However, this doesn’t mean that the rest of us aged 30 and above are too late in the game. Each one of us, regardless of age and gender, can benefit from enacting healthy habits to minimize bone loss and maintain muscle mass as we grow older. To boost our chances of sticking to them on a consistent basis, we’ll be all the wiser to include them in our morning routines.
Keep reading to see what Kathy Nguyen, MD, a sports medicine primary care physician with Memorial Hermann Medical Group in Sugar Land, Texas, suggests to kick off your mornings to support bone health over time.
4 morning habits for bone health
1. Feast on a balanced breakfast rich in calcium and vitamin D
Calcium is famed for its bone-building capabilities, so it makes sense that Dr. Nguyen emphasizes prioritizing this mineral for breakfast and in your diet at large. Yet vitamin D is also crucial in order to boost 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 you have inadequate vitamin D levels…and vitamin D deficiency remains among the most common nutritional gaps worldwide. In other words, consider calcium and vitamin D to be the can’t-miss dynamic duo that your bones need day in and day out. (This especially goes for postmenopausal women, who should take a daily supplement containing the two nutrients, the MD adds.)
“Start the day off with calcium-rich and vitamin D-rich foods for the entire family,” Dr. Nguyen advises. “For healthier dairy choices, consider Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and low-fat milk.” In case dairy isn’t in your rotation, rest assured that you can still get calcium from healthy plant-based fare. Dr. Nguyen lists kale, turnip greens, broccoli, and tofu as great high-calcium alternatives to dairy. She also suggests optimizing your breakfast with healthy fats and lean protein.
“Some foods rich in vitamin D are eggs and fortified cereal, milk, and juices,” she continues, also citing salmon as a great source of vitamin D (as well as protein). Salmon is among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids as well, which can help prevent bone decay while augmenting bone mineralization. Consider opting for a few fresh slices of it—perhaps alongside an omelet including some of the calcium-rich staples above—to build a better breakfast for bone health.
In case dairy isn’t in your rotation, rest assured that you can still get calcium from healthy plant-based fare. Dr. Nguyen lists kale, turnip greens, broccoli, and tofu as great high-calcium alternatives to dairy.
2. Reduce your intake of sweets
If you typically reach for a sugary breakfast pastry or prefer super sweet coffee, Dr. Nguyen strongly advises limiting these morning go-tos. “Reducing added sugars and artificial sweeteners helps promote a healthier diet with proper calcium and vitamin D,” she explains. Plus, limiting these sweets in the morning can help set up the rest of your daily meals for success. “When we consume added and artificial sweeteners in processed foods, studies have shown it reduces the intake of healthier choices like vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy,” she continues.
3. Get your fix of the sunshine vitamin
Getting enough vitamin D through foods can be challenging, as only few foods contain them naturally. Fortunately, we can get our fix each morning—or at least when it’s not overcast—by basking in the sunlight for short bursts of time. “Vitamin D is critical for bone health because it facilitates calcium absorption,” Dr. Nguyen reminds us. “The best way to increase your vitamin D level is through direct sunlight exposure by going outside or simply sitting by the window on a sunny day.”
How much sunlight you’ll need to get adequate vitamin D daily will depend on a range of factors—including your skin pigmentation, your age, where you live, the season, time of day, and how much of your body is exposed. (For instance, UCLA Health explains that a person who tans well would need only three minutes of sun exposure at noon in Miami during summer with 25 percent 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 like how much skin is exposed.)
Note: As beneficial as vitamin D is for your bones, hormones, mood, immunity, and more, take care not to overdo it on the sun exposure for the sake of your 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 on most mornings. Or, if you prefer to lock in a morning gym sesh or head to a strength training class, that works just as well. “Resistance training and weight-bearing exercises promote bone strength by stimulating calcium deposition through loading,” she explains. The AAOS recommends 30 minutes of weight-bearing activity four or more days a week to support bone health, whether all in one go or divided into separate intervals.
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- Khazai, Natasha et al. “Calcium and vitamin D: skeletal and extraskeletal health.” Current rheumatology reports vol. 10,2 (2008): 110-7. doi:10.1007/s11926-008-0020-y
- Sharma, Tanu, and Chandi C Mandal. “Omega-3 fatty acids in pathological calcification and bone health.” Journal of food biochemistry vol. 44,8 (2020): e13333. doi:10.1111/jfbc.13333
- Cui, Aiyong et al. “Global and regional prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in population-based studies from 2000 to 2022: A pooled analysis of 7.9 million participants.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 10 1070808. 17 Mar. 2023, doi:10.3389/fnut.2023.1070808