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  » Diet Information  »  Strong bones diet

Women often have a hard time getting all of the calcium they need to maintain strong bones. Three out of four get less than the recommended intake (1,200 mg every day), with most getting less than half of what they should. At this rate, it's no wonder one out of two women end up with osteoporosis and suffer fractures. And it's not just lack of calcium in the diet that may be causing the disease, but other lifestyle choices as well: Smoking and too much alcohol both weaken our bones, while weight-bearing exercise is necessary to build and maintain bone.

Here's how the low-fat, high calcium Strong Bones Diet, when combined with an active lifestyle, can help make and keep your bones strong:

• Dairy foods provide more calcium per serving, by far, than any other food. Besides dairy products, this diet also includes other calcium-rich foods such as canned salmon and tofu -- giving you enough calcium here and there to add up to significant amounts.
• If you have difficulty digesting lactose, substitute calcium-fortified soy products, or use Lactaid or Dairy Ease tablets before eating. For those who are allergic to dairy or vegan, this meal plan includes calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice and cereals, calcium-processed soy products and calcium-rich vegetables like legumes, artichoke hearts, broccoli and beet greens.
• Your body can't absorb large doses of calcium (over 500 mg) at one time. This diet spreads out the doses among your meals and snacks.
• Though this food plan will help you get the recommended 1,200 mg of calcium each day, consider taking a calcium supplement if you modify this diet. The two most widely used supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, each of which contains between 200 and 500mg of supplemental calcium per pill. Calcium carbonate should be taken at meal times because it requires stomach acid to be dissolved and absorbed efficiently. Calcium citrate contains acid, so it may be more easily absorbed and can be taken at any time of day.

Option One Option Two Option Three
8-ounce glass of calcium-fortified orange juice
Whole-wheat bagel with 1 ounce low-fat cheddar cheese
Apple slices
Herb tea
Tofu Breakfast Burritos
Hot chocolate made from skim milk or hot soymilk
Cherry Vanilla Muesli or oatmeal made with skim milk instead of water and topped with banana
4 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice
Herb tea

Option One Option Two Option Three
Salmon salad (made with canned salmon and fat-free mayo) on a bed of greens
Whole-grain roll
8 ounces skim milk or calcium-fortified soymilk
Fresh fruit
Strawberry Soup
Open-faced smoked turkey breast sandwich on calcium-fortified bread with your choice of fresh vegetables and low-fat spread
Low-fat pizza for one made with 1 1/2 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese
Small tossed salad topped with toasted sunflower seeds
Calcium-fortified juice
Herb tea

Option One Option Two Option Three
Fat-Free Seafood Chowder
Cornbread Muffin
Tossed green salad
Fresh fruits and nuts
Grilled chicken breast
Steamed kale
Basmati Rice with Exotic Spices
Large scoop non-fat frozen yogurt
Fish a la Grecque
Steamed brown rice
Asparagus spears
Banana Bread Pudding

SNACKS (choose one daily)

• Yogurt Fruit Delights
• Canned salmon salad on whole-wheat crackers
• Calcium-fortified low-fat soymilk and graham crackers
• Low-fat string cheese and apple slices
• 1/4 cup roasted soy nuts



• Get plenty of daily, weight-bearing exercise like jogging, hiking, aerobics, dancing, cross country skiing and golf (doesn't count if you use a cart!). Stimulation of the bones encourages bone-building cells (osteoblasts) to lay down calcium
• Get regular exposure to sunshine. Your body requires sunshine to make vitamin D, which you need to absorb calcium
• Take a daily multivitamin that includes zinc and magnesium as well as vitamins A and D, all of which are necessary for the proper absorption and utilization of calcium
• Eat oxalates (found in spinach, beet greens, rhubarb and chard) and phytates (found in the outer layer of many seeds, grains and beans) -- but be aware that these bind calcium to make it unabsorbable. Since these foods are good for you, don't avoid them -- but be sure to eat them separately from high-calcium foods and supplements


• Smoke. Smoking can decrease estrogen levels. This increases a woman's risk of osteoporosis because estrogen may suppress the bone-destroying osteoclasts and may stimulate the bone-building osteoblast cells
• Consume excessive sodium, which increases the urinary excretion of calcium
• Consume excessive phosphorus, which can be found in too much animal protein or some sodas. Phosphorus competes with calcium for vitamin D. Excess phosphorus means that less vitamin D is available for calcium absorption and bone building
• Get too stressed. Studies have suggested that cortisol, the hormone released when a person is under stress, may suppress bone formation
• Take a lot of aluminum-containing antacids because excessive amounts can interfere with calcium absorption. Read labels!
• Drink too much alcohol. Alcohol decreases the activity of osteoblasts, the bone-building cells