About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone density but many of them have no symptoms until they suffer a bone fracture. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation inclusion of certain foods helps delay osteoporosis and iimproves bone and joint health.
“Bone disease is often preventable by getting enough calcium and vitamin D into your diet,” says Kathryn Weatherford, RD, LDN, CNSC, a registered dietitian at BIDMC. “It’s important to be aware of your calcium and vitamin D intake to preserve bone strength as you age.”
According to research, adequate vitamin D levels not only help with bone health but also improve energy levels and muscle fatigue.
Eat Calcium and Vitamin D Rich Foods
“By eating the right combination of calcium and vitamin D rich foods, we can boost our immune system and protect our bones,” Weatherford says. “Many foods are now fortified in calcium and vitamin D, making it easier to meet our daily recommended intake.”
Here are five food suggestions from the nutrition team at BIDMC:
- Calcium-fortified cereal: Start off the day with a double shot of calcium. Choose a calcium-fortified cereal that is high in fiber (>3g) and low in sugar, then add milk or milk alternative. Whole grain cereal with a cup of milk adds up to 600 mg of calcium.
- Salmon: Fatty fish is an excellent source of vitamin D. Just a 3-ounce portion of wild caught salmon provides more than 100% of daily value of vitamin D.
- Dark leafy greens and vegetables: Mix up your diet with a variety of dark, leafy greens. Variety is key – spinach, kale, Swiss chard and bok choy are just a few examples.
- Yogurt: High in protein and good bacteria to promote a healthy gut, yogurt offers 400 mg of calcium in just an 8-ounce serving. Choose non-fat yogurt for a satisfying and healthy snack, or Greek yogurt which provides additional protein.
- Milk Alternatives: Whether it is almond, soy, cashew or hemp milk, almost all milk alternatives are fortified with both vitamin D and calcium. Almond milk provides up to 45% daily value of calcium and 25% daily value of vitamin D.
Let the Sunshine In!
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” can be synthesized from sunlight. Just 10-15 minutes of sunshine per day can produce enough vitamin D the body needs.
“While this may be easy to do during the summer, it’s not easy during New England winters,” Weatherford says. “Vitamin D deficiency often becomes more prevalent at this time due to lack of adequate sunlight.”
It’s important to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels in the winter or early spring; if your levels are low, your doctor or dietitian can recommend a daily supplement.
Keep Track of Your Daily Intake
Most importantly, keep track of how much calcium and vitamin D you consume each day. If you suspect you’re not getting enough, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
“It’s good to know if you’re vitamin D deficient so you can take steps to fix the problem and keep building strong bones,” Weatherford says. “The goal is to be able to stay active at any age.”