It’s important to have a well-balanced diet to keep bones healthy. Make sure you get enough calcium and Vitamin D, as well as regular weight-bearing exercise such as running or brisk walking.
We need calcium, along with other nutrients such as Vitamins D and K, to develop and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Milk, cheese and other dairy products provide about half of the calcium in the average UK diet.
As a basic guide, eating around three portions of low-fat dairy foods a day will provide you with a good calcium intake. A portion of dairy is roughly equivalent to a glass of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, a standard pot of yogurt, or a matchbox-sized piece of hard cheese.
Non-dairy sources of calcium include:
- calcium-fortified soya drinks
- sesame seeds
- tahini paste
- canned salmon
- sardines with the bones
- leafy greens such as broccoli and cabbage (but not spinach)
- hard water
If you don’t eat dairy foods, and you’re unsure about achieving the right amount of calcium in your diet, you should discuss it with your doctor or practice nurse, as you may need to take a supplement.
We need Vitamin D to process calcium efficiently. It is best obtained through sunlight on the skin, but the use of sun creams can inhibit this process. Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods. The best sources are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Butter and fortified margarines are also sources of Vitamin D.
It can be difficult to get enough Vitamin D in your diet every day, which is why Public Health England advises that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter. People whose skin has little or no exposure to the sun, risk Vitamin D deficiency and need to take a supplement all year round.
There are plenty of things you can do to enhance your bone health:
- Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, such as walking, running, dancing, golf, tennis or netball.
- Be choosy about what you drink. Water is always a great choice, but a latte or cappuccino with skimmed milk can help to boost your calcium intake without adding too many calories. Tea with milk is also a good option. Fizzy drinks and alcohol can reduce the amount of calcium that your bones can absorb.
- Eat a calcium-rich diet.
- If you smoke, ask your pharmacist or practice nurse for help with quitting.
- Public Health England advises that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter.
- Avoid high salt foods, and don’t add salt to your cooking or at the table.
- Maintain a healthy weight.