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Eating healthy food in a balanced diet is very important to help you get the energy you need, maintain good health and have strong bones and muscles.

We all know what healthy food is—a wide range of fruit and vegetables, some protein sources such as meats, dairy and pulses, and not too much fatty or highly processed food. Drinking plenty of water is important, too.

Healthy Eating flyer

As we age, our bones are susceptible to becoming fragile and breaking. For them to stay strong, they need:

  • calcium
  • vitamin D

Calcium

Calcium is only stored in your bones, although it is essential for many different parts of the body, such as muscles and nerves.

If you don't eat enough calcium, it will be taken from your bones to other parts of the body where it is needed. As we get older, we absorb less and less calcium from our food. This means we actually need to eat more calcium as we get older.

People who smoke, who drink a lot of caffeine and soft drinks, and who eat a lot of meat, absorb less calcium from their diet than others.

Milk, yoghurt, cheese, salmon, sardines, tahini, figs, almonds and brazil nuts are all good sources of calcium.

Bread, cereals, fruit and green vegetables such as broccoli and bok choy also have calcium, although not as much.

The following menu is an example of a typical day's eating that would help you reach the recommended intake of calcium (1300 mg per day).

  • Breakfast: Toast or muesli plus a tub of low fat yoghurt
  • Lunch: Wholemeal sandwich with cheese, chicken and salad
  • Dinner: Pasta or rice with tinned salmon or tuna and vegetables such as peas, broccoli and carrots.

Snacking on fresh or dried fruit, cheese, and nuts and a glass of milk/soy milk each day will make up the rest. Calcium - enriched breads, juice and milk can be good sources for additional calcium.

Vitamin D and sunlight

Vitamin D is very important for strong bones. Being low in vitamin D can affect your muscle strength and play a part in osteoporosis because without it calcium won't be fully absorbed by your bones.

You get vitamin D in two ways—from your diet and from sunlight.

Vitamin D is found only in certain foods. These are:

  • milk
  • oily fish such as salmon and mackerel
  • eggs.

Sunlight is another way of getting vitamin D. Sunlight acts on the skin and converts it to vitamin D. 6-8 minutes in summer and 13-16 minutes a day in winter is enough.

For more information about the importance of vitamin D visit: www.osteoporosis.org.au/vitamin-d

Water

Many people don't drink enough water. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, weakness and dizziness, and is a common cause of older people falling and hurting themselves.

Drink at least 6 glasses of fluid a day, preferably water.