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Five foods to help keep bones strong

The health of our bones is closely linked to nutrition, or what we eat. Certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin K and calcium, as well as certain trace minerals have been found to be especially important in building and maintaining strong bones. Following is a list of five top foods for the promotion and maintenance of healthy bones that contain these nutrients, some of which may surprise you.

1. Oily fish

The flesh of oily fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel is one of the few naturally occurring sources of vitamin D available in our modern diets.1 Most of us will get the majority of vitamin D from our skin, where it is produced during exposure to sunlight. However, modern lifestyles involving long hours working indoors and an increased awareness of skin health issues and premature skin ageing, has decreased the amount of time we spend in the sun. This means that more than 50 percent of Australian women have inadequate vitamin D levels during winter and spring.2

2. Fortified breakfast cereal

Some breakfast cereals are fortified with extra vitamin D and calcium and therefore may provide a convenient and tasty way to increase the intake of these nutrients. However the amount of calcium and vitamin D in each type of cereal will vary depending on the brand so make sure you read the label carefully when making your choice.3

3. Milk and dairy products

Milk and dairy products pack a bone‐building punch, as they naturally contain high levels of calcium and are often fortified with vitamin D as well. For those who are lactose intolerant and battle to digest dairy, a wide range of lactose‐reduced or lactose‐free dairy products are easily available in supermarkets and stores.3

4. Green leafy vegetables

Dark green vegetables including kale, turnip greens and bok choy all contain calcium and provide a good non‐dairy option for those who are unable to consume milk and dairy products. Spinach however contains a form of calcium which is not easily absorbed by the body and is not as effective at supporting bone health.4 Dark green vegetables such as spinach and asparagus are also good sources of vitamin K, which is necessary for the proper use of calcium in the body. 5

5. Citrus fruits

Although citrus fruits do not contain as much calcium as dairy products or leafy greens, they do provide small amounts plus they contain other nutrients that promote strong bones. Oranges contain the highest levels of calcium of all the citrus fruits and orange juices fortified with calcium can provide a significant amount of dietary calcium. Citrus fruits also contain high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants,6 which help to protect bones from damage caused by free radicals and promote the production of collagen, which is an important component of bone.7

Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.

AU.OST.13.05.010 July 2013

  1. Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin D, 2011, http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets, 31/05/2013
  2. The Medical Journal of Australia, Vitamin D and health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: A position statement, 2012, https://www.mja.com.au/journal, 31/05/2013
  3. WebMD, Living with Osteoporosis, 2013, http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis, 31/05/2013
  4. Office of Dietary Supplements, Calcium, 2013, http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets, 31/05/2013
  5. Livestrong, Integrative Medicine, Vitamin K and Bne Health, 2011, http://www.livestrong.com/article, 30/05/2013
  6. Livestrong, Calcium content in citrus fruits, 2010, http://www.livestrong.com/article, 31/05/2013
  7. Livestrong, A good vitamin for joint health, 2011, http://www.livestrong.com/article, 31/05/2013

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