Building Blocks for Strong Bones

Building Blocks for Strong Bones
Sue Mah

By: Sue Mah

Registered Dietitian,
in collaboration with Dairy Farmers of Canada

Believe it or not, your bones are active, living tissue just like your muscles. What's more, your skeleton is constantly being renewed. At every age (not only during your growth spurts), it's essential to give your skeleton the material it needs to build solid, healthy bones. After all, your bones are the beams that support your body!

Dynamic duo: calcium and vitamin D

Calcium is a key nutrient that helps build strong bones and teeth. Almost all your calcium (99%) is stored in your bones and teeth. Since your body doesn't make its own calcium, you need to get it every day from the foods you eat. Vitamin D is also essential to bone health because vitamin D enhances calcium absorption.

How much calcium and vitamin D do you need?

The recommended daily intake of these nutrients depends on your age.

Milk products to the rescue!

Consuming enough milk and milk products is one of the best ways to get your recommended daily intake for calcium and vitamin D. For example, milk has the winning combination of 300 mg of calcium and 120 IU of vitamin D in each cup (250 mL). Milk also contains many other essential nutrients (such as protein, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin K) which all provide potential bone health benefits. In addition to milk, yogurt and cheese are delicious sources of calcium which are easily absorbed too.

The 3 M's for bone health

  1. Maximize bone density. Ideally, good habits start young. Kids and teens between the ages of 9-18 need 1300 mg of calcium every day - that's more calcium than anyone else. This is the most important time for bones to reach their maximum density and strength - which is why it's so critical to get enough calcium. DID YOU KNOW: Over 80% of teen girls and over 60% of teen boys don't get enough milk products? Let's change that!

  2. Maintain bone density. After we reach our maximum bone density, we naturally start losing bone mass. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D are important during adulthood to slow down bone loss.

  3. Minimize bone loss. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones have become fragile, weak and porous. Bone density is low. Because there are no warning symptoms, osteoporosis is called the "silent thief" and you may not even know you have it until you break a bone. At least one in three women and one in five men will suffer a fracture caused by osteoporosis. The fracture can occur during a tennis game or a fall on the stairs.

To prevent osteoporosis and minimize bone loss, Osteoporosis Canada recommends that adults aged 50 and over eat a calcium-rich diet, take a daily vitamin D supplement of at least 800 IU, and keep active. It's never too late to take care of your bones!

Asian steamed fish

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