Osteoporosis affects both women and men. While this post is directed more to women, the food choices outlined are good for ALL.

The hormone oestrogen assists in the absorption of calcium, and so when there is a reduction of this as with menopause, women and yes men, become more susceptible to calcium deficiency, consequently brittle bones and potential fractures as a result of osteoporosis. 

Osteoporosis will not affect all menopausal women (or men), however as women can expect to live into their 80’s, it is important to maintain bone health to minimise the risk and ensure quality of life.

Calcium is important in any stage of life as it helps maintain strong and healthy bones, with sufficient intake helping to slow or offset the reduction in bone strength that is part of ageing. The majority of calcium is stored in your bones, so if your diet doesn’t contain an adequate amount of calcium, these stores are gradually depleted. More so with menopause.

The good news is calcium can be found in a wide range of food sources, and the absorption of calcium into your body is enhanced with a little vitamin D (natural sunlight being an excellent source). Read on, and find out which food sources can help you to get enough calcium into your body each day.

Leafy and green vegetables

The first thing you might think of when trying to increase your calcium intake is dairy, however there are many different sources you should be considering. It is much simpler to obtain what you need from what you eat. 

Leafy and green vegetables such as kale, okra, spinach, watercress, broccoli and cabbage, are all good sources of calcium. In addition to providing this essential mineral, these foods are really good for you, and can help you to maintain a healthy body weight – which is incredibly important to reducing the risk of osteoporosis. 

Eating fresh foods such as these (and fresh foods in general), are your best dietary choice.

Dairy

Yes, dairy most definitely contains calcium, and milk, cheese and yogurt are all good sources. Nonetheless this doesn’t mean you have to consume the high amounts of fat often found in dairy. Low fat dairy products often contain the same amount of calcium as their counterparts. If you aren’t big on dairy or maybe you’re allergic, soymilk also contains high levels of calcium and can be a good alternative.

Fish

Fish is another great source of calcium. It’s incredibly good for you and is worthwhile integrating into your diet if you don’t eat it already. 

Salmon, sardines, pilchards and whitebait are all good sources of calcium. Tuna contains some, but nowhere near the amounts found in the other sources listed. 

While the leafy greens are great sources of calcium, fish and dairy generally provide higher levels of calcium. So why not combine a few categories? Have some seared salmon with a green salad, and you’re well on your way!

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, Brazil nuts and sesame seeds all contain high amounts of calcium. A great snack in themselves, they can also be added to salads, or used to create tasty dips, such as tahini.

Fruits

Figs are a great source of this mineral too, as are dried apricots, currants and oranges. Other fruits that provide reasonable levels of calcium are kiwi fruit, mulberries, kumquats and dates.

Drinks

Apart from the multitude of drinks that can be made using dairy products, there is another that may boost bone health – green tea. 

Green tea contains natural chemicals which encourage bone growth and reduce decay. In addition to this, you should know excessive caffeine can erode the calcium deposits in your bones. Generally speaking, about two cups of coffee per day is considered acceptable.

Other things to consider

By eating the above foods, you’ll be well on your way to improving your calcium intake. However, there are some activities which are substantially detrimental to your calcium levels, regardless of what you eat. Smoking can decrease the body’s ability to absorb calcium, as can excessive alcohol consumption.

You should also avoid skipping meals and try to maintain a healthy body weight. Consider undertaking regular exercise such as walking and appropriate strength training as weight bearing exercise encourages the body’s natural bone building process and will also leave you feeling great!