November is Osteoporosis Awareness Month so it’s the perfect time to start thinking about how to build strong and healthy bones. Bone is a living tissue in constant flux: osteoblast cells build new bone while osteoclast cells break it down. Early in life, the rate of bone building exceeds the rate of bone breakdown but as we get older, this balance shifts. The key to maintaining strong bones is to minimize the shift towards bone loss for as long as possible. Here are five tips to help you protect your bones for life.
Your bones respond to weight-bearing exercises – where you have to work against gravity and the muscles actively pull on the bones. Examples of weight-bearing exercises include running, playing tennis and weightlifting. Build physical activity into your day, whether it means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, playing soccer with your children or scheduling a formal workout.
Get your calcium
Calcium is still the most important nutrient for strong bones. Just three servings of dairy foods daily will provide you with the approximately 1000mg of calcium you need to build and maintain strong bones. But even if you don’t eat dairy, it is easy to get the calcium you need. Vegetarian milk alternatives are usually fortified to contain the same calcium as a glass of milk. In addition, foods such as calcium-set tofu, almonds, salmon (canned, with the bones) and sesame tahini are all rich sources of calcium.
Top up with Vitamin D
Vitamin D is critical to ensure that calcium is well absorbed. The trouble with vitamin D is that it is in short supply in our food choices and our ability to produce vitamin D in our skin is hindered by northern latitudes and (wise) use of sunscreen.
Because vitamin D is so important to bone health and your immune system, consider supplementation. It’s inexpensive and comes in a variety of easy-to-take formats. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much vitamin D is right for you; don’t exceed 4000IU per day (the research-based upper limit of safety) if supplementing on your own.
Go easy on the cola
Drinking soda usually means you aren’t drinking calcium-rich beverages but they also pack their own bone-crushing punch. Many popular soda drinks contain phosphoric acid – and excess phosphorus can cause calcium loss. In addition, the caffeine in cola drinks can interfere with calcium absorption.
If you really love soda, look for varieties that don’t contain phosphoric acid or ensure you eat extra calcium-rich foods when you choose to indulge. Best of all, switch to a calcium-rich sparkling mineral water to get your bubbles the healthy way.
Pay attention to gut health
How does your gut factor into bone health? The link is chronic inflammation. High levels of chronic inflammation are connected to accelerated bone loss. The reason for this is that osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone, are derived from immune cells that may be increased in a chronic inflammatory state.
An imbalance in the intestinal flora may promote chronic inflammation. Eat a healthy, plant-based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans to promote a healthy intestinal flora.
In addition to the healthy prebiotic fibers contained in a plant-based diet, taking probiotics represents an essential ally in keeping our intestinal flora balanced. Fermented foods are a very good source of probiotics. To ensure the quality, effectiveness and quantity of probiotic bacteria consumed, turn to a high-quality probiotic product, supported by science, such as Bio-K+. The three strains used in drinkable Bio-K+ products are alive, active and ready to work for you. The nourishing substrate in which they are (fermented milk, pea and hemp, soy or organic brown rice) allows them to go through the acid barrier of the stomach. The products in enteric-coated capsules will bring you the same benefits; bacteria being released directly into the intestines.
When combined with a diet rich in fiber and low in saturated fat, the results are even more astonishing when it comes to preventing chronic inflammation or even maintaining or restoring overall health.
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