15 Foods That Build Strong Bones

  • Foods that are calcium powerhouses can boost your bone health in four ways. First, the calcium in them helps prevent the thinning that is virtually inevitable for your postmenopausal skeleton. Second, several of the foods up your intake of vitamin D, which is also important for bone health. Third, when you eat calcium-rich foods, you enhance the effect of any osteoporosis drugs you may be taking. And finally, foods with calcium content heighten the benefit of weight-bearing exercise. Supplements can’t entirely make up for a lack of calcium and vitamin D in your diet, so promise yourself to add these 15 good-and-good-for-you choices to your meal plan starting today!

    Get Milk! That now-classic milk mustache ad is spot on. Just one glass of milk a day has 30% of the calcium needs for the under-50 set. Add a few more ounces if you’re over 50. The jury is still out about whether skim and fat-free versions are the best choices so go ahead and have whole milk if it tastes better to you. You’ll be more likely to down the recommended amount and you’ll only be spending about 150 to 175 calories depending on how many ounces you drink. Look for brands with vitamin D added for even more bone-boosting benefits.
  • The Yogurt Advantage Surprise! This delicious dairy product that dates back at least to 2000 B.C. actually has more calcium than milk. An 8-ounce serving gives you over 40% of your daily requirement of the bone-building nutrient. Bonus: You’ll also be consuming health-promoting probiotics. A warning, however: Greek yogurt is not fortified with vitamin D. Of course that may not be a problem if you’re eating other sources of vitamin D and getting some sunshine for a few hours a day several times a week. Why not top your yogurt with fruit to add even more good nutrition to your treat?
  • Say Cheese From savory bleu to sharp cheddar to creamy brie and camembert, cheese is a satisfying nosh on it’s own or a palate-pleasing addition to any dish. Portion control is key, however, because calorie and fat counts are typically quite high. Fortunately, a mere 1.5 ounces of cheddar gives you more than 30% of your daily calcium needs, and other cheeses have similar values. Most cheeses also have small amounts of vitamin D.
  • Scream for Ice Cream The grandchildren aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the calcium in America’s favorite frozen dessert! Why not join the kids every now and then for a cone in your favorite flavor? Or just have a scoop in a dish to avoid the carbs and calories in the cone. Also, consider opting for light versions that are lower in calories and fat.
  • The Egg and You Eggs got a bad rap for a while, but they’ve been largely exonerated as long as you eat them in moderation. Along with plenty of protein in a whole egg, the yolks give you about 6% of the vitamin D you need each day. Going for the white-only alternative will cut fat and calories but it won’t help protect your bones.
  • Fortified Options, Part 1: Soy Milk If you’re lactose intolerant or simply don’t want to eat dairy products, a good alternative is calcium-enriched soy milk. Half a cup has more calcium than regular milk. Not only that, but recent research shows that plant-based chemicals called isoflavones in the soy may increase bone density.
  • Fortified Options, Part 2: Cereal Another fortified product that can help you get enough calcium is cereal. Several brands are available including Kashi U Black Currants and Walnuts, Total Whole Grain, and Wheaties. Add milk and you’ve got a bowlful of calcium plus some vitamin D. This choice is an obvious one for breakfast but we know single Boomers who like to have cereal as a simple, no-cook supper as well!
  • Fortified Options, Part 3: Orange Juice Try Tropicana's Calcium + Vitamin D, a brand of OJ that gives you both of the bone-building nutrients right along with your vitamin C. Also, studies have shown that the ascorbic acid in OJ may help with calcium absorption. Fresh-squeezed, of course, isn’t fortified so you're better off skipping the juicer and buying a carton instead.
  • Nothing Nutty About This Choice Peanuts and almonds are packed with potassium, which inhibits the loss of calcium in urine. Walnuts are rich in alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that slows down bone loss and helps bone formation to continue. Nuts are also good sources of protein and other nutrients that contribute to keeping bones strong.
  • The Seeds of Good Bone Health All seeds are good sources of magnesium, a key nutrient in bone health. Pumpkin seeds are the top contender but flax seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are all good options and they give you lots of vitamins in the bargain. Sprinkle seeds on salads, roast them for snacks, or add them to recipes for a flavorful way to help keep your bones in good condition.
  • A Fish Story, Part 1: Salmon A 3-ounce serving of salmon has over 100% of your daily vitamin D needs. If you choose canned salmon with edible bones, you’ll also be getting plenty of calcium. Either way, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids are in the mix, so this is a win-win option.
  • A Fish Story, Part 2: Sardines These canned wonders have significantly high levels of both calcium and vitamin D. Add them to pastas and salads for their unique, savory taste and for their nutritional value.
  • A Fish Story, Part 3: Tuna Three ounces of canned tuna give you about 39% of your daily dose of vitamin D. As popular as it is affordable, tuna is also an excellent source of other bone-friendly nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Calcium Rich Veggies, Part 1: Broccoli Veggies can’t give you all the calcium you need, but broccoli does a great job of adding to your cache of both calcium and vitamin D along with vitamin C, fiber, and cancer-fighting nutrients. Raw or steamed, broccoli does your bones good and keeps you healthy in other ways as well.
  • Calcium-Rich Veggies, Part 2: Leafy Greens Dark, leafy greens are arguably the best non-dairy sources of calcium. Try kale, arugula, watercress, and collard greens either cooked or in your salads. However, while spinach gives you iron and other nutrients, it contains oxalic acid. This makes its calcium content unavailable for absorption by the human body.