Life may start to take shape in your late twenties and early thirties, but unfortunately, that’s when bone growth stops. Even though your bone mass may have reached its peak by age 30, there’s still plenty you can do to prevent bone loss — or speed it up if you’re not careful.
Most people don’t realize low bone mass until they end up with a broken bone. While many drinking and eating habits can speed up bone loss, there is a sneaky habit that can cause harm without your knowledge: Low intake of calcium and vitamin D.
Some ways to do this is to replace all dairy products, which are good sources of both calcium and vitamin D, with plant-based alternatives that are not fortified with these two nutrients. You can also make red meat the center of your plate regularly instead of incorporating vitamin D-rich fish, which experts recommend 2-3 servings per week.
However, if you focus too hard on what you shouldn’t eat for optimal bone health, you will miss out on the foods you should be eating the most. Calcium and Vitamin D are nutrients that work together for strong, healthy bones.
Almost all of the calcium in your body is found in your bones. Sixty-six percent of bones are made of a mineral known as calcium hydroxyapatite. Your bones will pay a price if you don’t get enough calcium.
So, how much do you need? The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium for adults is 1,000 milligrams each day. This amount increases to 1,200 milligrams per day for women after age 51. As many as 40% of the US population do not meet the recommended requirements for calcium with diet alone.
Include calcium-rich foods such as milk, tofu, sardines, yogurt or calcium-fortified foods in your diet every day. If you can’t meet your needs with food alone, ask your doctor about taking a supplement to support your bone health.
But it’s not just calcium that you have to worry about. Without vitamin D, your body cannot use the calcium you eat to strengthen your bones. Vitamin D is unique because your body can get rid of it through exposure to sunlight, but because of time indoors, living north of the equator, and a reduced ability to produce vitamin D as we age, food and supplements can help. Food to get enough.
Naturally, vitamin D is found only in fatty fish and wild or UV-treated mushrooms. Fortified foods and supplements can help you reach 15 micrograms of vitamin D per day.
Skipping foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can accelerate bone loss, increasing your risk of osteoporosis and fractures as you age. If you need ideas on incorporating these foods into your daily diet, try some of these best foods for healthy bones.
Kelsey Lorench, RDN
Kelsey Lorencz is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, nutrition consultant, and sustainable food blogger. Read more