Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. In light of May being National Osteoporosis Month, it seems appropriate to take a look at some of the causes and consider some of the foods that can help strengthen your bones. Some of the leading causes of osteoporosis are lack of vitamin D, sedentary lifestyle, estrogen deficiencies in women, and low testosterone in men.
According to Dr. Linda Russell, a Rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, there are certain factors that can put you at higher risk for osteoporosis including being Caucasian or Asian, having a petite body, going through menopause before age 45, tobacco use, family history of osteoporosis, and taking medications like glucocorticoids, aromatase inhibitors and anticonvulsants. For those who may be at risk, you can get tested.
Dr. Russell stated, “A DEXA (dual x-ray absorptiometry) can detect osteoporosis. Medicare allows this test to be done every two years and every year if the patient is on glucocorticoids or has primary hyperparathyroidism. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a DEXA in women at menopause and men at 70. The US Preventative Task Force recommends a baseline for women at age 65, but earlier if risk factors are present.”
If you have risk factors associated with osteoporosis, or just want to take some preventative steps, there are some things you can do. Dr. Russell recommends getting the proper amount of exercise, calcium and vitamin D. You can gain calcium from food or through a calcium supplement. For those looking to get their calcium from foods, there are several options. The most common sources of calcium from food are found in dairy products. There are high calcium foods available in other food groups too though. Below are just a few ways you can get your daily calcium allotment.
- Nonfat Yogurt: Some varieties of yogurt contain as much as 490 mg of calcium and no fat. This allows you the benefits of a high calcium snack without the extra fat of regular yogurt.
- Skim or Reduced Fat Milk: Each cup contains 300 mg of calcium. Choosing the varieties that are lower in fat can keep your diet healthy while getting the calcium that you need.
- Fortified Orange Juice: One cup contains 300 mg of calcium. Be sure to look for an option that is low in calories and without added sugar.
- Dark Leafy Greens: The calcium count varies depending on the green, but options like kale, spinach, mustard greens, watercress and bok choy are all good options for getting more of this mineral.
- Fortified Soy Milk: One cup of soy milk contains about 400 mg of calcium, which is higher than what you get from reduced fat or skim milk. Soy milk is also lower in calories than regular milk, so this can be a great low-calorie option.
Even if you aren’t currently at risk for osteoporosis, it is never too early to focus on protecting and building strong bones. Be aware of nutrition labels and check to see how much calcium you are getting daily. Increasing your calcium intake can be as simple as eating the right foods.