I don’t drink milk. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I tried to choke down a glass. (It was probably shortly after seeing some super-fit athlete or gorgeous model sporting a milk mustache in a glossy ad. That kind of marketing really works on me...) And, only making matters worse, I’m really inconsistent when it comes to taking calcium supplements.
I know that dairy foods are the best sources of calcium—and if I don’t get enough calcium in my diet, my body will draw it from “banked” stores in my bones—but there’s only so much yogurt and cottage cheese a girl can eat.
So, to keep my bones strong, I offset my not-so-healthy habits with these bone-strengthening ones:
1. “Stress” your skeleton (in a good way). Anything that gets your blood pumping is good for your heart and overall health, but weight-bearing physical activities, such as walking, jogging, lifting weights and playing racquet sports, are best for keeping bones strong. When you jump, run or lift a weight, it puts pressure on your bones, which sends signals to build new cells that, ultimately, strengthen your skeleton.
2. Pack your diet with produce. Some research suggests that older people who consume more fruits and vegetables have denser bones than those who eat less. One reason for this may be that most fruits and vegetables provide good amounts of potassium and many—particularly leafy greens—contain magnesium and vitamin K too. Emerging research suggests that all three of these nutrients may be important for maintaining healthy bones.
3. Skip the soda, substitute with seltzer. There’s research that links drinking certain types of soda with weaker bones—but carbonation doesn’t seem to be the problem. (In fact, sparkling mineral waters sometimes contain a little calcium and magnesium.) The likely cause? Phosphoric acid, which is unique to colas. When the body breaks down this compound, the acidity (or concentration of free hydrogen ions) of the blood increases. To neutralize acidity, hydrogen ions bind with minerals, including calcium and magnesium. If they’re not available in the blood the body draws calcium from bones. The occasional cola drinker probably needn’t worry. The real risk is for those who drink cola every day.