Osteoporosis is a condition that makes the bones weak so they’re fragile and more likely to break. It affects around three million people in the UK and more than 300,000 people are treated for fractures every year due to the condition. Although genetics play a role in determining the strength of our bones, diet and lifestyle habits can also play a part. Bones are at their strongest and thickest in early adult life, but from around the age of 35, bone density or strength starts to decrease. This happens to everyone but women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because of hormone changes linked to the menopause (the female hormone oestrogen helps to keep bones strong so when levels fall after the menopause, this can cause a rapid drop in bone density). As a result, the stronger bones are in early life, the better. Regularly doing weight-bearing and resistance exercises, not smoking and not drinking more alcohol than the maximum amounts recommended (that’s no more than two to three units a day for women and three to four units a day for men) helps to keep bones healthy. But it’s also important to eat a healthy, balanced diet as outlined in the Eatwell Guide. Many nutrients are important for the maintenance of normal bones including protein, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and manganese, but it’s calcium and vitamin D that are the two stand-out nutrients. Calcium is a main component of our skeleton and vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from the food we eat. Good news then that certain varieties of fish can supply both of these nutrients. Langoustine, oyster and tilapia contain calcium, while brown crabmeat is especially rich in this mineral. Tinned fish, which contain tiny edible bones, such as anchovies and sardines, are also packed with calcium. Meanwhile, oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, pilchards, fresh tuna and salmon are amongst the few foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D.
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