Recently it dawned on me that I had forgotten about my bones for a couple of decades.
I’ve certainly been paying attention to my kids’ bone health, but in the meantime, I’ve probably taken my own for granted. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to feel strong and healthy, but who knows how long that will be the case for?
I read recently that poor bone health affects two in three Australians over the age of 50, and this number is expected to increase as we now live longer than previous generations.
As kids we’re encouraged to exercise and eat calcium-rich foods to grow healthy bones, but as we get older the message seems to get lost in the other distractions of life. It only becomes important again once we’re elderly and we’re faced with the possibility of weakened bones and an ageing body. So, what about the years in between?
It’s actually not hard to give your bones a good chance of staying strong if you take some simple steps to give them what they need. We know that calcium is essential for building strong bones as well as supporting muscle and nerve function. Almost 99 percent of our body’s calcium is found in our bones. If we don’t get enough calcium, over time our bone strength can decline and may increase our risk of osteoporosis.
My friends know the way to my heart is with cheese, and this is a very good thing. Australians get around 60 percent of their calcium intake from milk, cheese and yoghurt. In fact, dairy foods are one of the richest sources of calcium you can get. While calcium is found in other foods, meeting our calcium needs without dairy foods is more difficult.
For example, you would have to eat five cups of cooked broccoli, 32 brussels sprouts, 165g of almonds or five cups of red beans to provide your body with the same amount of calcium as you’d get from one 250ml glass of milk. The added benefit of dairy foods is that they also provide a bonus package of other bone-building nutrients like protein and phosphorus.
To get the full lowdown on how we can protect our bone health and give our bones the best chance for the future, I asked Accredited Practising Dietitian Joel Feren for his advice. He’s the director and principal dietitian at Hearty Nutrition, and he’s also known as The Nutrition Guy.
Joel, we know that bone health and calcium is important for babies and kids, but why should we be paying more attention to it in our 20s, 30s and 40s?
We are still building our skeleton in our 20s so it’s crucial that we don’t drop the ball with our calcium intake during these years. Ensuring we meet our calcium requirements at this life stage is a healthy investment. Your bones will thank you for it in years to come.
By 30, our peak bone mass has been achieved but it is still vital to maintain the health and strength of our bones, so keep up your calcium intake.
The 40s can be a difficult time for women. Hormonal changes, as a result of menopause, can accelerate bone loss. It’s why post-menopausal women need to consume even more calcium in their diet after this life event.
What do our bones need to stay healthy?
The main ingredients for good bone health are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is the major building block of bones, while vitamin D helps absorb it. Together they act in synergy to help promote bone structure and health. They’re the perfect couple.