Healthy Eating for Healthy Bones
As we get older, we often pay less attention to our diet. We may live alone and not always bother cooking a meal. We may become less active as we age, which can also reduce our appetite. Grocery shopping may become more difficult so we do less of it. The result is that we soon run out of items like milk, yogurt and fresh fruit and vegetables. The next thing you know, some tea and toast is all we really have left, or care to prepare.
It is important to plan your diet and your grocery shopping so that your bones will stay as healthy and strong as possible. You have no doubt heard that calcium and vitamin D are good for your bones. They are, but they are not the only important nutrients. A well balanced diet, made up of all the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide, is the secret to healthy bones.
MEAT AND ALTERNATIVES
In addition to calcium and other minerals, bone is made up of protein, a nutrient that is necessary for building and repairing body tissues including bones. Protein gives bone its strength and flexibility. Protein is also the big component of muscles, which are, of course, crucial for mobility and in preventing falls. The “Meat and Alternatives” food group provides your body with protein. Meat and alternatives also contain other vitamins and minerals that are essential for overall good health.
How do you know how much protein you need? Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2 – 3 servings of meat or alternatives each day for those over 50. A serving size is about the size and thickness of your palm (excluding the thumb and fingers). This means that you should eat a palm size portion of protein with at least two of your three meals. The “Meats” include beef, pork, poultry and fish. The “Alternatives” include beans, lentils, tofu, egg whites, peanut (or other nut) butters, shelled nuts and seeds. Dairy products are also a good source of protein and have the added advantage of being good sources of calcium.
Too many seniors don’t eat enough protein or other important nutrients. Less protein means more fragile bones. Less protein also means weaker muscles. Weaker muscles lead to poorer balance and more falls, and falls can lead to fractures. It is not unusual to find that people who break a bone also had a deficiency of protein in their diet over a period of several months just before their fracture. So, put ham or peanut butter on your morning toast; have boiled eggs or a salmon sandwich with your lunch, a chicken breast or hamburger patty with your supper. Eat well and eat regularly.