You Need More Than Calcium for Healthy Bones

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Filed Under: Bone & Joint Health
Last Reviewed 03/26/2014

You Need More Than Calcium for Healthy Bones

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, which is a good reminder to everyone to pay attention to healthy bones. Head to the health-food store, and you'll see shelves full of nutritional supplements that boast high-potency calcium. But I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Osteoporosis doesn't result simply from insufficient calcium intake, that's a myth!

When parents tell their children to drink milk because it builds strong bones, they’re only telling part of the story.  A number of other nutrients, such as magnesium, boron, antioxidants, vitamin K and B-complex vitamins, are also required for bone mineralization.

And, contrary to popular belief, dairy isn’t the end-all for healthy bones. Dozens of scientific studies have found that a high intake of plant foods is associated with a reduced risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin K, which is abundant in leafy greens, and isoflavones, found in soy, are particularly protective. Factors that contribute to bone breakdown include excessive intake of carbonated soft drinks, sodium, caffeine, alcohol and high-fat animal protein.

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Bones

  1. Eat lots of nutrient-dense plant foods. Eat moderate, not excessive, amounts of protein.

  2. Go easy on coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks, which promote calcium excretion and hamper healthy bone formation.

  3. Stay away from the refined sugars found in so many snacks and packaged foods, since they also promote calcium excretion.

  4. Avoid the soft drink triple whammy! Americans guzzle soft drinks by the gallon, but they’re a triple threat to your bones, as they contain caffeine, sugar and chemicals called phosphates that also cause calcium loss, endangering healthy bones.

  5. Switch to green tea, instead of soft drinks. It’s a good source of vitamin K, which improves bone mineralization.

  6. Take bone-health supplements. Suggested daily doses are: calcium 1,000–1,500 mg, magnesium 500–1,000 mg, vitamin D3 2,000–5,000 IU, vitamin K 150–300 mcg, boron 3–4 mg, and soy isoflavones 100–200 mg. 

Now it’s your turn: What are you doing to build healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis?

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