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Calcium Makes Bones Hard

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On the other hand, getting these nutrients from foods means that they come packaged with other vitamins and minerals that may also be important for bone health, and emerging research is finding that your overall diet pattern may be important. (2)

For example, a study published in January 2017 in the journal Advances in Nutrition concluded that better bone health is associated with eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts, poultry and fish, and low-fat dairy products. (3)

Beyond filling your plate with a variety of foods, it’s worth ensuring that you eat good sources of the most important nutrients for bones: calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

“Calcium is critical for bone [health], because it maintains their strength,” says Lappe. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get about 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, increasing to 1,200 mg for women over age 50 and men over 70.

According to the USDA Food Composition Databases, these are the best food sources of calcium:

  • Dairy Products A single serving of milk, yogurt, or cheese provides about 300 mg of calcium.
  • Calcium-Fortified Juice and Plant-Based Milks These include soy and almond milks, which can contain as much calcium as cow’s milk. (Just be sure to shake the carton well before every pour, Lappe says, because the added calcium can settle to the bottom.)
  • Tofu It’s often made with calcium (about 250 mg per ½ cup) but check the label.
  • Canned Sardines and Salmon The calcium is in their soft bones (180 to 325 mg for 3 ounces).
  • Dark Green Vegetables Collards, kale, turnip greens, and cabbage can provide 100 to 250 mg of calcium per 1 cup of cooked vegetable. Lappe cautions that calcium is poorly absorbed from vegetables with high levels of oxalates, like spinach and rhubarb.

Tally up your total calcium intake using this calcium calculator from the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

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