Food for your bones

After writing my last blog on exercises for weak bones, I received a note from a reader wanting to know about nutrition for weak bones. Bones are living tissues that need nutrients, just as the heart and other organs in the body, for development and function. Many things can cause bone loss, including certain chemotherapies and age, so keeping bones strong through exercise and a healthy diet are ways to fight back. The mineral calcium is a builder of bones, and vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are good sources for calcium. For those who are lactose-intolerant, try tofu, broccoli, kale, figs, and sardines. Also, look for calcium-fortified products, such as orange juice, cereal, and bread, which can also pack a good amount of calcium. Vitamin D is sometimes added, as in milk, but other food sources are oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, eggs, and liver. Your body also makes vitamin D with UV sun exposure, but the amount of time varies per individual based on many factors, including skin color, time of year, and geographic location. Because of the risk of skin cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends getting your vitamin D through food and supplements instead of sun exposure. Supplements are another way to get calcium and vitamin D. A blood test can reveal if you are low in these substances, and your health care provider can advise you on the amount of supplements you should take for your individual case. Also, diarrhea from cancer treatments may affect your absorption of calcium and vitamin D, so it important to discuss these issues with your health care provider. Many cancer centers have registered dietitians on staff to help you with diet questions. You can also search for a registered dietitian in your area through the American Dietetic Association. You can specify an expertise in oncology in the ADA's search engine, as well. I love to cook, and one resource for healthy bone recipes I use is on the International Osteoporosis Foundation's website that has a database of recipes from around the world that you can search by variables, such as course, ingredients, or if it is kid-friendly. I made the steamed fish with ginger and soy the other night, and it was yummy! Another resource I use is EatingWell, which has healthy bone recipes on its website. The twice-baked potatoes recipe is perfect comfort food for me! Let me know if you have a healthy bone recipe, so we can share it with others. And as the International Osteoporosis Foundation, says "Bone Appétit!"