Women are especially vulnerable to weak bones and osteoporosis, but we’re not defenseless. One of the simplest ways to protect our bones is through a calcium-rich diet.
How much calcium do we need? According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults up to 50 years old need 1,000 milligrams daily. If you’re over 50, that number goes up to 1,200 milligrams.
Dairy products are the richest source of calcium. Even better, the low-fat and non-fat varieties pack more punch than their fattier versions. For example, skim milk has more calcium than both whole and 2 percent milk, providing up to 300 milligrams per serving. That means four glasses every day has your entire recommended daily dose of calcium. You may be better off drinking milk with some fat though, since skim doesn’t have as much Vitamin D, which your body needs for calcium absorption. Fat-free yogurt is another calcium-rich food, with almost 500 milligrams per 8 oz. serving. But it’s also low in Vitamin D.
If you like cheese (and who doesn’t?) try part-skim ricotta or Swiss. Mozzarella and cheddar are good secondary choices.
Although they don’t have as much calcium as dairy products, dark green vegetables have calcium and other important nutrients, too. Collard greens, broccoli, kale and turnip greens are some options. Soybeans and dried figs are also good.
Other calcium-rich foods include shrimp, canned salmon or sardines, soybeans, and dried figs. If keeping count of your consumption seems like too much work, try a few tricks. Buy juices and cereals that are fortified with calcium.
Some may need supplements depending on how much calcium they get in their diet. This is especially important for post-menopausal women, because it’s not clear if drinking milk offers any bone protection.
Studies also suggest that potassium may be another key nutrient in building bone strength, while low levels of magnesium may contribute to bone loss. Potassium-rich fruits include bananas, oranges, prunes,and cantaloupes; and vegetables that contain potassium include carrots, spinach, celery, alfalfa, mushrooms, lima beans, potatoes, avocados, and broccoli.