top of page

Bone up on the Facts...

This Halloween, treat yourself to some tips to keep your skeleton healthy.

According to the National Institutes of Health, bone mass density peaks at the age of 30. Your risk for developing osteoporosis, or weak bones, depends on how much bone mass you acquired by age 30, and how quickly you lose it after. Maintaining bone health and slowing bone loss is influenced by a number of factors including hormones, diet, and exercise. A well-balanced diet containing sufficient calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D is essential for supporting a healthy skeleton.


Calcium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that performs multiple functions in the body. Calcium is critical for maintaining muscle and nerve function, and if there isn't enough calcium coming in from the diet, the body will pull calcium from the bones. In the long-term, this can lead to low bone mass, osteoporosis, and bone fractures.

Some people are at higher risk for calcium deficiency. For example, postmenopausal women, women with amenorrhea (loss of menstruation) and female athletes who consistently expend more energy than they consume have lower amounts of estrogen in the body. Maintaining a healthy body weight, consuming adequate calcium via diet or supplements, and in some cases hormone replacement therapy is essential to protect bone mass in these individuals.

Calcium is found in a wide variety of foods, not just dairy products. For those with lactose intolerance, sufficient calcium can be consumed with a well-balanced diet that includes ample amounts of dark leafy greens, broccoli, tofu, beans, almonds, and non-dairy milk alternatives. Those with lactose intolerance may also be able to tolerate small amounts of yogurt and cheese without a problem.

Your healthcare provider may recommend calcium supplements if they feel you are at high risk for bone loss or fracture. Currently, there is inconclusive evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety of calcium supplements. To discuss your individual needs, talk to a registered dietitian or your primary health provider.


Magnesium is an electrolyte that is essential for regulation of muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, and energy production. It assists in transporting calcium in the body and is essential to bone development.

On average, about ½ of people in the U.S don't get enough magnesium in their diet. The typical western diet is low in vegetables, legumes and whole grains, which are typically the best sources of dietary magnesium. Food sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds (especially almonds, cashews, peanuts and pumpkin seeds), beans, whole grains, salmon, cocoa, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, and seaweed.

Supplemental magnesium isn't necessary for those consuming a well-balanced diet focusing on the foods listed above, however studies show that supplementation within the DRI guidelines does not pose any risk for health individuals. High doses of magnesium supplements may cause a laxative effect and can cause nausea and abdominal cramping. Before deciding to take a magnesium supplement, discuss your individual needs with a registered dietitian or health professional.

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes calcium absorption and helps with bone mineralization and remodeling. It is found naturally in a few foods and is supplemented in many others. Vitamin D is also synthesized in the body when UV rays from the sun hit the skin. Adequate vitamin D prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Most people meet some of their needs for vitamin D through sunlight, however, factors such as season, cloud cover, skin melanin content, and sunscreen affect UV exposure. Those of us in New England are said to be too far from the equator decreasing the strength of the suns rays and therefore the access to sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. For those who avoid sun exposure, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends people include good sources of vitamin D in their diets or take a vitamin D supplement.

Natural sources of vitamin D are found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese. Fortified foods provide a majority of the vitamin D for Americans, such as dairy milk products, orange juice, and read-to-eat cereals.

It is possible to have excess vitamin D. Toxicity through excessive supplementation can cause nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and weakness. Do not supplement with doses higher than 1,000 IU daily unless recommended by your registered dietitian or primary doctor.

General Lifestyle Tips for Healthy Bones:

•Avoid smoking tobacco, and limit dietary salt, alcohol, and soda as excess amounts can weaken bones.

• Eat whole, unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fish and dairy. These foods contain more than just bone-healthy calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, but also have an important array of phytochemicals, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals that work in harmony to protect against many chronic illnesses.

• Include weight bearing exercises in your daily routine. Examples of these are lifting weights, walking, hiking climbing stairs, dancing, and tennis. If your joints are healthy, plyometric activities such as jumping rope or jumping jacks are most effective at strengthening bone.

To learn more about diet and lifestyle choices to protect your bone health, visit or

Recent Posts
bottom of page