Calcium is a vital component for bone health, growth and development. Bones play many roles within the body providing structure, protecting organs and storing calcium. Although we seldom think about our bones as living, they are, which means that every day they are regenerating themselves so need to be replaced. This makes meeting calcium requirements important throughout our lives…. but especially so when building our skeleton in youth, when our bones are growing at a fast rate. When we are younger our body makes new bone faster than it breaks down bone and bone mass increases peaking at about 25-30 years. As we get older we need to retain our bone mass.
The three important ingredients for bone health are calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. Calcium is primarily found in dairy foods, fortified soya products and tinned fish. However Vitamin D is needed to help absorb this calcium. Most vitamin D is made when sunlight hits our skin but good dietary sources of vitamin D include eggs, fortified milk, oily fish and fish liver oils. Magnesium, often not considered by most with regards to bone health, plays a vital role in the formation of bones and teeth. So include some dark green vegetables, nuts, pulses and seeds in your diet too. When it comes to your bone health if you feel you are not getting enough of these nutrients in your diet you should take a dietary supplement. In Ireland most of us would require vitamin D supplements, as we do not get enough from the sun, especially during winter months. Speak to your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist about the right does for you.
Smoking, too much alcohol and excessive dieting can negatively impact your bone health too by affecting the absorption of calcium or as a result of not eating enough calcium rich foods.
But don’t just focus on diet; exercise is essential for good bone health too. Muscles get stronger when we use them and the same principle applies to bones…. Include some weight bearing exercises like walking, skipping, dancing or running into our lives helps ensure optimal bone health throughout our life!
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Calcium and bones; www.nlm.nih.gov
Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and preventaion of autoimmune diseases, cancers and CVD: AJCN DEC 2004 Vol 80 No. 6 16785-16885
A meta-analysis of the effects of cigarette smoking on bone mineral density; Calcif Tissue Int (2001) 68:259-270
Alcohol Consumption, bone desity, and hip fracture among older adults; Osteoporosis Int (2007) 18:593-602
Exercise for your bone health; www.niams.nih.gov