Eating to Improve Bone Health

If you grew up in the United States, chances are you know the importance of calcium for healthy, strong bones. Despite years of advertisements for milk as a good calcium source, Americans still aren’t meeting the recommended dietary allowances of calcium. Recent research has suggested that it might not be because people aren’t consuming enough, but because the US calcium guidelines for calcium are too high.

The United States has repeatedly increased the RDA for calcium over the years, pointing to the need to maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. New research has found that excess calcium intake doesn’t seem to reduce fracture risk and in fact, might actually increase it. High calcium intake can create calcium deposits in the bones that keep the bones from strengthening and healing properly. So when it comes to calcium, it’s important to not to overdo it.

The current US recommendations for calcium intake range from 1000-1200 mg daily for adults. The recommended amount goes up to 1200 from 1000 when individuals hit age 50, to help prevent osteoporosis, which becomes more common in old age. A study led by a Swedish team of researchers in 2011 challenged the dietary recommendations promoted by the USDA and found that despite the constant emphasis on calcium, overconsumption may be detrimental to bone health.

The Swedish study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, found that consumption of calcium might stop being beneficial to bones when it hits levels of 700-800 mg daily. Researchers looked at data of more than 60,000 women and found that those who consumed less than 750 mg daily had an 18% increased risk of fracture compared to those who consume 900 mg daily. Women who consumed higher amounts of calcium, up to 1140 mg every day, didn’t experience additional benefits.

Although most people think of dairy products when they think of calcium, for those who are lactose intolerant or don’t like dairy, that’s not the only option. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, it might not be the best option, either. Because high consumption of dairy has been linked to increased risk of prostate and ovarian cancer and dairy products are often high in saturated fat, plant foods may be a better source of calcium.

Good sources of calcium include certain leafy greens like collards, kale, turnip greens, and lettuce. One cup of boiled frozen collards contains 357mg of calcium, more than 30% of the daily value, and one cup of raw kale has 100 mg. Just eight ounces of fortified soymilk has 299 mg, or 30% of the daily value. White beans, black eyed peas, baked beans all contain more than 150 mg of calcium per cup and a cup of boiled green peas has 94 mg. One orange contains about 64 mg of calcium. Blackstrap molasses, a kind of sweetener, is another calcium rich source, with 172 mg in just one tablespoon. There are plenty of calcium rich plant foods to choose from to reap the benefits and provide your bones with adequate amounts of the mineral.

Dietary choices aren’t the only ones that have an effect on the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps improve the absorption of calcium, so a supplement is recommended because most people don’t get enough as it is, since sunshine is the main source and few Americans get enough sunshine every day. Exercise also helps build strong bones and maintain their strength, so engaging in regular physical activity is another crucial choice when it comes to reducing your risk of fracture.

Bone fractures are a common reason people need Long term care because it often necessitates assistance and care for an extended period of time. Ensuring you get enough calcium, but also being careful not to over consume, can protect your bones as you age and reduce the chances that you will experience a fracture. Be sure to keep a healthy balance of varied calcium sources in your diet and enjoy eating for healthy bones!