Keeping Your Bones Healthy
Are you getting enough calcium?
We all know that calcium is important for building strong bones and teeth, but do you know just how important? When do your bones reached their peak density? Why do bones start losing calcium? What can you do to prevent this?
This article answers these questions and more, as it helps you learn about the role of calcium in your body, how to prevent osteoporosis and how you can incorporate calcium-rich foods into your everyday diet.
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What is the role of calcium in the body?
The body uses calcium for bone and teeth strength. It also plays an important role in nerve and muscle function, blood clotting, enzyme regulation and insulin secretion.
The majority of the body's calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, with the remainder being carried in the blood. Eating calcium-rich foods keeps the body stocked with the calcium levels it needs. However, if your calcium intake from food is insufficient, the body draws the calcium it needs out of the bones. This is when problems occur - continued leaching of calcium from the bones can result in weak, brittle bones.
What causes osteoporosis?
The major factors that can lead to osteoporosis are:
By being aware of the factors that contribute to osteoporosis, you can make sure that you're not unknowingly putting yourself at risk. After all, you don't want to be the one later in life saying "I didn't know" when it's too late.
How can osteoporosis be prevented?
'Prevention' is the key word here - once your bones have begun to degenerate it is very difficult to overcome the affects. It is important to ensure that your diet is rich in calcium right from childhood, and especially during the teenage years when your bones reach their maximum density. The more you can build up your bone density, the stronger your bones and teeth will be for the future.
That's not to say that if you are past your teens, it's too late to bother. Calcium and exercise are important for all ages, and in fact have been shown to substantially help reduce fractures and problems in the elderly years.
Have a look at how much calcium you need each day.
As well as calcium, it is extremely important to ensure that you do regular weight bearing exercise. Exercise where you are supporting your own weight has been found to maintain and build bone strength, and can determine the maximum bone density that a person achieves.
Examples of weight bearing exercise are:
Find as many ways as you can to incorporate these types of exercise into your day, and encourage your family members to join you to keep the whole family's bones strong and healthy.
How can I track my calcium intake?
Click the 'Change nutrients displayed' link to show your calcium intake
Do you know how much daily calcium you are getting? There's an easy way to find out.
Using your CalorieKing.com.au Food Diary, you can choose to display calcium as one of the nutrients that you track. Simply click on the 'Change nutrients displayed' link in your Food Diary and tick the calcium check box.
Easy! Now you can find out how much calcium you are really getting.
If you're not already a member of CalorieKing.com.au, it's simple to join. Try the free diet analysis and profile on the homepage.
How can I incorporate more calcium into my diet?
Firstly, have a look at the following table for some good sources of calcium.
Which of these do you eat regularly? Is this enough to achieve your recommended daily calcium intake? If not, try some of these quick and tasty tricks!
What is the impact of low-carbohydrate diets?
The latest diet craze of restricting carbohydrates may prove to have serious consequences for bone health. On a low-carbohydrate diet, milk, nuts and most dairy products are avoided due to their carbohydrate levels. Unless the diet is supplemented, such as with calcium tablets, not enough calcium will be consumed in the daily diet.
According to Australian research, low-carbohydrate diets can also cause the blood to become more acidic. This can result in an increase in the amount of calcium leached out of the bones.
Another link between low-carbohydrate diets and osteoporosis comes with research that shows that excess protein has been identified as a contributing factor to osteoporosis. Diets, such as the Atkins diet, which limit carbohydrates tend to be high in meat consumption. This could be a cause for concern in the future.
When you combine less dietary calcium, extra leaching from the bones and a diet high in protein, low-carbohydrate diets aren't really all they're cracked up to be - unless that's a cracking of the bones you're after...
Why are fruits and vegetables important?
Although calcium and exercise are the most beneficial ways to prevent bone loss, a recent US study found that eating at least three servings of fruits and vegetables per day can help limit the body's excretion of calcium from the bones.
Although the study was small and has not produced definitive evidence, the indications are that adding extra fruit and vegetables certainly can't hurt!
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This article was compiled in consultation with CalorieKing.com.au experts and in reference to the following sources:
Allan Borushek's Calorie and Fat Counter 2004 - 'Osteoporosis Guide & Calcium Counter'
Low Carbohydrate Diets (radio program), 9 February 2004, The Health Report, ABC Radio National, Announcer N. Swan.
Norton, A. 'Fruits and vegetables may strengthen girls' bones.' Reuters Health, 16 March 2004.
Last updated: July 19th, 2004
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