When it comes to bone health, your diet can make a huge difference. Choosing the right foods can help you build and maintain strong bones—and may help you avoid the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.
The following information from the National Osteoporosis Foundation can help you make food choices that are good for your bones.
Choose these foods to build strong bones
These foods are rich in calcium and/or vitamin D, which are both important for bone health.
- Dairy products. Low-fat and nonfat milk, yogurt and cheese provide calcium. Some are also fortified with vitamin D.
- Fish. Sardines and salmon canned with bones provide calcium. Fatty fish like mackerel and tuna are high in vitamin D.
- Fruits and veggies. Calcium-rich foods include collard greens, kale, soybeans, bok choy, figs, broccoli and oranges.
- Fortified foods. Sometimes calcium and vitamin D are added to foods. Some juices, breakfast foods and cereals, snacks and breads have these nutrients added. Soy milk and rice milk often have them as well.
Be aware of how these foods might affect bones
Some healthy foods that would seem to be good calcium sources can actually disrupt your body’s ability to absorb the calcium. And some of these foods can even disrupt the absorption of calcium from other foods. That doesn’t mean you should avoid these foods—they offer other nutrients and health benefits. Just be aware of how they may affect your bones.
- Beans. You’ll find calcium in beans. But you’ll also find phytates, which interfere with your ability to absorb the calcium. Reduce the phytates by soaking beans before cooking.
- Spinach. Our bodies don’t absorb calcium well when foods contain oxalates. Besides spinach, you’ll also find oxalates in rhubarb, beet greens and some beans.
- Wheat bran. Like beans, wheat bran contains phytates, but wheat bran seems to be the only food that reduces the absorption of calcium from other foods you eat at the same time. So if you have 100% wheat bran cereal and milk, your body won’t absorb all the calcium in the milk.
Limit these foods to keep bones strong
Eating too much of these foods could actually hurt your bones.
- High-protein foods like meat. Protein is important for your health. But high-protein diets that include multiple servings of meat and protein with each meal can cause the body to lose calcium. Dairy products can be a good way to get some of your daily protein, because they also contain calcium.
- Salty foods. Sodium can cause your body to lose calcium, which can lead to bone loss. Limit your intake of processed and canned foods and added salt.
- Alcohol. Heavy drinking can lead to bone loss.
- Caffeine. This chemical can decrease calcium absorption and contribute to bone loss. Drink coffee, tea and soft drinks only in moderation.
Is it time for a supplement?
You can get the nutrients you need from a well-balanced diet. But if food isn’t giving you the recommended nutrient amounts, supplements may be a good idea.
Learn more about keeping bones strong by taking our bone health quiz.
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