Bone health - it takes more than just calcium

Having good bone health is a vital component to living a healthy, long and vibrant life. Most people know how important exercise is to bone health, but what about proper nutrition for healthy bones? Here are some key vitamins and minerals individuals can incorporate into their diet. Each is critical to keeping bones healthy and strong.

• Calcium - Upper level recommendations for teens and adults over age 50 are 1300 mg. per day. One serving of dairy - about one cup of milk or yogurt, or 1.5 oz. of cheese - generally provides about 300 mg. of calcium.

• Vitamin D - This hormone is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Having adequate Vitamin D in our body is needed to process calcium. For people who do not get regular exposure to sunlight, they can get Vitamin D from fortified milk (cow or soy), salmon or supplements. Adults need 500 IU (international units), but can safely take up to1,000 IU per day.

• Vitamin C - This popular vitamin is essential for making collagen; the connective tissue minerals cling to when bone is formed. It is found in citrus fruits, kiwis, cantaloupe, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers.

• Vitamin K - This vitamin has been found to stimulate bone formation. It is found most abundantly in dark leafy greens, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green tea and lentils.

• Potassium - An easy nutrient to incorporate if you like sweeter fruits and vegetables. Potassium decreases the loss of calcium from the body and increases the rate of bone-building. Oranges, bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, avocados, tomatoes, cooked spinach, vegetable juice and prune juice are all excellent sources of potassium.

• Magnesium - Another important mineral for healthy bones is magnesium, which has been associated with stronger bones. However, most people in the U.S. do not get enough magnesium in their diet. Rich sources of magnesium include beans, greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, oats and broccoli.

Are you starting to get the picture? Healthy bones are the result of eating healthy foods. If you "eat a rainbow," meaning a lot of different colored foods, you will incorporate all of these beautifully colored fruits and vegetables and your bones will thank you.

Jody Hoskins, M.S.R.D., is a registered dietitian at Flagstaff Medical Center. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC's Web site at


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