However, that doesn’t mean the rest of us aged 30 and over are too late in the game. Each of us, regardless of age and gender, can benefit from adopting healthy habits to minimize bone loss and maintain muscle mass as we age. To increase our chances of following them consistently, it will be wiser to include them in our morning routines.
Read on to see what Kathy Nguyen, MD, primary care sports medicine physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group in Sugar Land, Texas, suggests to start your mornings to support bone health over time.
4 morning habits for bone health
1. Enjoy a balanced breakfast, rich in calcium and vitamin D
Calcium is famous for its bone-building abilities, so it makes sense that Dr. Nguyen emphasizes prioritizing this mineral at breakfast and in your overall diet. However, vitamin D is also crucial for increasing the efficiency of calcium absorption. According to a review in Current Rheumatology Reports, the body can only absorb 10 to 15 percent of dietary calcium if it has inadequate levels of vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency continues to be one of the most common nutritional gaps worldwide. In other words, consider calcium and vitamin D as the can’t-miss dynamic duo that your bones need every day. (This is especially true for postmenopausal women, who should take a daily supplement containing both nutrients, the doctor adds.)
Start the day with foods rich in calcium and vitamin D for the whole family, advises Dr. Nguyen. For healthier dairy options, consider Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and skim milk. If dairy isn’t in your rotation, rest assured that you can still get calcium from healthy, plant-based foods. Nguyen lists kale, turnip greens, broccoli and tofu as great alternatives to high-calcium dairy products. She also suggests optimizing your breakfast with healthy fats and lean proteins.
Some foods rich in vitamin D are eggs and fortified cereals, milk and juices, she continues, also citing salmon as a great source of vitamin D (in addition to protein). Salmon is also among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent bone decay while increasing bone mineralization. Consider opting for some fresh slices, perhaps alongside an omelet, including some of the calcium-rich staples above, to prepare a better breakfast for bone health.
If dairy isn’t in your rotation, rest assured that you can still get calcium from healthy, plant-based foods. Nguyen lists kale, turnip greens, broccoli and tofu as great alternatives to high-calcium dairy products.
2. Reduce your sweet intake
If you usually opt for a sugary treat for breakfast or prefer super-sweet coffee, Dr. Nguyen strongly recommends limiting these morning meals. Reducing added sugars and artificial sweeteners helps promote a healthier diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, she explains. Plus, limiting these sweets to the morning can help set the rest of your daily meals up for success. When we consume added and artificial sweeteners in processed foods, studies have shown that it reduces our intake of healthier choices like vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products, she continues.
3. Get your dose of the sunshine vitamin
Getting enough vitamin D from food can be challenging, as only some foods contain it naturally. Luckily, we can get our fix every morning, or at least when it’s not cloudy, by enjoying the sunlight for short periods of time. Vitamin D is essential for bone health because it facilitates the absorption of calcium, reminds Dr. Nguyen. The best way to increase your vitamin D level is through direct exposure to sunlight, going outside or simply sitting by the window on a sunny day.
The amount of sunlight needed to get adequate daily vitamin D will depend on a number of factors, including your skin pigmentation, your age, where you live, the season, the time of day, and the amount of exposure your body has. (For example, UCLA Health explains that a person who tans well would need just three minutes of midday sun exposure in Miami during the summer, with 25% of their skin exposed. Meanwhile, that same person would need 23 minutes to two hours at noon in Boston during the winter, depending on other variables such as how much skin is exposed.)
Note: As beneficial as vitamin D is for your bones, hormones, mood, immunity and more, be careful not to overdo it with sun exposure for the sake of skin health.
4. Start your morning with resistance training
Lastly, Dr. Nguyen suggests investing in resistance bands and training with them for 15 to 30 minutes most mornings. Or, if you prefer to do a morning gym session or go to a strength training class, that works too. Resistance training and weight-bearing exercises promote bone strength by stimulating calcium deposition through load, she explains. The AAOS recommends 30 minutes of weight-bearing activity four or more days a week to support bone health, either all at once or divided into separate intervals.
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