Strong bones are an essential part of our body’s basic structure. A solid foundation spells lower risk of injury and improved health as we age. A good diet, with sufficient calcium sources and a regular physical activity may ensure healthy bone structure. Due to current fast lifestyle and poor dietary habits, cases with low bone density, osteoporosis and early age arthritis are increasing.

While an overall nutritious diet can keep bones, along with the rest of the body, healthy, some specific components of diet contribute directly to bone strength. Including specific vitamins, minerals, macronutrients and phytochemicals in the diet may lead to a lower risk of osteoporosis and other bone disorders and help keep bones protected against fractures.

Take (All) Your Vitamins

Calcium and vitamin D are well-known heavy hitters for strong bones. While it"s important to focus on these two nutrients, we often disregard other essentials that work together to keep bones strong. Don"t overlook these unsung heroes:

- Magnesium: The second most abundant mineral in your skeleton after calcium, magnesium helps to built strong bones.

- Vitamin K: This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for strong bones factor. The intestinal tract normally creates adequate vitamin K, but antibiotics and digestive diseases can impair K levels, making dietary sources of the nutrient necessary.

- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A nutrient that's scarce in the standard diet, studies have shown that higher levels of omega-3 fats in the blood correlate with greater bone mineral density and this greater bone density leads to strong bones.

Whether you have osteoporosis or just want to build strong bones for the future, there are several things you can do to maintain your bones.

Eat Calcium-Rich Foods

For strong bones, adults should eat at least 700 mg of calcium a day, and 1,200 mg if diagnosed with osteoporosis. You could consume 700 mg in one day by eating a cup of low fat yogurt, a cheese sandwich, a handful of almonds and a spinach salad.

Get Your Sunshine Quota

Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium. Vitamin D is found in oily fish, liver, fortified spreads and cereals, and egg yolks. Your body also makes its own vitamin D when you"re exposed to sunshine. So enough vitamin D can be obtained by spending 15 minutes in the sun i.e. between 9:00 am-10:00 pm at least two to three times a week. Generally, normal levels that are built up in the summer will be enough to last through the winter.

Go Easy on The Protein

Excessive amounts of meat, cheese and protein make body acid, which drains the body of calcium and weakens bones. Keep your diet balanced.

Your meals should contain protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds), fresh fruits and vegetables, and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes and rice) in order to built strong bones.

Quit Smoking

The more you smoke, the more likely you’ll get osteoporosis. Aim to cut down or, better still, quit smoking altogether.

Cut Out The Salt

Salt is thought to speed up the body’s loss of calcium. Most of us consume 9 gm of salt a day, but the recommended limit is 6 gm, which is just a teaspoonful. Don’t add top salt to your food, and look at food labels to help you cut down.

Avoid foods that contain 1.5 gm of salt per 100 gm (or 0.6 gm of sodium) or more. Crisps, ham, cheese, cooking sauces and processed foods such as pies, pizza and soups are all high in salt.

Be Active

Bones get stronger when you use them. The best way to strengthen them is to do exercises at least five times a week. This includes walking, running, dancing, golf, tennis or netball. It doesn't include cycling or swimming (although swimming is good for staying flexible).

Bones also benefit if you lift and carry things. Weight training is ideal, but carrying shopping, gardening and housework all count.

Drink Sensibly

Alcohol, tea, coffee, cola and other fizzy drinks reduce the amount of calcium you absorb, and weaken bones. Stop your alcohol cravings or stick to the recommended amounts of alcohol, swap your caffeine-fueled drinks for water and diluted juice.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Losing too much weight too fast under a crash diet can increase your risk of osteoporosis.

Weight loss can cut the amount of estrogen (a hormone that helps to protect your bones) in your body. If you need to lose weight, do it sensibly. Gradual and steady weight loss with a healthy planned regime by a professional health expert is what is recommended.

Other Considerations

Plant chemicals called photochemical, or phytonutrients, may also impact bone strength. Isoflavones, which are found in soy and legumes, have shown a positive effect on bone density in some studies, but others have failed to find a correlation. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reports that a few small studies have also found evidence that plant compounds called lignans, found in flax-seed, may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

If the base of any structure is strong, it is bound to have a long steady life. Same goes with our bodies. Our skeletal system is the basic foundation, of which bones are the major constituents. Stronger skeletal system ensures that your body will go a long way. What needs to be done is to follow a regular healthy lifestyle routine!