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What foods should I eat as I age to make my bones stronger?

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The question:

What foods should I eat as I age to make my bones stronger?

The answer:

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As we get older, it's really important to get the right foods and nutrients to preserve bone density. And that starts with calcium. Adults, aged 19 to 50, need 1000 milligrams of calcium each day and older adults require 1200 milligrams.

One cup of milk, ¾ cup plain yogurt and 1.5 ounces of cheese all contain roughly 300 milligrams (mg) of easily absorbed calcium. Other sources include fortified soy beverages (300 mg per 1 cup), sardines with bones (3 ounces = 325 mg), canned salmon with bones (3 ounces = 188 mg), cooked Swiss chard (1 cup = 102 mg), cooked broccoli (1 cup = 62 mg) and almonds (1/4 cup = 92 mg). If you can't get enough calcium from food, take a supplement. Keep in mind that most multivitamins don't have enough calcium to suffice as a supplement.

Foods rich in vitamin K also help keep bones strong.

These include spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, collard greens, kale, rapini and arugula. The body uses vitamin K in the bone building process. A handful of studies conducted in women and men have linked higher vitamin K intakes with higher bone densities and a lower risk of hip fracture. Scientists think it takes a daily intake of 200 micrograms of vitamin K to protect bones from thinning - an amount that can easily be obtained by eating one-half cup of cooked greens each day.

The other nutrient that's very important for healthy bones is vitamin D (D3). However you can't get the amount you need from food. You must take a supplement. Osteoporosis Canada recommends a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 to 1000 international units (IU) for adults under 50 and 800 to 2000 IU for older adults.

And don't forget to minimize your intake of caffeine, alcohol and sodium since these are substances that can cause bone loss when consumed in excess.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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