We have 300 bones when we are born but as we grow, some bones fuse and we are left with 206 bones! Bones make red blood cells which help carry proteins and oxygen to tissues, and white blood cells which help fight infection. They contain nerves, marrow and blood vessels. Bones also protect our organs from damage and hence need to be strong. As we age, our bones weaken and atrophy sets in, and they become lighter and porous which ultimately causes osteoporosis.
We need to feed our bones well to help the body function optimally. Calcium and Vitamin D are the bone builders. The recommended dietary allowance of calcium for adults is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day.
Drink milk, preferably organic cow’s milk, and consume other dairy products like tofu, paneer, cheese and yoghurt.
Several beans like kidney beans, white beans and black beans are rich in calcium.
Other sources include Soya bean products and til or sesame seeds.
Nuts are an important source, especially Almonds which contain 75 mg calcium in around 20 pieces.
100 gms ragi or Finger millet has 344 mg calcium. Introduce ragi in your diet.
Fruits like dates, custard apple, banana and guava are also high in calcium. Amongst dried fruits, figs is your best bet. Even fresh figs are packed with calcium; 5 fresh figs have approximately 90 milligrams of calcium.
Eating greens give you not only calcium, but also vitamin K and potassium . Dark leafy greens such as spinach, Chinese cabbage and turnip greens are a great source.
Salmon, tuna and most kinds of fish are very high in calcium. So if you are a sea-food lover, you have one more reason to indulge!
Orange, grapefruit and other citrus fruits apart from giving that extra tang, help your bones strengthen.
Exercising regularly including walking and dancing also help strengthen the bones.
Be aware that there are some calcium sapping foods which you should steer clear of. Canned soups, processed meats, alcohol, excessive sugars, carbonated drinks, tobacco, salt and caffeine are all bone sappers. Their intake should be minimised as much as possible.
If you need to take calcium supplements, ensure that you do not take it along with iron as it interferes with its absorption.
Our bones are the strongest in our late twenties and early thirties but begin to weaken and lose density thereafter with increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Adding calcium to your diet and taking the recommended daily limit will ensure that you will never have any bone to pick!