May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month in America. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “you are at risk for osteoporosis if you are:
- Consuming a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- From a family with history of osteoporosis or hip fractures
- Caucasian or Asian
- Over 55 of age
- Physically inactive
- A smoker
- A heavy drinker of alcohol”
Do not think that it won’t affect you if you feel fine. Osteoporosis, like high blood pressure, is a “silent killer” and most people do not know they have the disease until they experience a fracture or break a bone. People who regularly exercise have a higher bone density than those who do not. You should check your bone density annually if you are 55 or older, to prevent further bone loss. Weight training and weight bearing activities generally strengthens your muscles and in turn strengthens your bones from within.
Food sources usually have enough Calcium to keep your bones healthy unless you are lactose free, consume too much caffeine or alcohol and physically inactive. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that Calcium alone cannot build bones and it works with Vitamin D, Potassium, Magnesium and Fluoride. Taking supplements may not replicate what natural foods can offer your body. With a food like kale, it can offer calcium and also potassium to help maintain bone health, as well as fiber to lower cholesterol.
Sources of Calcium in food include, sardines, dairy products, kale, broccoli, almonds, green leafy vegetables, tofu and bok choy. The National Institutes of Health states that too much caffeine, sodium, phosphorus and protein intake can decrease the amount of Calcium absorbed in your body. If you are seeking to become dairy-free, you may consider following an extensive guideline, published by the Registered Dietitians of the UK, which provide dairy alternatives and other food sources such as enriched or fortified foods and bony fish.
If your physician or Registered Dietitian suggests a supplemental source of Calcium, you may consider searching for Calcium citrate (calcitrate) versus Calcium carbonate, since it is more readily available and absorbed and does not require you to take it with a meal. Also, since your body cannot absorb too much Calcium at a time, those who are taking 1000 mg should split their dose to 500 mg throughout the day for optimal effects.