Jul 03
Eat Well, Exercise & Supplement to Save Your Bones!

Vitamin D, Calcium and Magnesium…..What is needed to achieve good bone health?

by Jonathan L. Cox, B.Sc. Pharm, Co-owner, Vital Health Pharmacy

Bone is living tissue and "turns over"

Many of us have the image of bone as some sort of porcelain-like, non-living substance, that matures in late adolescence and then gradually weakens as we age. Well, this image is INCORRECT! Healthy bone is constantly regrowing itself throughout our adulthood. It is important to understand, that bone can only regrow properly if it has the right conditions to enable it to re-grow (or turnover) properly. This article will discuss these conditions, such as exercise, diet and supplements,  with the goal of helping the reader to understand what can be done to keep your bones healthy and strong!

The terms osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are sometimes confused with each other. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of joint pain caused by deterioration of the cartilage in the joints. This article will focus on osteoporosis and what can be done to avoid this condition.

What is Osteoporosis?

  • Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become thin and porous, decreasing bone strength and leading to increased risk of breaking a bone
  • No single cause for osteoporosis has been identified, however weakened bone can be caused by certain medications, health conditions which lead to poor absorption of essential minerals and nutrients, and may be contributed to by inadequate exercise and poor nutrition
  • Osteoporosis can strike at any age
  • Osteoporosis affects both men and women
  • Osteoporosis is often called the 'silent thief' because bone loss occurs without symptoms

A few facts about bone density and osteoporosis:

  • Peak bone mass is achieved at an early age, age 16-20 in women and age 20-25 in men
  • Women and men alike begin to lose bone in their mid-30s
  • Certain medications can accelerate bone loss (e.g. steroids,  aromatase inhibitors – Cancer therapy)
  • Women lose bone at a greater rate, from 2-3 per cent per year as they approach Menopause.
  • Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined
  • If you have a broken bone, caused by a low-trauma event or notice yourself shrinking or hunching, you should talk to your doctor about whether you might have osteoporosis

If we feed and exercise our bones properly, the chances are greatly increased, that these bones will remain strong, healthy and carry us into late adulthood possibly free from the ravages of osteoporosis or at least with less severe osteoporosis. Good nutrition, vitamin supplementation and exercise can help avoid this disease. The prescription medications also work, but they should be used only when a diagnosis has been confirmed by a physician and should be taken in conjunction with the measures described in this article. We can all take positive steps to helping keep our bones healthy, regardless of where we are starting from. Many forms of osteoporosis are to a large degree preventable. Strong, healthy bones require a balance of proper nutrition (including Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Protein) AND weight bearing exercise. Inadequate intake of these nutrients and/or sedentary lifestyle increases our risk of Osteoporosis. Why does exercise matter? Weight bearing exercise stresses muscle which in turn puts stress and weight load on bones, causing bone to remodel and re-mineralize where it is needed.

So feeding and exercising your bones is important! Statistically speaking, our bone density begins to decline after the late 20's, early 30's. But these statistics are based on a general population, where in general exercise levels decline and nutrition often becomes habitual and possibly less healthy as we age. So what is cause and what is effect? Do we exercise and eat less because we feel weaker? Or does exercising less and eating less make us weaker? Is there anything we can control in this process?  Athletes and astronauts help us understand why exercise is so important to bone health. One example is baseball pitchers who have stronger, denser bone in their throwing arm. Astronauts like Chris Hadfield, on the other hand, after weeks of weightlessness in space have seriously depleted bone density. So while most of us will never go to space, or throw a baseball for a living, we can learn from these examples that regular, weight-bearing exercise is important for us to help keep our bones strong. If you want to know how strong your bones are and have not had a test called a "bone densitometry"  test,  ask your doctor if you should consider having this test done.  With that said, ALL of us, can take steps to keep our bones stronger.

What do Bones Need to Stay Healthy?

Protein is a key part of our daily diet. Generally speaking, each day, we need to eat enough protein to maintain existing muscle mass and repair muscles which support bone and joints. Vegetarian or very restrictive diets may not get enough or complete proteins in their diets which can be harmful to bones.  For that reason, vegetarians need to learn about protein quality and make sure to get the right mix of proteins in the diet. A registered dietitian is a great person to speak with if you have questions about  protein quality.

High protein diets that contain multiple servings of meat and protein with each meal can also cause the body to lose calcium. So too much protein can be unhealthy, just as too little protein can be unhealthy, which means we need to eat just the right amount!

What is the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of Protein?

These are the general recommendations from Dietitians on Canada on protein intake:

  • 0.75 g/kg for adult women
  • 0.84 g/kg for adult men  eg  a 200 lb man (91 kg) requires 76 g (~ 3oz) per day
  • 1 g/kg for pregnant and breastfeeding women and for men and women over 70 years.

Most products in the supermarket will list the amount of protein on the package. It is an important consideration when planning your meals to incorporate some protein in each meal. Protein quality is another matter. Generally speaking, the proteins founds in dairy products, meat, fish are considered to be high quality protein. As mentioned earlier, vegetarians must work a little harder than non-vegetarians to learn about protein quality and make sure to get a balance of different protein types in the diet.

If you have impaired kidney function or diabetes, talk to your doctor and dietitian about your specific requirements for protein intake.  You may have very specific recommendations to follow as opposed to the general recommendations above.

What about Calcium and Magnesium?

Calcium and Magnesium are both minerals essential for bone matrix formation, bone density and strength. It is generally best to maximize dietary source and only use supplements to "top up" the remainder.

Average recommended daily Calcium intake from all sources:

1000 mg for an adult man (1200 mg for a man over the age of 70)
1200 mg for an adult woman 

Average RDI Magnesium is 500 mg

Below are two tables which summarize the Magnesium and Calcium content of some common foods. Please note, if you are taking a supplement of either Calcium or Magnesium, please discuss this with your pharmacist and doctor to be sure that you avoid any interactions with your prescription medications.

Calcium Content of Some Common Foods

Food Serving Size Calcium (mg)
Vegetables and Fruits
Spinach, cooked125 mL (½ cup)129
Kale, frozen, cooked125 mL (½ cup)95
Orange juice, fortified with calcium125 mL (½ cup)155
Milk and Alternatives  
Buttermilk250 mL (1 cup)370
Soy beverage, fortified with calcium250 mL (1 cup)321-324
3.3% homo, 2%, 1%, skim milk250 mL (1 cup)291-322
Gruyere, swiss, goat, low fat cheddar, mozzarella cheese50 g (1½ oz)396-506
Cottage cheese250 mL (1 cup)146-217
Yogurt, plain175 g (¾ cup)292-332
Fish, Legumes, Other  
Salmon (pink/humpback, red/sockeye), canned, with bones75 g (2 ½ oz)179-208
Beans (white, navy), canned or cooked175 mL (¾ cup)93-141
Baked beans, canned175 mL (¾ cup)89-105
Almonds, dry roasted, unblanched60 mL (¼ cup)93
Blackstrap molasses15 mL (1 Tbsp)179



Magnesium Content of Some Common Foods

Food Serving Size Magnesium (mg)
Vegetables and Fruits
Spinach, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 83
Swiss chard, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 80
Potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium 47-52
Grain Products
Cereals, All Bran 30 g (check product label for serving size) 94-111
Wheat germ cereal, toasted 30 g (¼ cup) 96
Quinoa, cooked125 mL (1/2 cup)47
Milk and Alternatives
Cheese, soy 50 g (1½ oz) 114
Yogurt, soy 175 g (¾ cup) 70
Meats and Alternatives
Legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils)
Beans (black, lima, navy, adzuki, white kidney, pinto, Great Northern, cranberry, chickpeas), cooked175 mL (¾ cup)           60-89
Tofu, prepared with magnesium chloride or calcium sulfate150 g (¾ cup)45-80
Baked beans, with pork, canned 175 mL (¾ cup) 64
Lentils, split peas, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 52
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds  60 mL (¼ cup) 88-109
Cashews  60 mL (¼ cup) 90
Sesame seeds 30 mL (2 Tbsp) 56-68
Peanuts, without shell 60 mL (¼ cup) 65
Peanut butter 30 mL (2 Tbsp) 50-52
Fish and Seafood
Salmon, Chinook, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 92
Halibut, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 80
Crab, Atlantic snow, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 47

Both tables adapted from Dietitians of Canada, source: "Canadian Nutrient File 2010" .
Vitamin D – the "sunshine Vitamin"

Vitamin D is essential for absorption of Calcium and Magnesium from the Intestine. Vitamin D enters the body through our diet or supplementation or it may be produced by skin exposure to UV rays from the sun. In a northern climate such as Victoria, B.C., for many months of the year we do not receive enough daily sunshine to produce adequate Vitamin D levels. Also, sunscreen, which protects the skin from certain forms of cancer also inhibits the formation of Vitamin D. Therefore, Vitamin D supplementation remains a strong recommendation including from the Osteoporosis Society of Canada.

Foods to be aware of:

Spinach and other foods with oxalates. Your body doesn't absorb calcium well from foods that are high in oxalates (oxalic acid) such as spinach. Other foods with oxalates are rhubarb, beet greens and certain beans.

Salty foods. Eating foods that have a lot of salt (sodium) causes your body to excrete calcium in urine Try to limit the amount of processed foods, canned foods and salt added to the foods you eat each day

Beans (legumes) are a good source of calcium and magnesium. Beans however, are also high in substances called phytates. Phytates interfere with your body's ability to absorb the calcium that is contained in beans. You can reduce the phytate level by soaking beans in water for several hours and then cooking them in fresh water.

High or Low protein diets. Low protein diets may be harmful to bones. High protein diets can also cause the body to lose calcium.

Excessive Alcohol and Caffeine are to be avoided for optimal bone health.  Drinking heavily can lead to bone loss. Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for men. Coffee, tea and soft drinks (sodas) contain caffeine, which may decrease calcium absorption and contribute to bone loss.

Do not smoke!  Smoking is a strongly correlated risk factor for osteoporosis and should be avoided. Not to mention all the other bad things smoking does to your body!

Top Recommendations for Maintaining Bone Health:

  1. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol and caffeine intake.
  2. Regular, weight bearing exercise to stimulate bone growth and bone density.
  3. Adequate protein intake to maintain muscle mass to support bone and joints and prevent injury.
  4. Obtain Adequate Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D from diet, supplement only to "top up" what is still needed.
  5. In our climate, routine Vitamin D supplementation is  cheap, safe  & data-supported for bone health. At least 800 IU is recommended and up to 4000 IU per day is safe.

To learn more about bone health, nutrition and osteoporosis, the following web-sites are recommended reading.


May 05
Calcium - To supplement or not?

​Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is essential because the body cannot produce it which means we must obtain it through our diet and/or supplements. Over 99% of calcium can be found in our bones and teeth. Calcium not only has a crucial role in bone development and maintenance but also muscle function, blood clotting, enzyme regulation, heart function and nerve transmission. Although calcium needs are the highest for those between the ages of 9 and 18, adequate calcium intake is important at every stage of life.

While it is true that milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, you don't have to consume these foods to meet your calcium needs. Non-dairy rich sources of calcium include canned fish (with soft bones), almonds, fortified beverages, dark green leafy vegetables (ex. kale) and blackstrap molasses. Rice, soy and almond milk are good sources of calcium if they are fortified. Try to choose milk alternatives that are fortified with both calcium and vitamin D.

Unfortunately, we do not absorb 100% of the calcium in food. The composition of our diet can both negatively and positively affect the absorption of calcium For example, spinach and some soybean products are high in oxalates which interfere with the absorption of calcium. Also, our body can have difficulty absorbing a large amount of calcium at once so it's best to spread out your intake of calcium-rich foods and take in no more than 500mg at one time. Don't forget the role of vitamin D in calcium absorption - for more information on the sunshine vitamin, check out Amy's blog post from October.

So how much calcium do you need? Based on Health Canada's DRIs (Dietary Reference Intake) which were updated in 2010, adults 19 years of age and older need 1000-1200mg of calcium daily for optimum bone health. This is equivalent to approximately 3.5-4 cups of milk, 6.5-8 cups of cottage cheese, or 5-6 cups of kale (cooked). To find out if you are meeting your calcium needs, check out the Calcium Calculator Tool on the BC Dairy Foundation website and/or speak with your Dietitian.

If all dietary interventions have been tried and you just can't meet your calcium needs from food alone, a supplement may be needed. The two most common types of calcium supplements are Calcium Carbonate (ex. Tums) and Calcium Citrate (ex. Citracal). The former provides the highest amount of elemental calcium per weight and is best absorbed when taken with food. The latter may be taken on an empty stomach and is recommended for people taking H2-blockers or PPIs. Side effects of calcium supplements may include upset stomach and constipation. Your pharmacist and dietitian can help you choose the supplement that is right for you.

In recent years, concerns have been raised regarding the association between calcium supplements and increased risk of coronary events (heart attack, stroke). More research is needed to confirm these effects. For now, it's a good idea to calculate how much calcium you are getting in your diet prior to taking a supplement. Come visit us at Vital Health Pharmacy for helpful tips on increasing your calcium intake!

Gilana James, RD


Feb 28
​​Whole Foods for Health, Brazil's New Approach - by Amy Washington, RD

According to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, Canadians are consuming more convenience foods than ever before.  In fact, our intake of "ultra-processed" foods has more than doubled between 1938 and 2011 (  Whole foods have been replaced with ready to eat foods which is concerning because ready to eat foods tend to provide far more fat, salt, sugar and calories than whole foods. 

It is not surprising that the caloric intake of Canadians and the incidence of obesity are rising along with our increasing reliance on convenience foods.  Meals made at home from basic ingredients tend to provide more healthy food elements such as micronutrients and fibre and less harmful elements such as salt, trans fat, and food additives.  It is hard to know what we are feeding our families if we aren't preparing the food ourselves. 

The availability of convenience foods combined with our increasingly busy schedules has led to a greater reliance on ready to eat foods and the loss of family meal times. Families sitting down together around the dining table for a home cooked meal has become increasingly rare.  It is more common now for families to grab food on the go or heat up ready-made meals as they rush home from work or head off to various activities, or simply sit down in front of the TV or computer. 

There are several strategies to help make this positive change possible.  Plan your meals and shop for ingredients in advance.  Buy whole foods from the outermost aisles of the grocery store such as fruits and vegetables, dairy products, lean meats and bulk whole grains.  Keep healthy snacks on hand for your family so that you won't be tempted to stop at the drive through or pull something out of the freezer when everyone is hungry for dinner. Cook large quantities so that leftovers are available for next day lunches.  Encourage family members to take responsibility for meals.  Remember that frozen vegetables are a healthy and convenient option.  Make meal times a priority in your home by setting this time aside and making sure everyone can be at the dinner table together at least a few times per week.

Brazil has recently come out with new guidelines for healthy eating that Canadians could learn from.  Rather than focussing on foods to eat and foods to avoid, the guidelines focus on behaviours that can have a positive effect on health such as cooking from scratch, being present at mealtimes and eating with company.  The translated guidelines can be found online at

Jan 02
Making Healthy and Achievable New Year's Resolutions, by Amy Washington, RD

​Most people can expect to gain weight over the holiday season and while everyone has good intentions come January, many people are not able to lose the weight they have put on.  This year, make a commitment to stop dieting!  Instead, plan to make permanent lifestyle changes for achievable, sustainable weight loss.

The weight loss, weight gain cycle known as 'yo-yo' dieting is common among people who struggle with their weight. Losing weight is only part of the battle, keeping it off can be very challenging and statistically we tend to regain lost weight.  This is because when we restrict our calorie intake too much our metabolism slows down.  This is nature's way of conserving energy.  Ultimately this makes it harder and harder to lose weight.

Instead of trying to lose weight quickly, make lifestyle changes that you will be able to commit to long-term.  This will help you achieve and maintain weight loss and give you greater control of your health.  Reducing calories to less than 1500 per day or cutting out an entire food group such as carbohydrates are not sustainable strategies for most people.  Instead, try making simple, health-focussed changes such as increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to 5-10 servings per day.  This simple change will not only increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants, it will also crowd out some of the less healthy foods in your diet.  If you carry fresh fruit around as a snack, you will be less likely to need to get a high calorie muffin with your mid-morning coffee.  If you fill half your dinner plate with vegetables, this will automatically help control your portions of higher calorie starch and protein foods, while helping fill you up.

Another simple lifestyle change that can have a positive effect on weight management is making time for breakfast every day.  Many clients report that when they eat breakfast they feel hungry again sooner than if they skip breakfast, and they believe that this may help them eat less overall.  It is true that eating breakfast may stimulate your appetite, but it also revs up your metabolism helping you burn more calories throughout the day and helps you make wiser food choices later on.  Rather than 'saving up' your daily calories for a large meal later in the day, keep your metabolism up and running by spreading your eating throughout the day.  Include fibre and protein in your breakfast to help you feel satisfied longer. This could be whole grain toast with peanut butter, a smoothie with protein powder, or even a meal replacement shake.

Research shows that the key to losing weight is reducing calorie intake but the key to keeping it off is exercise.  Health Canada recommends getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.  This does not have to take place all at once, it can be broken up throughout the day.  For example, try taking a brisk 15 minute walk on your lunch break and a 15 minute walk after dinner.  Exercise need not be punishing or expensive. Find an activity that you enjoy doing and stick to it. This could be walking, swimming, cycling, taking a class or joining a team sport. 

Making simple, sustainable lifestyle changes will have you feeling your best and help you set a healthy example for your family.  Have a happy and healthy new year!

Dec 03
Holiday Healthy Eating – by Amy Washington, Registered Dietitian

​We all know that the occasional indulgence is not going to have a big impact on our health, but when it comes to the holiday season a month of over indulgence can certainly have a negative effect on our waistlines.  Surprisingly, Canadians tend to overestimate the amount of weight they gain during the holiday season, with the actual amount being about a pound of weight gain on average.  This may not sound like much, but studies have found that the weight gained over the holiday season is generally not lost after the holidays and can contribute to the steady gradual weight gain that most adults experience.

Holiday season weight gain is difficult to avoid for a couple of reasons.  Food is a huge part of our culture and people tend to gather around eating situations.  Most people can expect to attend many such events this month, including work and social Christmas parties, community and charity events, as well as the special Christmas meals themselves.  Another reason we consume too many calories is because one of the most common ways to show we care is to feed our loved ones, so we bake endless goodies to have on offer and to distribute as gifts.

One way to control the amount of excess calories we consume during the holidays is to prepare for social gatherings by not arriving starving.  We know that the foods served at such events tend to be high calorie choices such as cheeses, pastries and desserts.  By having a light meal such as a salad with a lean protein before arriving at a party, we will have more control when it comes to the snack table.  When eating at a holiday party, it can be easy to lose track of how much you have consumed.  Rather than grazing all evening, fill a small plate with the foods that you plan to eat.  Fill up on healthier options such as fresh vegetables and mandarin oranges.  When it comes to beverages, try having soda water with a splash of cranberry juice rather than hot cider or eggnog. 

Plan social gatherings that don't revolve around food.  For example, rather than a potluck dinner with work colleagues, get everyone moving with a fun activity such as bowling.  Rather than meeting friends for a pumpkin spice latte, meet for a walk to enjoy the lights in your favourite neighbourhood.  Take the family snow shoeing or ice skating.

When planning homemade gifts, we often make high calorie goodies such as cookies, tarts, fudge and spiced nuts.  This year, try making your own candles or ornaments or putting together a ready to use soup mix.  Many recipes can be found online.

The easiest way to a healthy body weight is to avoid gaining it in the first place. Have a happy and healthy holiday season!

Oct 28
Happy Vitamin D Month!

November is Vitamin D month. What is so special about this one Vitamin? – by Amy Washington, RD

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is an important fat soluble vitamin produced by the skin's exposure to the sun.  In our northern climate, it is difficult for Canadians to get enough sun exposure to make adequate levels of vitamin D.   In addition, there are very few dietary sources, making supplementation necessary for many Canadians. 

According to an article in Osteoporosis International, up to three quarters of the Canadian population has less than optimal blood levels of vitamin D, particularly in individuals who are overweight, since vitamin D is fat soluble, and in Canadians with darker skin tone, since synthesis is less efficient in this group.  These numbers are staggering when you consider the negative health outcomes associated with poor vitamin D status.

Vitamin D is an essential factor in bone health as it helps with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.  As a result, people who are vitamin D deficient are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.  Vitamin D is also essential in immune system regulation.  Some research has shown that Vitamin D has may have a role in the prevention of the development of immune-related diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Reduced vitamin D status has also been associated with an increased risk of cancer and heart disease, the two leading causes of death in Canada.

Health Canada recommends that Canadians get at least 400IU of vitamin D per day, however, most health practitioners recommend between 1000-2000IU per day, particularly for older adults and those with osteoporosis.  Although we can synthesize vitamin D from the sun there are no guidelines around this as we know that sun exposure can increase skin cancer risk.  The main sources of vitamin D in the food supply are seafood, milk, and eggs.  A 75g serving of salmon provides approximately 400IU of vitamin D.  Milk, fortified milk alternatives such as rice or soy milk, and yogurt provide approximately 100IU of vitamin D per cup.  An egg provides approximately 50IU.  It is easy to see that unless you eat fish every day, supplementation is necessary in this part of the world.  Fortunately supplementation is relatively inexpensive and is available in various forms from pills to drops to chews.  Look for vitamin D3, a more effective form of vitamin D also known as cholecalciferol.  Happy vitamin D month!

Sep 26
Gluten-Free Diet: Is it Really Better for You? - by Amy Washington, Registered Dietitian

​There has been a lot in the media recently about the benefits of gluten-free eating and gluten-free products are popping up everywhere.  But is gluten-free food really better for you?  According to the British Medical Journal, only about 1% of the population actually has celiac disease, yet it is estimated that 15-25% of North Americans want gluten free food. 

True celiac disease is a sensitivity to gluten whereby consumption of gluten damages the intestinal tract and can have negative health outcomes such as anemia and colon cancer.  It is diagnosed by a blood test preferably along with a biopsy of the small intestine.  It is also possible to be allergic to wheat which would be diagnosed by a skin prick test.  The third group is non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is based mainly on adverse symptoms that occur when gluten is consumed and when celiac disease and wheat allergy have been ruled out. 

Obviously if eating gluten or wheat makes you feel bad it makes sense to avoid it, but what about the rest of us?  Despite what you may read in popular books, gluten is not inherently bad for you.  And when someone brings out a tray of baked goods and says, "don't worry, they're gluten-free," it does not mean they are better for you.  In fact, when compared to gluten-free products, the traditional wheat containing breads, baked goods and pastas will have fewer calories, more protein, more fibre, and more B-vitamins, not to mention being much less expensive and tasting better!  In fact, according to researchers at Dalhousie University, gluten-free products cost an estimated 242% more than their conventional counterparts.

That said, if you rely heavily on the same old bread, potatoes and rice in your diet, it is a good idea to switch it up a bit every once in a while with different grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and wild rice.  These products happen to be gluten-free but that's not why they are healthy!  It is important to eat a variety of foods from each food group to maximize your nutrition.

If you suspect you are sensitive to gluten, see your doctor.  Keep in mind that in order for the diagnostic tests for celiac disease to be accurate, you must be taking gluten in your diet leading up to the test.  If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you should also see a registered dietitian to help you identify sources of wheat or gluten in your diet and help prepare for the life-long changes you will need to make. You may also want to connect with the Canadian Celiac Association at   For the rest of us, it is a good idea to eat a varied diet made up of whole foods, whether you choose to include gluten or not.

Sep 03
Nutrition for Older Adults - by Amy Washington, Registered Dietitian

​Older adults have unique health and nutrition needs.  As we age, we often see a decrease in lean body mass, metabolic rate, physical activity, caloric needs and dietary intake.  As people eat less overall, they naturally take in fewer essential nutrients.  However, even though we may not need as many calories as we age, our needs for micronutrients don't necessarily decrease.  For this reason, it becomes important to make the most of our meals and consume the most nutritious foods we can.  Focusing on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, nuts and legumes, and low fat dairy products helps us maximize our nutrition. 

Protein can help us maintain our lean body mass.  Many older adults don't get enough protein in their diet.  Lean meat, fish and poultry, eggs, tofu and legumes and nuts are excellent sources of protein.  Adults over the age of 50 should aim for 2-3 servings of meat and alternatives per day.

People often wonder if they should be taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement.  Not everyone needs a supplement and it is not advisable to take supplements that you don't need.  The best way to get the nutrients you need is by eating a variety of foods from all the food groups.  See Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide for more information.  However, if your intake is low, you may benefit from a supplement.

All adults over 50 should take supplemental vitamin D.  Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone health.  Our needs for vitamin D increase as we age.  Vitamin D can be synthesized from the sun and is available in small amounts from a small number of foods such as milk, eggs and fish.  However, it is nearly impossible to meet our needs without supplementation.  How much to take is still under debate.  Health Canada says that adults over 50 should take 400IU of vitamin D during the winter months.  The Osteoporosis Foundation suggests that adults take 1000IU per day.  These amounts are meant for maintenance - if you are deficient in vitamin D you may need more than this.

Older adults are often deficient in vitamin B12 because our absorption of this nutrient decreases as we age.  Vitamin B12 is found in animal-based foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.  It is also found in yeast.  If you do not get enough vitamin B12 from food sources, a supplement may be needed.  Ask you physician to check your blood levels if you are concerned.

People who don't get enough calcium in their diet may also need a calcium supplement.  Older adults need 1200mg of calcium per day.  Calcium is found in dairy products, fortified milk alternatives, nuts, tofu and green vegetables.  More calcium is not better so it is best to figure out how much you are getting in your diet and supplementing only as needed.  Your dietitian can help you with this.

If you need supplementation, you can either take the specific nutrients you need or you can take a multivitamin/mineral supplement.  Look for something that is specially formulated for your age group.  If you are unsure whether you need a supplement or which one to take, visit us at Vital Health Pharmacy.  A consultation with the dietitian will help you optimize your overall health and nutrition!

May 01
Welcome to the Vital Health blog!

This is where we'll be sharing ideas and news from our dietitian and pharmacist. We might even share pictures, videos and links to other interesting stuff.

If we catch your interest, let us hear from you!