Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) review, update and publish The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 (8th edition). These guidelines serve as a basis for nutritional messages that will be developed in the next several years for the general public. The primary goal of the Dietary Guidelines is to help improve the health of the nation.
There are two key messages to get from the recommendations: 1) maintain calorie balance to achieve and sustain a healthy weight; and, 2) choose foods that have good nutrient content over those that have empty calories, too much salt, too much fat, often due to added sugars and used of refined grains.
Important nutrition for bone health found in the new guidelines:
- Although many kids consume too many calories, some young athletes may not be getting enough calories to use for their high level of physical activity with enough left over to keep their bodies healthy. An average kid expends about 2,000 calories a day, but a young athlete may expend 3,000+ calories per day. Look for the warning signs of Athletic Energy Deficit for female athletes in your family.
- Choose foods that include calcium and vitamin D—the dynamic duo of bone health. If you choose to eat dairy products as your primary source of calcium, select fat-free or low-fat options available for milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages. The good news is that fat-free and low-fat milk products actually contain more calcium than higher fat versions. Vitamin D is added to many dairy and non-dairy products—check the labels. Few food are naturally rich in vitamin D, but fatty fish like salmon and sardines have quite a lot.
- Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 1 teaspoon (2,300 mg) per day! Sodium chloride or table salt is added to most prepared foods—and about half the US population is overdoing it with salt. If you are 51 or older, African American, have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, you must reduce your sodium intake even further to 1,500 mg or less.
- Consume alcohol in moderation-up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Not only can excess alcohol intake adversely effect bone strength, it also increases the risk of falls and fractures.
- Increase vegetable and fruit intake, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables, and beans or peas. Fruits and vegetables contain important bone health nutrients like:
1) Vitamin A is found in cantaloupe, carrots, kale, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Vitamin A influences bone cell metabolism.
2) Vitamin C is found in broccoli, bell pepper, cauliflower, kale, lemons, oranges, papaya, and strawberries. Vitamin C is essential to the formation of collagen, the foundation that bone is built on.
3) Vitamin K, found in cooked broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, parsley (raw), spinach, and Swiss chard. Studies suggest that vitamin K can strengthen bones and reduce fracture risk.
4) Magnesium, found in green vegetables and squash, is essential to the proper functioning of nerves and muscles and all living cells.
5) Iron, found in dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach is a co-factor for the enzymes involved in collagen synthesis.
6) Potassium, found in avocados, bamboo shoots, beans, orange juice, plays a vital role in maintaining bone health by working to neutralize the acids produced during the body’s metabolic processes.