Keep your foundation sturdy, by looking at what you’re eating
Diet and nutrition is more than just watching our waistlines. Decades of research in the field of dietetics has revealed nutrition to be one of the first-lines of defence against many debilitating ailments and diseases.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, the risk of being diagnosed with a myriad of different medical conditions increases and thus greater scrutiny regarding our nutrition is required.
One of the biggest considerations when it comes to elderly nutrition is bone health because, as we age, our bone density decreases which can lead to fractures and various bone diseases such as Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Osteoarthritis.
While bone diseases sound daunting, the good news is you can get started on a strong defence straight away
The first thing that generally comes to mind when you think about bones and nutrition is the mineral calcium, and for good reason. Calcium is important because bones are continually shedding minuscule quantities of old calcium and is replaced with new calcium, in order to stay strong. Problems can arise when the body isn’t getting enough calcium and thus can’t reinforce the bones after the shedding process, causing the bones to gradually weaken and become more susceptible to breakage.
Calcium can be found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. It can also be found in green vegetables such a broccoli and bony fish such as canned salmon and mackerel.
While calcium is a must for healthy bones, there is another nutrient just as important: Vitamin D. Interestingly, Vitamin D assists your body in the absorption of calcium, in fact, a deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis in extreme cases. Thankfully, Vitamin D is easily attainable and can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel and egg yolks. It can also be found in Vitamin D fortified foods such as yogurt, various milks, and cereals and it can also be absorbed from the sun.
Calcium and Vitamin D aren’t the only things you need to know about when it comes to healthy bones, so read on.
General nutrition tips to support bone health in the elderly
- Eating too much salt (sodium) can result in your body not absorbing calcium, and if prolonged, can lead to bone complications. Make sure you look at nutrition labels when you’re shopping and pay attention to the sodium content. For reference, the recommended sodium intake for adults in Australia according to The National Health and Medical Research Council is 460–920 mg per day, which is around 2 grams of salt.
- There is some evidence to suggest that foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed oil and walnuts could benefit bone health, as can other foods such as berries and lentils due to their antioxidant properties. While more research is required before the link between bone health and these foods can be confirmed beyond doubt, these foods do offer many additional health benefits which make them a sensible addition to an elderly person’s diet.
- Try to limit your caffeine intake as too much caffeine has been shown to slow calcium absorption. Aim for no more than 3 cups of coffee/tea per day and keep soft drink consumption to a minimum.
This is just the beginning of what you need to know when it comes to supporting bone health. For more information don’t hesitate to contact one of our friendly dietitians at Fuel Your Life so we can talk you through everything you need to know, in order to keep your bones strong for many more years to come.
About Tyson Tripcony
He is an expert in manipulating the body composition of all clients, as well as optimising diets for athletes training and competing in short duration, high intensity and team-based sports.