Are Your Bones Important?

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calcium postDo you have disability insurance?  I don’t.  But what will happen in the event we can’t work due to back pain, a fall or complications from a broken/fractured hip or forearm?

Osteoporosis is a disease of low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, which causes the bones to become dry and brittle and increases risk of bone fractures.

Johnell and Kanis, estimate 8.9 million fractures occur worldwide annually, “resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.” That is a staggering figure.  This is one statistic you don’t want to contribute to.

Our bones aren’t something we think a lot about, until we have a fracture or are diagnosed with osteoporosis. But bone health is front and center in terms of our posture and quality of life today and years down the track.

Calcium and Vitamin D are essential nutrients for bone health.  Both can be provided by the foods we eat and our skin can synthesize Vitamin D when we’re in direct sunlight.

Depending on your age, the FAO/WHO recommended daily intake of calcium is between 1000-1300 mg/day, equivalent to approximately 2-3 cups of milk or yogurt.  For vitamin D we need approximately 10-20 minutes of sun a day.  If your time in the sun is limited you’ll need to get your Vitamin D from other sources.

For most people when they think calcium they associate it with milk.  The drink milk campaign definitely helped with this mental association.  However people who are lactose intolerant or choose not to consume dairy can get loads of calcium from healthy non-dairy foods – foods that can help you keep your bones strong.

Examples of non-dairy foods and their calcium content.



Calcium (mg)


½ cup/125 gm

130 mg


½ cup/125 gm

77 mg



37 mg

Sesame seeds

1 Tbsp/15 ml

88 mg



371 mg


½ cup/125 gm

62 mg

Kidney beans

½ cup/125 gm

62 mg

Sunflower seeds

½ cup/125 gm

120 mg

Source: Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly used, USDA Nutrient DataBank 

Calcium and Vitamin D are important, but bone health is dependent on more than just what you eat or drink.

Factors that can positively or negatively affect bone health are:

  • Were you breastfed? Positive if yes
  • Weight bearing activity. The more the better
  • Medications. Depending on the medicine this can be positive or negative.
  • Caffeine intake. May have a negative impact.
  • Soft drink intake. Negative, due to the phosphoric acid content.

Both caffeine and phosphoric acid can leach calcium out of your bones.

The obvious question is how do we prevent this brittle bone disease?

In short eating there is strength of evidence that links a minimally processed balanced diet and lifestyle factors to reduced risk of osteoporotic fractures.

Here are a few things you can do to help lower your risk.

  • Exercise – strength and flexibility help you maintain your balance and keep your bones strong thereby reducing your risk for a fall and consequent injury if you should.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables – these contain a wide variety of essential nutrients that are beneficial to bone health.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight – when our weight jumps up and down it’s hard on our bones.  Instead it’s better for you to jump up and down, this will stress your bones and make them stronger.

Are your bones important 2Healthy lifestyle choices for bone health include a daily walk and adding  calcium rich foods to your diet, be they dairy or otherwise. You don’t have to stop drinking coffee – I love my morning coffee and that’s ok. Moderation and a healthy lifestyle are weapons to fend off disease.

Eating for health is a choice.  What actions will you take today to improve your bone health?

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P.S.  Help spread this message by sharing it  on your  social networks or e-mailing it to your friends.

Ref: Johnell O and Kanis JA (2006) an estimate of the worldwide prevalence and disability associate with osteoporotic fractures.  Osteoporos Int 17:1726

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