Q: I was recently told by my doctor that I have osteopenia. She told me to drink milk, but what else can I do to prevent osteoporosis?
A: Osteopenia refers to bone mineral density that is lower than normal, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. Bone mineral density is a measure of how dense and strong your bones are. The stronger your bones, the less likely you are to suffer a fracture or broken bone.
You are not alone in your diagnosis. It is estimated that 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Our bones naturally get thinner as we age; hormones, some disease processes or treatments and medications all can affect bone mineral density.
We are never too old or too young to improve the health of our bodies, including our bones. Now is the time to adopt new habits or continue your current healthy behaviors to improve bone health for the rest of your life. You can help prevent osteoporosis by getting enough exercise, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and eating foods high in calcium and Vitamin D. Try these foods to keep your bones strong:
-- Dairy products: Dairy products such as low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are good choices. If you like these foods, it’s an easy way to get calcium. It’s important to try to get enough calcium from the foods you eat; sometimes supplementation may be necessary to get all the calcium needed.
-- Vitamin D: This vitamin is very important because it helps your body use calcium. The milk you buy in the grocery store usually has vitamin D added to it. Other food sources containing vitamin D are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines, shiitake mushrooms and eggs.
-- Fish: Canned sardines and salmon (with bones) are good ways to get calcium. You can also get calcium from eating canned shrimp.
-- Fortified foods: Calcium and vitamin D are sometimes added to certain brands of juices, breakfast foods, soy milk, rice milk, cereals, snacks and breads. This is a great way to get more calcium and vitamin D intake daily. Read the food labels to find how much of each nutrient the food contains.
-- Fruits and vegetables: Several studies have linked higher intakes of fruits and vegetables with better overall health and improved bone health. It is not entirely clear why fruits and vegetables promote healthy bones. Some scientists believe that fruits and vegetables contain certain nutrients that are beneficial for bones. Some examples of these nutrients are:
Calcium. (sources include collard greens, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage, dandelion greens, mustard greens and broccoli), magnesium (spinach, beet greens, tomato products, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and raisins), potassium (tomato products, raisins, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, oranges, orange juice, bananas and prunes), vitamin C (bell peppers, oranges, grapefruits, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts and pineapples), and vitamin K (dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts).
April Graff, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at both Mankato Hy-Vee stores and can be reached at AGraff@hy-vee.com or call 625-1107 or 625-9070. Send her questions about food and nutrition, recipes, meal planning and healthy shopping.