ask the nutritionist: eating for bone health

One of the things I love about “nutrition” is that you can change and improve your diet to protect your health and actually see the benefits making a difference.

One of the many health topics women need to be aware of is bone health. I will admit, it is a topic that I’ve kind of ignored in the past, but because osteoporosis runs in my family, it is a topic that I can no longer be ignorant of. We often think of just getting enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis and while that is certainly part of the prevention plan, having a glass of milk won’t cut it on its own.

Osteoporosis literally means “porus bones” and it causes bones to become very fragile and brittle.  Low bone density is also problematic and can lead to osteoporosis.

What can we do to protect ourselves against it?

“How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass you attained in your 20s and early 30s (peak bone mass) and how rapidly you lose it later. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.” source

I have a few years left to build up my bone mass and then its all about the maintenance. This is one of the reasons it is so important to be aware of bone health now – later in life, you can only maintain it, not build it!

The three main ways to build up and maintain bone mass are:

  • calcium: the recommendations change throughout a lifetime, if unable to reach these levels through food – a calcium supplement is recommended

Up to 1 year old — 210 to 270 milligrams (mg)

Age 1 to 3 years — 500 mg

Age 4 to 8 years — 800 mg

Age 9 to 18 years — 1,300 mg

Age 19 to 50 years — 1,000 mg

Age 51 and older — 1,200 mg


  • vitamin D: helps your body absorb calcium – your body can make on its own with sunlight, and it is also present in some foods but I also take a supplement because I don’t spend that much time in the sun. Optimal amounts are not yet known, aim for about 1,000 IU’s/day

  • exercise: helps build strong bones as well as slow bone loss – aim for weight bearing exercise and strength-training in addition to regular cardiovascular exercise

So what do we eat?

We all know that most dairy products are a good source of calcium, but many of us can not tolerate dairy or avoid it entirely.

  • Good sources of Calcium: dairy products, fish, tofu and tempeh processed with calcium, calcium-fortified foods, greens like kale, collards, mustard greens

Vitamin D as we know can be produced in our bodies with natural sunlight but there are also a few food sources that contain Vitamin D:

  • Good sources of Vitamin D: milk (most milk in the US is fortified with Vitamin D), eggs, fortified foods

Do you take precautions to ensure your bones are healthy?



Filed under ask the nutritionist, cheese, eggs, salad, vegan, vegetables, whole foods

12 responses to “ask the nutritionist: eating for bone health

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention ANutritionistEats: ask the nutritionist: eating for bone health: #food --

  2. I take about 1200 mg of calcium daily, plus D. I have very petite bones/structure and osteoporosis runs in my family as well. Also, the reason I started strength training a few years ago.

  3. I try to get calcium through my food, but I do also take a calcium supplement. I started taking a multivitamin a couple of months ago as a way to make sure I’m getting everything I need.

  4. I love this post! I am actually going to feature this tomorrow in my Friday Finds (a new weekly special with links to great articles I read throughout the week). My family has major issues with bones. My mother has degenerating bone disease and is actually missing a disk in her back now from it. I take vitamin D every day, along with a multivitamin, and I drink lots of milk! 🙂

  5. After years of anorexia, I know for sure that my bones aren’t at their optimum health right now. Are there ways to recover from bone loss, instead of just prevention measures?

    • Emily

      I would try to build up your bone mass now as much as you can, your 20’s and 30’s are the time to do it! Make sure you are getting calcium, Vit D and are doing some weight-bearing exercise like strength training.


      Sent from my iPhone

  6. Pingback: Will Strontium Rebuild My Bones? :: Reverse Osteopenia & Osteoporosis Now

  7. actorsdiet

    i take supplements. i probably o.d. on calcium. my mom in law has osteoporosis so i’m trying to prevent it. (i know we’re not blood related)

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  9. Pingback: Perfect exercise plan for a 13 year old? |

  10. This is good information. I’v grown up with Asthma and I know the medication isn’t good for your bones. I NEED to eat for bone health! 🙂

  11. Pingback: How can I convert bone scan (DEXA) T-scores to Z-scores? | Credit and Loan

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