Good Nutrition for Life: 5 Foods to Support Bone Health

Posted by Presbyterian Homes on Apr 23, 2018 4:16:00 PM

two older adults cooking a healthy meal together

Mental and emotional health plays an essential part of our overall health and well-being. And despite what you’ve heard about so-called ‘senior moments’, memory lapses can occur at any age, but aging alone is generally not a cause of cognitive decline. 

There are thousands of products out there to keep your skin looking young, your teeth looking white and your hair, well, on your head. But what about the inside of our bodies? Are you doing everything you need to do on a daily basis to keep your body strong and functioning at peak efficiency? Sure, you may exercise and take a multivitamin - but are your food choices also supporting your overall body and bone health?

Bone health is extremely important as we age. This is because we require more calcium to support bone strength and avoid life-hindering conditions like brittle bones and osteoporosis. To keep the skeletal infrastructure of our bodies strong, we need to eat foods that are not only high in calcium but also vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, and phosphorus.

In addition to calcium, vitamin D is a big player in the bone health game. While calcium helps build and maintain bones, vitamin D helps your body effectively absorb calcium. To put it plainly, you need both to preserve, protect and build bone mass within your body. It’s recommended that adults over 50 get between 400 and 600 IU (international units) each day while adults over 70 should increase their vitamin D intake to 800 IU each day. 

Below we’ve listed a few foods high in these essential vitamins and minerals, the recommended serving sizes within these foods groups, as well as the calcium content per serving.
It’s no surprise that dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are high in calcium. It’s recommended that adults over 60 get approximately three servings of dairy each day. This can include 1 cup of yogurt, 1 cup of milk, or 1.5 ounces of hard cheese.

  • Milk ~ 300mg of calcium
  • Yogurt ~ 450mg of calcium
  • Cheese ~ 200mg of calcium

Cruciferous Vegetables
Leafy, green, cruciferous vegetables are high in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin C, as well as many other healthy bone-supporting vitamins and minerals. Daily intake of these vegetables can include: 1 cup of raw leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, and brussel sprouts, or 1/2 a cup of chopped broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, and radishes. It’s recommended that older adults eat at least five servings of veggies per day!

  • Spinach ~ 240mg of calcium
  • Broccoli ~ 180mg of calcium
  • Kale ~ 55mg of calcium

Fortified Grains
It’s recommended that older adults get at least six servings of calcium-fortified grains, such as those in bread and cereals, each day. Keep in mind that serving sizes of grains are typically much smaller and include a slice of bread, a small tortilla, 1 cup of fortified cereal, 1/2 a cup of cooked rice pasta or cereal, or 1/2 a cup of popped popcorn.

  • Fortified cereal ~ 250-1000mg of calcium
  • Bread ~ 150mg of calcium
  • Tortilla ~ 85mg of calcium

Many proteins such as eggs, salmon, nuts, beans, and tofu all contain high levels of bone-healthy vitamins and minerals. It’s recommended that older adults get approximately eight to nine servings per week or one to two servings per day. As with grains, protein serving sizes tend to be smaller, around 3 ounces each, than serving sizes of dairy or fruits. An added benefit of protein is that it helps you feel fuller longer and can help curb cravings for sweets.

  • Salmon ~ 200mg of calcium
  • Tofu ~ 120-750mg of calcium
  • Almonds ~ 80mg of calcium

Fruits and Fortified Juices
Many adults may be unaware that some fruits and fruit juices have calcium in them. As is the case with most fortified fruit juices, the calcium is added, but it doesn’t make it any less valuable. It’s recommended that older adults get around 3-4 servings of fruit each day. This can include about 1/2 a cup of cut fruit or around 1/4 cup of 100% fortified fruit juice per serving.

  • Figs ~ 300mg of calcium
  • Fortified, not from concentrate orange juice ~ 300mg of calcium
  • Kiwi ~ 50mg of calcium 

These are just a few of the many foods you can include in your daily diet to support bone health. If it seems like these foods are boring, or you’re just not excited about adding cups of cruciferous vegetables to your menu, try mixing them into different meals throughout the day.
Add some spinach to your pasta dinner, mix some yogurt and granola together for a light snack, or make a tapas plate of almonds, figs, and cheese. It doesn’t have to be a huge change to your daily routine, just small additions to 1 or 2 meals a day can make a huge difference.
At Presbyterian Homes, we strive to provide options to keep residents happy and healthy. To learn more about how we incorporate personal wellness into our Choices for Living Well program, please contact one of the Presbyterian Homes campuses below.

Topics: Food & Nutrition