Eating Well for Healthy Bones and Muscles
Throughout your life, eating healthy, balanced meals plays an important role in keeping you feeling great and preventing chronic diseases. It can also help prevent muscle and bone loss, reducing your risk of falling and breaking bones.
For easy-to-follow recommendations on healthy eating, see Canada’s food guide. The guide also provides tips for older adults.
In addition to following Canada’s food guide, when it comes to preventing falls and fall-related injuries, 2 elements in particular are essential: calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium helps lower your chances of falling and the risk of injury caused by falls because it makes your bones strong. If you don’t have enough calcium in your diet, your body will draw it from your bones, ultimately making them weaker. In order to avoid this, adults over the age of 50 need to consume 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium every day. Individuals at risk for or living with osteoporosis should consume 1500 mg of calcium per day.
How much calcium your body absorbs depends on the food it's coming from, so it is important to vary its sources. Below are some foods that will help you reach your required calcium intake:
- Cow's milk and fortified non-dairy beverages
- Canned fish with soft bones (such as salmon or sardines)
- Tofu (set with calcium)
- Dried figs
- White beans
- Milk pudding
Calcium supplements can also help you reach your required calcium intake. There are many types of calcium supplements, so talk to your healthcare provider to find out which is best for you.
Most supplements are absorbed better by the body when taken with meals. And whether you get your calcium from your diet or supplements, try to spread your intake throughout the day as it’s better absorbed in small doses of 500 mg or less at a time.
Vitamin D is the other half of the dynamic duo that helps keep your bones strong and prevent injury from falls. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption and helps build the skeleton, improving your strength and balance in the process.
Your body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, but you can also get it through foods high in vitamin D like fortified cow's milk or fortified non-dairy beverages, egg yolks, certain types of fish (salmon, sardines) and liver.
It’s also a good idea for adults over the age of 50 to take a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU daily. This is because the body requires more vitamin D at that age than what we can get from food, but also because the body’s ability to produce vitamin D through sun exposure is reduced.
- Seniors Nutrition (information from www.UnlockFood.ca)
- A Guide to Healthy Eating for Older Adults (information from www.UnlockFood.ca)
- Nutri-eScreen (eating habits survey for older adults)