By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters

Adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet help maintain your bone strength, reducing your risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak because of the loss of bone density. Although you can take supplements that provide calcium and vitamin D, the best way to get adequate calcium is by eating calcium-rich foods. The best way to get vitamin D is to expose your face, arms, hands or back (without sunscreen) to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes at least two times per week.

One in every two women and one in four men older than 50 will have a bone fracture caused by weak bones in their lifetime. Fortunately, following a healthy-bones diet can bolster bone strength and reduce the risk for osteoporosis.

"Calcium is needed for several essential bodily functions, and if you don't consume enough, your body will steal from your bones to get it," says Roberta Anding, M.S., RD/LD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Adults ages 19 to 50 need about 1,000 mg of calcium and 400-800 IU vitamin D a day to protect their bones, help control high blood pressure and maintain heart and muscle health. Adults ages 51 and older need about 1,200 mg of calcium and 800-1000 IU of vitamin D a day. Although 1,000 mg of calcium a day is not difficult to get -- three daily servings of dairy products will do it -- nine out of 10 women get less than the recommended intake, with most getting less than half of what they should.

"The best way to get calcium is through your diet," says Ms. Anding. "High-calcium foods -- milk, cheese, salmon with bones and kale, for example -- are major assets in building bone strength."

Other dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified with vitamin D and contain only small amounts. If you have only limited exposure to sun because of climate or you can’t get outdoors, be sure to include good sources of vitamin D in your diet or take vitamin D supplements.

More steps to take

These additional recommendations can strengthen your bones:

  • Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise, such as jogging, hiking, aerobics, weightlifting, dancing and walking. Exercise builds bone strength, helps slow bone loss and strengthens the muscles around your bones. Try to exercise at a moderate pace for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.
  • Make low-fat milk fortified with vitamin D the standard drink with meals. This is true not only for children and teens, but also for adults.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking can decrease estrogen levels, which increases osteoporosis risk.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages. People who drink heavily tend to have more bone loss and more fractures.
  • Avoid excess sodium, which increases the amount of calcium released from the body.