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​The hard facts about bones

Bones are the rigid hard tissue that we are all very familiar with - they play a critical role in giving our body form and shape.
 
Bones should last an entire lifetime. But to many, that is a challenge! Many older adults suffer from fractures simply because their bones have lost strength. This disease of brittle bones, also called 'osteoporosis' affects their mobility and quality of life.​

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes loss of bone mass resulting in bones that are brittle and liable to fracture. While osteoporosis affects both men and women, the condition is more common among postmenopausal women.
 
With life expectancy much higher now, it makes good sense to invest in building up and maintaining our bones today - they'll have to last that much longer!
 
A healthy lifestyle that includes regular weight-bearing exercises, supported by a well-balanced diet that provides sufficient calcium and vitamin D, goes a long way in helping maintain bone strength of adults. So, read on to learn how you can cement your bone's density.
 

Eat a well-balanced diet

Everybody knows that calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. In reality, many nutrients work together to build and strengthen bones. Apart from calcium, nutrients that play critical roles in bone nutrition include protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins D, K and C.
 
On the other hand, eating too much protein and sodium leads to the loss of bone density. So, to achieve optimal bone strength, eat a well-balanced diet using the Healthy Diet Pyramid as your guide.
 

Ensure adequate calcium intake

Getting enough calcium is important regardless of how young or old you are. Calcium helps build up bone from childhood right up to the age of 30 years, making them denser and stronger. Beyond  the age of 30, getting enough calcium each day continues to be important even though age slows down the loss of calcium from bones. Maintaining good bone health will help you continue to stand up straight and tall throughout life.
 
Calcium plays many critical roles in the body and is an essential mineral for life and good health. Yet, many Singaporeans do not consume enough calcium and this puts individuals at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Click here to find out the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium.
 
The richest food sources of calcium are dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. Other ​​good sources of calcium are fish with edible bones such as sardines and ikan bilis, tofu made with calcium salts, lentils, green leafy vegetables and calcium fortified food such as bread, biscuits and soybean milk. Eat a variety of these food to attain your daily calcium requirement each day.

​Food​Serving Size​Calcium Content (mg)​
Dairy products​
High-calcium milk powder
Low-fat milk
Full-cream milk
Low-fat yoghurt
Low-fat cheese*

 4 scoops (25 g)
 1 glass (250ml)
 1 glass (250ml)
 1 carton (150g)
 1 slice (20g)
 500
 380
 300
 240
 200​
​Non-dairy foods ​ ​
 Canned sardine (with bones)
 Dried ikan bilis (with bones)
 Silken tofu
 Tau kwa
 Dhal (raw)
 Baked beans, canned*
 Kai lan, cooked
 Spinach, cooked
 Chye sim, cooked
 Broccoli, cooked
 1 fish (80g)
 2 tablespoons (40g)
 package (150g)
 1 small cake (90g)
 1 mug (50g)
 can (210g)
 1 mug (100 g)
 1 mug (100 g)
 1 mug (100 g)
 1 mug (100 g)
 270
 270
 100
 150
 85
 110
 195
 140
 140
 50​​​
​​ ​ ​Calcium-fortified products
High-calcium soybean milk
Enriched bread
Calcuim-fortified orange juice​​
 1 glass (250ml)
 2 slices (60 g)
 1 serving (240 ml)​
 450
 100
 350​
  
*item may be high in salt
 

Include enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium from your diet. Your body can make vitamin D when it is exposed to ultra violet (UVB) rays of the sun. Try to let the sun shine on your arms and legs twice a week. The best time to do so is anytime between 10am and 3 pm, for about 5 to 30 minutes. If you have paler skin, then just a little sunshine will do the trick, but if you have darker skin, stay out in the sunshine just a little longer to help your body make enough vitamin D.
 
To be certain to meet your nutrient goal, include eggs, liver and oily fish like salmon, cod and mackerel. Vitamin D fortified food include selected brands of milk, soymilk, ready-to-eat-cereal and margarine. It is best to get all your calcium and vitamin D from food and sun exposure alone, but if you are unable to get enough of either nutrient, consider a calcium supplement of up to 800mg, or a vitamin D supplement of up to 200 IU (5 g).


​So Remember...


  • Eat a well balanced diet that includes sufficient calcium each day. Include a variety of calcium-rich food to attain your daily calcium requirement.
  • Get sufficient sun exposure and include vitamin D-rich food to enhance calcium absorption from your diet.
  • Enjoy a healthy lifestyle that includes regular weight-bearing exercises. Limit alcohol, caffeine and avoid smoking to maintain the density of your bones.