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Milk is a friend for life. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. 





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STEVEN NADLER, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon at The Center for Bone and Joint Disease in Hudson, Florida.



March 2011

Product Reviews / NutriNibbles

Foods For Strong Bones

Bone Up On Nutrition


CAPSULE REPORT: If you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution, March is National Nutrition Month: another opportunity to reflect on your general diet and make at least one improvement. Start with these tips from Steven Adler, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at The Center for Bone and Joint Disease in Hudson, Florida.



When you think about healthier eating, you likely think of more fiber, less sugar, saturated fat and other areas that are the focus of cookbooks and diet books.

What about your bones?

1. Got Milk?

Children often hear that they need to drink milk to build strong bones. When you’re a youngster, you want to grow to be big and strong, so milk seems part of the deal.

However, as we age, our bones weaken and begin to thin. Maintaining bone density through nutrient-rich food can be one of your best lines of defense. So grab that milk carton.

  • Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are important at every stage in life.
  • Calcium supports your bones, while vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium and improves bone growth.
  • When we’re younger, these nutrients help our bones build mass and save up for the future. Even as we age and our bones stop building; calcium and vitamin D slow the progression of bone loss.”

2. Got More Dairy?

  • One cup of yogurt can contain as much calcium as an 8-ounce glass of milk . Like milk, it is packed with vitamin D.
  • Both yogurt and milk have delicious reduced-fat and fat free versions: boons for calorie counters and those cutting back on cholesterol. (Animal products are the largest repositories of cholesterol, a component of animal fat.)
  • Cheese, which has many fans, is another dairy option that can promote bone health. Just one-and-one half ounces of cheddar cheese can have more than 30% of your recommended daily value of calcium. Enjoy it in moderation, though: Cheese is often high in fat.
  • For those who are lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, calcium-fortified soy milk products are a good alternative to dairy. Many brands provide the same levels of calcium as conventional dairy products, as well as a boost in protein that is also important to bone health.
Try thick and creamy triple-strained Greek yogurt. We use it instead of sour cream for dips and toppings. Photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.

Go Fish

Certain fish like salmon and tuna also offer a host of bone-healthy nutrients. You can get more than 100% of your daily recommended vitamin D from a 3-ounce piece of salmon, and about 40% of your daily dose from 3 ounces of canned tuna.

  • Seek Out Sardines. Sardines are another great fish for strengthening bones. Because they’re packaged whole, bones and all, these little fish are packed with calcium. A 3-ounce can offers up to 35% of your daily value.* That’s more than a cup of milk! A little weary of giving them a try? Consider sautéing them in olive oil and adding them to a salad for a lighter flavor.


*Daily Value, a term found on food labels, is based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Both have been established by the FDA to help consumers use food label information to plan a healthy diet. For example, the Daily Value for fat, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, is 65g (grams). A food that has 13g of fat per serving would state 20% DV on the label, or, the percent Daily Value for fat per serving is 20%. Learn more.

White sardines are delicious. Grill fresh ones from your fish market or buy our favorite canned brand, Bela Olhão. Photo by Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE.

Eat Your Veggies

Aside from fiber, vitamins and minerals, there’s another reason to eat your vegetables: calcium! Certain vegetables contain high amounts of calcium.

  • Traditional southern favorites, like collards and turnip greens, contain about 25% of daily calcium in one cooked cup.
  • Spinach is another veggie high in calcium. It can be used in everything from omelets and salads to quiches, tarts and sides.

Add these calcium-laden veggies to salads and sandwiches; sauté or boil them as a side dish.

Collards are available fresh and frozen. Above, frozen collards from Whole Foods Markets’ 365 brand.

How Much Do You Need?

A person’s age determines how much calcium he or she should consume on a daily basis. As we age, we need more calcium to support bone health and fight against bone loss diseases, such as osteoporosis.”

  • Under 50: The recommended amount for people under age 50 is about 1000 milligrams of calcium and 200 international units of vitamin D every day.
  • Over 50: Due to bone loss as we age, those over 50 years need about 1200 milligrams of calcium and 500 international units of vitamin D.

So things haven’t changed since childhood: Drinking your milk and eating your vegetables still will keep you big and strong.


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All photos courtesy Stock Chang.

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