Foods That Build Strong Bones
Calcium and Vitamin D
Eating right for bone health basically comes down to two nutrients: calcium and vitamin D. Calcium, a mineral that’s essential to proper body function, is stored in your bones. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Not getting enough calcium in your diet can lead to fragile, brittle bones that are more prone to fractures and disease.
Click through the slideshow to find out which foods are high in calcium and vitamin D.
The “Got Milk?” campaign was more than just good marketing: One cup of milk has about 30 percent of the calcium you need daily, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). On top of that, the milk that’s sold in stores is typically fortified with vitamin D, making it a double-whammy when it comes to bone health.
Recipes that include milk:
Dark, Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens, such as kale, arugula, watercress, and collard greens are perhaps the best non-dairy sources of calcium. Although spinach is usually included in this group, it contains oxalic acid, which makes the human body unable to absorb its calcium.
Try these recipes:
Vitamin D is rarely found in nature. However, fatty fish such as salmon are probably the best source out there. One serving of salmon will provide you all the vitamin D you need in a day. Canned salmon includes the softer (edible) bones of the fish, meaning it’s loaded with calcium.
Of all the tree nuts you can find at the grocery store, almonds have the highest amount of calcium per serving. You can get the same calcium benefits in butter form. As a bonus, almond butter has no cholesterol and is lower in fat and higher in protein than peanut butter.
For a delicious recipe using almond butter, try Almond Chocolate Mousse.
It’s pretty simple: Cheese is made from milk. Milk has lots of calcium. Ergo, cheese has lots of calcium. With a wide variety to choose from, mozzarella is particularly high in calcium. For a healthier option, try cheese made from skim milk.
Try these recipes that include cheese:
Yogurt is an ancient culinary product, dating back as far as 2,000 BC. Due to yogurt’s preparation process, this dietary staple actually contains significantly more calcium than the milk from which it is made. One 8-ounce serving of low-fat yogurt provides a full 42 percent of your daily calcium needs, according to the ODS.
Try the Orange Dream Smoothie.
Tuna is another fatty fish loaded with healthful vitamin D. It also contains high amounts of other beneficial nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. And because it comes canned, it’s easy to find, easy on the wallet, and simple to add to your diet.
Try our recipe for Low-Fat Tuna Casserole, an updated take on a classic, home-style dish.
Good news for breakfast lovers: eggs contain a nice amount of vitamin D and can improve bone health. Vitamin D is found in the yolks only, so if you tend to eat egg white omelets, you’ll have to get your vitamin D elsewhere. Another breakfast item, orange juice, is often fortified with vitamin D and calcium.
For a delicious egg-based dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, try the Spinach & Ham Quiche.
Of all the non-dairy sources of calcium out there, broccoli is second to dark, leafy greens. And broccoli isn’t only bone-healthy—it’s an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and nutrients that contain cancer-fighting properties.
Try these recipes that include broccoli:
More Ways to Improve Bone Health
Getting enough calcium in your diet is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your bones. As you age, your body will continue to need calcium to keep your bones strong and dense.
But it’s not the only thing you can—or should—do. Check out these 10 Tips to Increase Bone Strength, and read about these 7 Common Osteoporosis Myths so that you can be better informed about your bone health.