Osteoporosis: Foods for women over 30 to prevent weakening of bones
Years before the symptoms appear, osteoporosis can affect your bones without any visible signs and thus it is imperative to take care of your bones from a young age.
Osteoporosis is a condition that is usually diagnosed after the age of 50 when one suffers fractures, back pain, posture change. Years before these symptoms appear, osteoporosis can affect your bones without any visible signs and thus it is imperative to take care of your bones from a young age by consuming diet rich calcium, Vitamin D, protein, phosphorous and magnesium. In India, the risk of osteoporosis in women is significantly higher as compared to those in western countries. The reasons could be due to lower bone mineral density in Indians, genetic factors, nutritional deficiency and also smaller skeletal size. It is estimated that more than about 50% of all osteoporotic hip fractures in the world will occur in Asia by the year 2050. (Also read: Osteoporosis: Foods to eat and avoid for preventing the condition)
"Unlike earlier times modern women spend most of their time indoors. Even when outdoors they protect their skin from sunlight by wearing gloves, hat, mask, long sleeves and sunscreen. This leads to poor Vitamin D formation, hence poor calcium absorption. Dietary calcium with Vitamin D prevents osteoporosis, which in India is now seen 20 years earlier than their western counterparts. About 30% of women above 40 years of age in India suffer osteoporosis. Osteoporosis sets in two decades earlier in India compared to west," says Dr Chetna Jain, Alumnus of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Director Deptt OBG gynaecology at Cloudnine group of hospitals, Sector 14, Gurgaon.
How osteoporosis can be prevented
"Calcium is needed to maintain strength of bones and teeth. Its important for functioning of heart, nerves, and blood clotting. When dietary calcium is inadequate, body will use calcium from bones and render them fragile weak and osteoporotic," says Dr Jain.
Dr Jain says it's important for women to eat food rich in calcium from an early age. She recommends the following calcium-rich foods for osteoporosis prevention:
- Dairy products: Cow milk, cottage cheese, curd are rich sources of calcium. Goat milk is good too but uncommonly used by city population. They are on top of list of rich source of calcium for vegetarians.
- Green leafy veggies: Spinach, kale, collard, arugula are good sources. They also contain Vitamin C, E, K and B vitamins. These vegetables are also rich in magnesium and manganese.
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, sesame, pumpkin seeds, chia and flaxseeds contain calcium, magnesium, zinc etc.
- Cruciferous veggies: These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel, sprouts etc. These are a good source of folate, Vitamin C, E, K too.
- Asparagus: Not so commonly used in Indian cooking, it provides calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A, K, C. It has high protein content - about 4 gm per cup.
- Fortified foods: In supermarkets you will find foods like orange juices, soy and almond milk, flours, breads etc fortified with calcium and Vit D. you may choose to add them to your diet to increase your calcium intake.
- Figs and plums (prunes): Both fresh and dried forms contain calcium. One medium fig has about 90 mgs of calcium and half cup dried figs have 120 mg calcium.
- Tofu: Half cup has 860 mg calcium. It also has isoflavoneshelpful for bone health.
- Eggs: One yolk contains 5% of DV (daily value) for Vitamin D. Eggs are rich source of calcium, magnesium and zinc.
- Fish: Salmon, sardines with bones specially in canned form are excellent source of calcium, protein and omega-3 fatty acids
Things which prevent calcium absorption are:
Phytic acid found in raw beans and grains
Oxalic acid present in spinach, prevents absorption of calcium.
Sodium: High dietary sodium intake increases calcium loss from the body.
Excess calcium intake in one meal: In one meal maximum 500 mg of calcium can be absorbed, hence calcium must be taken in moderation in multiple meals.
Here are other essential foods you must include for your bone health apart from calcium:
Comes from diet and made by skin when exposed to UV rays from sunlight. Daily sunlight exposure of 10-15 minutes on arms legs back and hands without sunscreen is recommended.
It makes 50% of bone mass. Helps build bone structure and gives strength. 1-2 gm of protein/kg per day is recommended for women with osteoporosis. Soyabean is plant-based complete protein with omega-3 fatty acids. Look for soy products fortified with calcium and Vitamin D.
Helps growth of bones and body tissue. It is found in dairy products, cereal, nuts, fish, eggs and meat.
Potassium and magnesium
Acids in body leach calcium from bones. Potassium neutralises acids. Low levels of magnesium affects vit D balance in the body. One medium-size baked sweet potato has 81 mg magnesium and 542 mg of potassium.
Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production. Collagen supports healthy bones and joints. Grape fruit, oranges and orange juices fortified with calcium make a good choice. One orange has about 80 mg of Vitamin C.
Things to avoid
Nicotine slows the production of bone forming cells (osteoblasts). It also slows the blood flow to the bones and make them brittle.
Cut added sugar
Soft drinks, cookies and processed foods flush out calcium and magnesium in urine, prevent absorption of calcium from intestine and displaces important nutrients from diet.
Heavy drinking can lead to falls and fractures. It interferes with osteoblasts and prevent bone formation and repair.