be found in other foods, however meeting calcium needs without dairy foods can be challenging. For example, you would need to consume 32 brussels sprouts, 5 cups of cooked broccoli, 160g almonds or 5 cups of red beans to get the same amount of calcium as one 250ml glass of milk. I don’t know about you, but I don’t love brussel sprouts that much…
As a general rule, a minimum of 2-3 serves of milk, yoghurt or cheese is recommended daily
- - 1 serve = 250ml milk
- - 1 serve = 200g yoghurt
- - 1 serve = 40g cheese
Tips for meeting your calcium requirements include:
- - Include calcium rich foods daily, including low fat milk, yoghurt, cheese and canned fish with edible bones such as salmon and sardines
- - Include calcium-rich foods in each of your meals and grab a smoothie or a latte in between meals
- - Look for calcium fortified products
- - If you are not meeting your calcium requirements, your dietitian may recommend that you commence calcium supplements.
What about Vitamin D?
Small amounts of Vitamin D can be absorbed through foods such as fortified milk, oily fish and eggs. If you are diagnosed with low Vitamin D levels via a blood test you maybe also recommended an oral supplement. Vitamin D levels are increased with sun exposure. For most people 15 minutes of sun exposure to arms, legs or face (without sunscreen) is adequate. To avoid increasing your risk of skin cancer avoid sunlight exposure between 11:00am and 3:00pm when UV rays is generally highest.
Will anything I eat be bad for my bone health?
1. Limit alcohol intake
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with the development of osteoporosis. To reduce your risk, restrict alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks on any one day. It is also recommended to include at least 2 alcohol free days per week.
2. Reduce caffeine intake
A large intake of caffeine (>200mg per day) has also been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. This is largely due to caffeine interfering with the absorption of calcium from food. Separate your caffeine intake from meals or snacks with significant calcium.
3. Avoid smoking
Evidence has shown that smokers have a lower bone density. If you currently smoke, discuss quitting with your doctor. If you have smoked in the past, it is important to optimise bone health in the future and advise your health professional that you may be at greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
Need personalised advice?
If you are unsure if you are meeting your calcium requirements, it is worthwhile checking in with a dietitian for tailored nutrition advice.
Please note that information provided in this article is general advice only. For individual advice, we recommend a consultation. I am seeing clients for Telehealth during stage 4, you can contact our team for more information :)