The key to healthy bone habits is to ensure you're getting your daily requirements of bone-building nutrients such as calcium. Most adults need 1000mg of calcium each day (roughly three to four dairy serves), with an additional 300mg for men over 70, women post-menopause and adolescents having growth spurts. Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium as they are convenient, offer many other important nutrients and contain easily absorbable calcium. The Australian Dietary Guidelines now recommend reduced-fat varieties for most people over the age of two as they contain less saturated fat and have higher amounts of calcium. If you are lactose intolerant, vegan or don't like dairy products, there are many other good sources of calcium available, such as calcium-fortified soy, the edible bones in fish, green leafy vegetables and, to a lesser extent, some nuts and seeds.
The other nutrient important for strong bones is vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, saltwater fish, butter, margarine and fortified foods — especially dairy products like some milk and yogurt. But the best source is sunlight, so try to get a little outdoor exercise each day.
Pressure to be thin often leads to excessive dieting and eating disorders. This often results in a loss of menstruation and a diet lacking in calcium. Aim to be a healthy weight and if your menstruation ceases, see a doctor.
Exercise helps keep bones strong and reduces the chance of injury. Weight-bearing exercises (such as jumping, skipping, aerobics or netball) and strength-training exercises (such as pump or circuit classes) are the best types of exercise for strong bones. It is good to do a variety of exercises so that stress is placed on a variety of bones and muscles, for example, tennis players have more bone strength in their dominant arm.
Too much salt (sodium), caffeine and alcohol are associated with decreased bone density and increased risk of bone fractures. Too much sodium in the diet can cause calcium to be excreted from the body, so it is important to choose low salt foods to help protect your bones. High alcohol, caffeine and cola/soft drink intake have also been associated with lower bone mineral density.