Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Spinach, skipping and no sugar: Ways to keep your bones strong and healthy

© Press Association Imagesfood

Going vegetarian or vegan is a good way to help your body and the planet but, according to research, a plant-based diet may make you more likely to break a hip.

Experts at Leeds University have said vegetarian diets, “often have lower intakes of nutrients that are linked with bone and muscle health”, after their study found that female vegetarians had a 33% increased risk of hip fracture in comparison to regular meat eaters.

The study, which involved more than 26,000 women aged 35 to 69, assessed the risk of hip fracture among vegetarians, pescatarians, and occasional meat eaters compared with those who regularly eat meat – and the elevated risk of hip fracture was only found among vegetarians.

However, a plant-based diet is often cited to have big health benefits, too.

“A whole food plant-based diet can reduce inflammatory markers and the risk of the most common chronic diseases. This way of eating promotes health and longevity by maximising healthy nutrients and minimising harmful components,” says Dr Rajiv Bajekal, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and lifestyle medicine physician at Plant Based Health Professionals UK.

“Centering your meals around wholegrains, beans, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds offers mental and physical benefits both in the short and longer term.”

So, what can vegetarians and vegans do to ensure they are getting all the good stuff and giving their bones the best possible support?

Find plenty of protein

“Bones need protein to be strong and we can get high-quality protein in our food from beans, especially soya, and also foods such as quinoa, nuts and seeds,” says Bajekal. “Look for calcium-set tofu, tempeh and calcium-fortified soya milk and try to get two to three portions of these foods or other beans daily. Soya is particularly beneficial as it is a great source of protein, micronutrients and also phytoestrogens that are bone-protective. Fruit and vegetables also promote bone formation.”

Calcium is vital – especially during the menopause

At different times of our life, our bodies may need different things.

“Our maximum bone strength is at around 30 years of age, after which there is a steady fall in bone strength.

“If we build up more of a reserve before this age by being very active, we can lose more bone without the problems of osteoporosis in later life,” explains Bajekal.

“During perimenopause, one can lose as much as 3-5% of our bone mass and strength due to the loss of the protective effect of oestrogen and so it is important that women in particular think of how to get into their golden years in the best possible way to prevent this sudden loss of bone.”

To mitigate this, during the menopausal years, focus on calcium rich foods, he adds, “which can be obtained from calcium-set tofu, calcium-fortified plant milks, white beans, tahini and green leafy vegetables such as kale, boy choy, rocket and broccoli.

“Calcium losses are greater in people who smoke, consume excess amounts of coffee, alcohol or sugar-sweetened beverages, and also consume salt, usually in ultra-processed foods.”

Calcium will help people of all ages support bone health though, so it’s always worth making sure that you’re getting enough.

Focus on strength-based exercise

The exercise we do will also have an impact on our bone health.

“Walking is helpful to prevent bone loss but doesn’t increase bone strength. Walking with a weighted jacket or wrist and ankle weights helps stimulate bone formation,” says Bajekal.

“Skipping, star jumps, and training with weights helps strengthen bones and using an all-body vibration platform to do weight training helps.

“Building leg strength and doing tai chi or other balance training exercises goes a long way in preventing falls and should not be neglected. Muscle strength and bone strength go together.”

Add other essential vitamins

If you are vegetarian, it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D and B12 – which Bajekal says are “essential for bone health and helping prevent falls and must be supplemented in plant-based diets”.

So get out in the sunshine and eat spinach, eggs and cheese to boost your levels of both – and consider taking a supplement, especially in the winter months.