How's Your Bone Bank?

Kowalski's Nutritionist Sue Moores, M.S., R.DYour bones are one of the most dynamic parts of your body. New cells are constantly deposited inside them and old cells are continually shuttled out. In fact, every 7 to 10 years your entire skeleton is essentially replaced.

Your bones need you to help keep them strong. Food and weight-bearing types of activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, weight lifting and push-ups make that happen. Without these two ingredients (food and exercise), bones weaken and osteoporosis becomes a real threat.

How real? After age 50, one in two women and one in four men will suffer a bone break due to osteoporosis – but the table is set for this condition when you're young. Ninety percent of bone density is gained by the age of 20, most of it formed during puberty. After age 25, your best bet is to try to keep up with the continual calcium losses from bones. You live off of the density you "banked" when you were younger.

Bone Builders

  • Dairy products, especially ones fortified with vitamin D: milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, hard and soft cheeses. These foods contain calcium, the major building block of strong bones. Vitamin D works alongside calcium to improve how well your bones absorb and use it.
  • Nondairy calcium-rich foods: tofu, edamame, soy nuts, almonds, dark green vegetables, calcium-fortified juices and nondairy milks.
  • Prebiotics: asparagus, bananas, citrus fruits, pears, onions, leeks, garlic, jicama and beans. The fiber and nutrients in these foods improve the absorption of calcium in your intestines.
  • Nuts and seeds: for their bone-helping minerals such as boron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
  • Berries and greens: for their vitamin C and K.
  • Lean beef: for its iron, copper and zinc.

Milk Leafy Greens Beans

Bone Zappers

  • Too much sodium. Eating a diet filled with highly processed foods means a high-sodium diet. Too much sodium increases the amount of calcium leached from the bones.
  • Caffeine. Whether it's multiple cups of coffee, tea or energy drinks a day, too much interferes with calcium absorption.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol interferes with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Keep consumption to 1-2 ounces per day.
  • A high protein/highly processed carbohydrate diet with few fruits and vegetables spells trouble. This type of eating plan creates an acidic environment in your body. Calcium can help neutralize the situation, so bones release calcium instead of keeping it for bone strength.

Contributed by Sue Moores, M.S., R.D., Kowalski's Nutritionist.

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