Bone Health for Adolescents
By Milly Clark
The topic of bone health is complex and can be hard to navigate across different stages of life. Many people may be unaware that bones are like any other organ in our bodies – they are active tissues. This means that every day old bone is broken down, and new is created from the nutrients we provide. During physical activities such as running, walking, ball sports, gymnastics or heading to the gym, our bones are naturally broken down in response to the impact forces. As alarming as it may sound, this is a completely necessary and natural process to stimulate the regrowth of new, stronger bone in its’ place. The weight placed on bone sends a signal to form new bone. Childhood and young adulthood are the bone building years. As children grow, their bone mass increases until reaching what is called Peak Bone Mass. An individual’s peak bone mass is the greatest amount of bone an individual can attain and is achieved in late teens to early 20s. After this point, bone density cannot be changed and we rely in this skeleton for the rest of our life. Children who have a higher peak bone mass have a far less risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Furthermore, for those young athletes who go on to senior sport or reach national/international competition levels, having strong bones and greater density will help prevent injury to keep enabling long term sport participation.
The Great Australian Cross Country Challenge can also be seen as way to improve bone health and establish a healthy start to adulthood. Getting out for a run will send signals to start rebuilding bone once we return home and back into some comfy trackies! A good way to view each meal and snack is to see it as an opportunity to help strengthen bones. Bone tissue is made up of calcium, phosphorus, collagen (a type of protein) and Vitamin D. Getting outdoors certainly ticks the Vitamin D box, so attention should be focused on food to obtain other vital nutrients. Think about food as the building blocks to replace what you have lost while exercising and the material to construct something even stronger.
Foods High in Calcium:
- Dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, milk)
- Green Vegetables (Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage or Asian Greens)
- Sesame Seeds and Tahini
- Soy Beans or Tofu
Foods High in Phosphorus:
- Dairy products
- Pumpkin/Sunflower Seeds
A happy coincidence is that foods high in calcium are also high in phosphorus! Preparing meals for a fussy teenager may have just become a little easier. Collagen is found in all animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Most of these foods also provide calcium and phosphorus, making it even easer to provide a “bone density” rich meal to the kids of an evening.
- Calcium fortified cereal (Plain Special K or Weeties) + Milk + Dollop of Greek Yoghurt
- 2 slices of Toast spread with Ricotta Cheese and/or Tahini
- 2 slices of Toast with Vegemite and 40g Cheddar cheese slices
- Scrambled eggs on Toast with wilted Spinach and a sprinkle of sesame seeds
- Porridge (cooked with milk) topped with chopped almonds, dollop of Yoghurt and honey
- Wholegrain wrap/sandwich with lean meat (such as sliced turkey or chicken), ricotta cheese and baby spinach
- Pasta Salad: made with wholegrain pasta, parmesan cheese, chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped almonds and wilted spinach
- Open Sandwiches: wholegrain toast spread with hummus, avocado, feta cheese and wilted spinach
- Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese soup served with 2 slices toast
- Stir Fry Asian Greens (Buk Choy or Pak Choy) with lean chicken breast and wholegrain rice
- Tuna in Olive Oil stirred through wholemeal pasta, green peas and wilted spinach
- Pork Chops served with mashed Cauliflower, Steamed Green Beans and Spinach or Silver beet
- Homemade Burgers: lean meat rissoles with wholemeal burger buns, tomato, spinach and sliced cheddar cheese
- Grilled fish with baked potato, steamed broccoli and zucchini chips.