Diet and physical activity: Allies in building and maintaining healthy bones
Bone health starts at birth
- Most bone density is acquired during childhood and adolescence
- We therefore need to talk to young people about the importance of healthy bones
Here are four tips for building and maintaining strong bones.
1. Opt for calcium-rich foods
Milk and dairy products (e.g., yogurt, cheese, kefir) naturally contain calcium. They are part of a healthy diet.
There are other sources of calcium. For example:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Canned salmon with bones
- Fortified foods
However, even in large quantities, calcium from plant sources is not as well absorbed by the body.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D
Vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin, helps the body absorb calcium in food. It is produced when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays. It is also present in certain foods:
- Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Egg yolks
- Fish liver oil
In Canada, it is mandatory for milk to be fortified with vitamin D. It is the main source of vitamin D in our diets.
Vitamin D is also found in fortified plant-based beverages and certain yogurts. However, few foods contain it naturally. To find out if you should take a supplement, consult a Registered Dietitian.
3. Focus on nutrients that are good for your bones
In addition to vitamin D and calcium, other nutrients play an important role in bone health:
- Vitamin K
They are found in foods such as whole grain products, fruits, vegetables and lentils.
Another very important nutrient is protein. Protein is one of the main components of muscles and bones. Choose protein-rich foods. For example:
- Dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
4. Get moving!
Children and young people should engage in moderate- to high-intensity physical activity each day. Take a look at the Canadian guidelines for the recommended active play time by age.
The best activities are the ones that increase their heart rates (make them out of breath). They should also do activities that help them develop muscle strength. The more active we are on a daily basis, the greater the health benefits!
Here are fun suggestions to get children and young people moving and help them develop strong bones:
- Skip or dance to your favourite song
- Try a sport such as soccer, tennis, basketball, volleyball or hockey
- Join in active games at recess, like four square or tag
- Skateboard, bike or rollerblade to a friend’s house
- Take a class—dance, for example
- Enjoy winter activities such as skating, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding or sledding in the park
- Walk or run in the park while challenging your friends