Stronger bones, Stronger You

Adulthood is a busy time: juggling work, raising a family and managing financial responsibilities. Remember that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle can help you get the balance just right.

Peak bone mass is reached when you’re in your late twenties, and, after this it is vital to continue to get adequate calcium, exercise and vitamin D in order to maintain the bone you have built.

Poor bone health affects 2 in 3 Australians and this number is expected to increase as our population continues to age. Brittle bones can lead to serious fractures which can cause chronic pain, disability and loss of independence.

Women are at greater risk of developing osteopenia and osteoporosis because the rapid drop in the hormone oestrogen during menopause causes bone loss.

The good news is, if you take some simple actions and lead a healthy lifestyle, you can give your bones the best chance of remaining strong. 

  • The best source of calcium

    Calcium is essential for building strong bones as well as supporting muscle and nerve function. Almost 99% of the body’s calcium is found in bones, where it combines with other minerals to form the hard crystals that give bones their strength and structure. If we do not eat enough calcium, the calcium within our bones is used for other important body functions. Over a long period of time bone strength can decline and may increase our risk of osteoporosis.

    Milk, cheese and yoghurt are a rich source of calcium in the Australian diet, supplying around 60 per cent of the calcium we eat. While it is true that calcium is found in other foods, meeting calcium needs without dairy foods can be difficult. You need to consume 5 cups of cooked broccoli; 32 brussels sprouts; 165g almonds; or five cups of red beans to provide your body with the same amount of calcium as it will get from one 250ml glass of milk.

    Milk, cheese and yoghurt are the top three sources of calcium in the Australian diet!

  • How much dairy do I need?

    The dairy food group is one of the five food groups and includes milk, cheese, yoghurt and/or alternatives. A serve is simply one cup of milk (250ml), two slices of cheese (40g) or ¾ of a cup of yoghurt (200g).

    But, just how many serves of dairy foods are enough? The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that women aged 19-50 and men aged 19-70 have 2 ½ serves of dairy foods per day. Women over 50 need to have 4 serves of dairy foods per day to meet the guidelines and men need 3 ½ serves after 70

    Fortunately, getting enough serves is easy. Include calcium-rich dairy foods in each of your meals and reach for a smoothie or a latte in between times as a perfect fill-me-up!


  • Be active to be strong

    Exercising regularly is vital to help maintain bone strength. Activities such as jogging, aerobics, tennis, dancing, netball or any exercise that is ‘weight bearing’ and done on your feet will benefit your bones. Lifting weights or resistance training is another great way to maintain strong bones.

    If you’re a parent, leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to teach and encourage your children to adopt good lifelong health habits. Being active together as a family outdoors is also the ideal time to get vitamin D from safe sun exposure which is also important for building and maintaining strong bones.

    During summer in the southern parts of Australia, and all year round in the north, most of us need a few minutes a day of sun exposure to an area of skin equivalent to your face, arms and hands to help with our vitamin D levels. In winter in the southern parts of Australia, most of us need about two to three hours per week of safe sun exposure.

  • Dairy myth busters

    Is dairy associated with weight gain?

    The Australian Dietary Guidelines point out that, as part of a balanced diet, milk, cheese and yogurt are not linked to weight gain. Other research shows that people can lose more body weight and body fat if they include 3-4 serves of milk, cheese or yoghurt in their weight-loss diet, compared with weight loss diets low in dairy foods.

    What if I am lactose intolerant?

    Dairy foods don’t need to be eliminated from the diet if you have difficulty digesting the carbohydrate lactose in milk, or lactose maldigestion. If you have lactose intolerance, the Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest up to 250 ml of milk may be well tolerated if it’s eaten with other foods, or throughout the day. Most cheeses contain virtually no lactose and yoghurt contains ‘good’ bacteria that help to digest lactose. Low-lactose and lactose-free milks are also available. Seek advice from your doctor if you suspect an allergy or intolerance to foods.

    Can I take calcium supplements instead?

    Some might say that calcium supplements can replace milk, however milk isn’t just a great source of calcium, it’s also a source of protein, carbohydrate, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. A calcium tablet won’t provide you with all the other nutrients dairy foods add to the diet. The Australian Dietary Guidelines advise foods may be preferable to calcium from some supplements.

    For more information on head to our Dairy Food Myth Fact Sheet or the Legendairy website.

  • Are you over 50?

    As a result of updated scientific evidence, the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommended higher intakes of the dairy food group for most age groups. For women aged 50+ the change was significant moving up to 4 serves of dairy a day. Men need 2 ½ serves until they are 70 and 3 ½ once they reach 70 years of age.

    Many women over 50 are transitioning through menopause and eating a balanced diet becomes even more important to help preserve bone. Milk cheese and yoghurt are good sources of calcium, which can help to enhance bone mineral density as part of a varied diet high in calcium.

    Dairy foods are beneficial for more than just your bones. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, consuming milk, cheese and yogurt is also linked to a reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.