Strong Bones Diet

Women often have a hard time getting all of the calcium they need to maintain strong bones. Three out of four get less than the recommended intake (1,200 mg every day), with most getting less than half of what they should. At this rate, it's no wonder one out of two women end up with osteoporosis and suffer fractures. And it's not just lack of calcium in the diet that may be causing the disease, but other lifestyle choices as well: Smoking and too much alcohol both weaken our bones, while weight-bearing exercise is necessary to build and maintain bone.

Here's how the low-fat, high calcium Strong Bones Diet, when combined with an active lifestyle, can help make and keep your bones strong:

• Dairy foods provide more calcium per serving, by far, than any other food. Besides dairy products, this diet also includes other calcium-rich foods such as canned salmon and tofu -- giving you enough calcium here and there to add up to significant amounts.

• If you have difficulty digesting lactose, substitute calcium-fortified soy products, or use Lactaid or Dairy Ease tablets before eating. For those who are allergic to dairy or vegan, this meal plan includes calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice and cereals, calcium-processed soy products and calcium-rich vegetables like legumes, artichoke hearts, broccoli and beet greens.

• Your body can't absorb large doses of calcium (over 500 mg) at one time. This diet spreads out the doses among your meals and snacks.

• Though this food plan will help you get the recommended 1,200 mg of calcium each day, consider taking a calcium supplement if you modify this diet. The two most widely used supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, each of which contains between 200 and 500mg of supplemental calcium per pill. Calcium carbonate should be taken at meal times because it requires stomach acid to be dissolved and absorbed efficiently. Calcium citrate contains acid, so it may be more easily absorbed and can be taken at any time of day.

Start eating the breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks that will give your bones the strength they need.

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