Maintaining Healthy Bones Well Into Your Senior Years

Posted on: 8 April 2016

You look forward to being active in your retirement. But as you age, your bones begin to wear down faster than your body can produce new bone material. Diseases, such as osteoporosis, accelerate bone absorption, resulting in bones that are brittle and spongy. You will be at a higher risk of injury, which will keep you from being as active as you'd like. One way to maintain your bone health is to pay attention to your diet. Here are some of the ways that diet affects your bone health and specific changes you can make to keep your bones ready for those activities you have in mind for your senior years.

What You Eat Affects Your Bones

Calcium is the first building block your body needs to maintain bone growth and strength. Your body doesn't make calcium, so it relies on what you eat to provide this important mineral. You also need vitamin D for the body to make use of the calcium to create new bone. The minerals phosphorus and magnesium are used to strengthen the bone matrix. Potassium is used by your muscles, which put pressure on the bone surfaces, stimulating bone growth.

Designing a Diet for Bone Health

An orthopedic doctor or nutritionist can help you design a diet that maximizes the materials your body needs to maintain bone health. Your diet needs to address several needs, including:

  • creation of new bone to replace the old bone absorbed by your body
  • maintenance of a dense bone structure to reduce the risk of fracture, especially in the long bones
  • replacement of cartilage at the ends of bones in your joints that can be worn down by such diseases as arthritis

The following elements are important to have in your diet for bone health:

Dairy products - These are full of calcium. Many dairy products come fortified with vitamin D. Look for low-fat and no-fat cottage cheese, yogurt and milk for healthier dairy choices.

Seafood - Oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, are packed full of calcium. Fatty fish, such as tuna and mackerel, contain vitamin D.

Vegetables - Many vegetables offer high levels of calcium. These include broccoli, okra, kale, turnip greens and mustard greens. Other vegetables, such as spinach, tomatoes and potatoes, contain potassium and magnesium.

Fruits - Bananas, oranges, prunes and papayas provide your body with potassium.

Foods To Limit in Your Diet

Some foods can make it harder for your body to maintain strong bones. These should be used sparingly in your diet.

Beans and legumes - While these foods have high levels of calcium and magnesium, they also contain a material called phytates. This substance blocks your body from absorbing all of the calcium from the foods that it can. Soaking raw beans overnight in water, then draining them and rinsing with fresh water before cooking them, will release some of the phytates.

Meat protein - Your body needs protein for energy, but too much causes your body to lose calcium. A doctor or nutritionist can help you balance the amount of animal protein you eat with the calcium you take in so you get the most benefit from both.

Salty foods - Sodium makes your body lose calcium. Try seasoning your foods with pepper, paprika or oregano instead of salt so you get the benefit of the calcium from the food.

Caffeine - This chemical limits your body's absorption of calcium. Drink coffee, tea and caffeinated drinks sparingly.

Carbonated soft drinks - These contain a type of phosphorous noted on the label as "phosphate" or "phosphoric acid." This material competes with the natural phosphorus that your body needs and can cause bone loss. Limit these drinks in your diet.