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October 2021

Nutrition to Support Bone Health

Although bones are developed early in life, they are continually being broken down and rebuilt. There are many nutrients that contribute to maintaining strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Getting these key nutrients and regular exercise are vital to bone health.

CALCIUM – Studies have linked this nutrient more than any other in supporting healthy bones.  Women aged 60-70 should have 1200 mg. and men 60-70, 1000 mg. of calcium daily.  The requirement increases for men to 1200 mg. at age 71. This is the total amount from foods and supplements.
A typical diet contains about 300 mg. of calcium.  Dairy products add an average of 300 mg. per serving. Other good food sources include salmon, sardines, spinach, greens (including kale) and fortified products. Try to eat calcium-rich foods over the day to improve absorption.

If you supplement, limit to 500 mg. at a time, to enhance absorption. Calcium carbonate should be taken with food, while calcium citrate with or without food.  Supplements can interfere with some medications. Check with your pharmacist to see if this is an issue.

VITAMIN D – Essential to absorbing calcium. It works hand in hand with calcium to support bone health. The daily “D” goal is 800 IU; however, you may need more if your blood level is low.

Have your doctor test your D blood level; it should be at least 35ng/ml to support bone health.  Make the most of the few good food sources: salmon, sardines, tuna, egg yolks and D fortified dairy. Enjoy safe sun exposure.

PROTEIN – Optimal protein intake is important for bone health.  Approximately half your body weight determines daily protein needs. Strive for 75gms of protein if you weight 150 lbs.

MAGNESIUM – This mineral may improve bone density and converts vitamin D to its active form in the body.  Foods rich in magnesium: spinach, oatmeal, pinto beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

If you take a calcium supplement you may need additional magnesium since high calcium intake will deplete this nutrient.

VITAMIN K – This vitamin aids in calcium regulation and the formation of bone.  Aim for one or more servings of vitamin K rich foods daily including spinach, kale, broccoli, collards & dark leafy greens.

If you are on a blood thinner you can have these foods if your intake is consistent day to day.  However, do not take a supplement.

Beverages – Can affect calcium absorption & lead to bone loss. 

  • Alcohol: limit to 1 drink per day for women; 2 drinks for men.
  • Caffeine: daily limit is 3 cups of coffee.
  • Soda: avoid cola soft drinks when possible.

The Bottom Line – It is best to try to get these key nutrients from food. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, reduced fat dairy products and lean protein. If your blood levels of vitamin D are low or you cannot eat foods rich in these vital nutrients, you may need to supplement. Consult your doctor before taking supplements, especially vitamin K.


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