Love the Bones You Own!

When I was younger, milk was the standard beverage served at dinner, and my parents refused to let me leave the table until I had downed every last drop.  Any questioning on my part would typically initiate the classic “It gives you strong bones!” response.  Since milk is packed with many nutrients that aid in proper bone health (calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus), this statement is certainly set in truth, and I’m sure many of you have heard the same mantra.  Now as a young adult, you might wonder about other ways to take care of your skeleton.  After all, most of us want to stay strong and mobile throughout our lives, and unhealthy bones can lead to osteoporosis and increased fractures later on.

So what are some ways to show your bones some love?  Here are some tips for keeping a healthy frame now and for many years to come:

Don’t forget the low fat dairy! Milk, yogurt, and cheese are all great sources of calcium, which is an essential mineral for building strong bones (and teeth, for that matter).  Wondering if you’re getting enough? According to the USDA, both men and women (19-30 years old) need about 3 cups of dairy each day.  Another perk of getting your dairy is that many of these products also contain vitamin D, which helps your body to absorb and utilize calcium.  If you don’t like milk, try orange juice that’s fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Use them or lose them.  Many of us tend to think of our bones as these hard, nonliving objects.  Not so! Bones are active tissue that are built up or broken down depending on how we use them.  When we engage in weight-bearing physical activity (like walking, jogging, or weight training), this causes new tissue to form, resulting in stronger bones.  One of many great reasons to get some exercise!

Take it easy on the caffeine.  The body is constantly removing and replacing small amounts of calcium from your bones in order to maintain proper calcium levels in the blood.  Unfortunately, high amounts of caffeine from coffee, tea, or other products cause our bodies to excrete precious calcium that may have otherwise been used to build our bones.  This isn’t to say that you should give up your morning java; however, large amounts of caffeine (ex: 3+ cups of coffee) combined with low calcium intake over time can ultimately result in lower bone density.  As with many things in life, moderation is key!

Watch the salt! Most of you are probably aware that the typical American diet is high in sodium.  Sodium is added to many processed foods, and when we ingest more than we need (which is quite common), we excrete it in the urine.  Unfortunately, increased sodium excretion results in increased calcium excretion, thus negatively impacting bone formation.  In order to avoid unnecessary calcium losses, note how much sodium you’re consuming each day by paying attention to food labels.  Highly processed foods, fast foods, and canned foods are the major high-sodium culprits, but it also likes to hide in less obvious products such as cottage cheese.  If you tend to use the saltshaker a lot, try using other ingredients and spices (onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, etc.) to add flavor to your meals.

In summary:

Plenty of dairy + weight bearing exercise + low/moderate sodium and caffeine = strong, happy bones!


Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL.  Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism.  5th edition.  Wadsworth/Cengage Learning; 2009: 461-465.


  One thought on “Love the Bones You Own!

  1. December 5, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Thanks for reminding us! I have always hated milk, and I love coffee. Not a great combo!


  2. Susan Dutton
    December 5, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    This is such a challenge for those of us who are lactose intolerant! You really have to work at ways to get your calcium.


    • December 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

      Hi Susan! I definitely agree, lactose intolerance makes it harder to meet your calcium needs. Some people can tolerate yogurt, but I would also try to consume other foods that contain calcium such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, or fortified products (soy milk, cereals, granola bars, etc.). Also, many juices now are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. I hope this helps!


  3. Kathy Cenekofsky
    December 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Elizabeth:

    I am a JMU alumni now in a professional online program to become a certified holistic health coach. I mention this because of some of the specifics you are interested in, i.e. behavioral eating diabetes and childhood obesity and I so applaud your desire to become a nutrition counselor because so many chronic diseases and prescription dependencies can be erased with good nutrition! You may want to check out the Institute for Integrative Nutrition or my website where you can download a free nutriton book by the school’s founder. Dairy can be questionable in a preventative sense in that quality is very important. I recently learned from a preventive cardiologist that cheese should be limited to 1 oz. per day due to it’s high fat and sodium content. Milk from cows that are given bovine growth hormone is also cause for question but the good news is that there are other calcium sources, such as dark leafy greens that you will be able to recommend for your future clients as Claudia, above, who does not like milk. Best of luck to you and enjoy your time at JMU!

    Kathy Cenekofsky


    • December 7, 2011 at 12:06 am

      Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for the advice! You’re definitely right, it’s better to emphasize either skim or low fat dairy because of the saturated fat content of whole milk products. It’s also a good idea to choose organic dairy products, but I was just trying to stick to the basics. 🙂
      I will be sure to check out your website. Best of luck to you as well!


  4. December 9, 2011 at 10:13 am

    ome people can tolerate yogurt, but I would also try to consume other foods that contain calcium such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, or fortified products (soy milk, cereals, granola bars, etc.). Also, many juices now are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. I hope this helps!


  5. February 13, 2012 at 11:43 am

    good reminder, in day to days busy life we usually forgot to take care of our self’s.


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