A Healthy Bones Cheat Sheet

keeping bones in shape as we age

Bones play many roles in the body — providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. While it’s important to build strong and healthy bones during childhood and adolescence, you can take steps during adulthood to protect bone health, too.

4 Things That Help Your Bones

Exercise: Weight-bearing exercise, which requires your bones to support your weight, is as important to bone strength as low-acid eating. Studies show that 30 to 60 minutes of daily moderate exercise walking, gardening, even dancing substantially reduces your risk of fractures.

Vitamin D: Most people know their cholesterol level, but very few know their vitamin D level, says R. Keith McCormick, DC, author of The Whole Body Approach to Osteoporosis. A simple test at the doctor’s office can clue you into how much vitamin D you’re absorbing from sunlight and food, so you can gauge the supplement dosage that’s best for you.

Antioxidants: While oxidative stress the damage inflicted by free radicals breaks bones down, antioxidants can help neutralize inflammation by disarming those free radicals. To monitor your body’s inflammation levels, McCormick suggests having a C-reactive protein test, which can help you decide whether you need to supplement with an antioxidant, like alpha-linolenic acid or n-acetyl cysteine, and how much to take.

Optimal nutrient absorption: The supplements you take and healthy foods you eat won’t do your body any good if you’re not absorbing their nutrients. A simple urine test can reveal if that calcium supplement  you’re swallowing is flushing right out without doing any good. Potassium bicarbonate, vitamin K, and the amino acid taurine can aid calcium absorption, so talk to your doctor about the dosage that’s right for you. Since gluten intolerance can also disrupt your nutrient absorption, McCormick recommends that everyone get tested for celiac disease.

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4 Things That Harm Your Bones

Caffeine: Your morning cup of joe might not be a top risk factor for fractures, but some studies show that caffeine intake lessens the body’s ability to absorb calcium. For adult women, even a 6-ounce cup of coffee can hurt your calcium levels, so limit caffeine consumption to one or two cups a day.

Alcohol: Heavy drinking more than one drink a day for women, two for men suppresses bone-building osteoblast cells, leading to weaker bones, especially in young women whose bones are still developing. Some studies suggest that even after you quit drinking for good, your bones can never overcome the damaging effects of prior chronic alcohol use.

Smoking: By flooding the bloodstream with free radicals that cause cell damage, smoking plays a role in weakening bones. According to the World Health Organization, roughly one in eight hip fractures are attributable to cigarette smoking. But here’s good news: Quitting can potentially slow your bone-loss rate.

Prescription drugs: Not only do common diabetes drugs Avandia and Actos suppress bone-building cells, they actually activate the cells that degrade bones. Researchers suggest weighing the benefits of the drugs against the risks they impose. Steroids like Prednisone also reduce the amount of calcium absorbed by your intestines, contributing to bone loss.

By Hilary Oliver

Alkaline Meal Ideas

3 Bone-Building Breakfasts
A bowl of fruit (cherries, apricots, nectarines, berries), and toast topped with peanut or almond butter, avocado, or fruit butter
Oatmeal cooked with apples and raisins, and a glass of fruit juice or green tea
Scrambled tofu with vegetables (broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms), and oven-roasted sweet potatoes on the side

3 Bone-Building Lunches
Vegetable soup or vegetarian chili with a whole-wheat roll and piece of fresh fruit
Red pepper hummus, grated carrot, and chopped tomato on a whole-wheat wrap, served with a side of fresh fruit
Eggless egg salad (made with tofu) on toasted whole-grain bread with a side of edamame (whole soy beans)

3 Bone-Building Dinners
Roasted portobello mushrooms and red peppers on a bed of quinoa with steamed artichoke, and a cabbage-and-fruit salad
Grilled tofu, zucchini, asparagus, and mushrooms served with corn on the cob, and a green salad with apples, raisins, and a light vinaigrette
Roasted root veggies and a baked apple stuffed with raisins

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