Bone-Strengthening Foods to Fight Osteoporosis

Bone-Strengthening Foods to Fight Osteoporosis

These foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can help strengthen your bones.

Kids are often told to drink their milk for stronger bones, but what about postmenopausal women? Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become thin, brittle and susceptible to breaks, is common in women who have gone through menopause. About 30 percent of postmenopausal women in the US have osteoporosis; 40 percent of them will suffer at least one fracture.

There are some risk factors you can’t control, like gender, age, family history and body frame. But there’s at least one risk factor you can control: your diet.

What bones need
Our bones serve as scaffolding for our bodies. Because the 206 bones in the body have to fight gravity every day, they’re under constant stress—and constantly undergoing repair. In fact, bone cells have such a high turnover rate, the skeleton of a young person will have completely different cells every four years.

Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, can help improve bone strength and density and reduce the effects of osteoporosis later in life. Bone density, a measurement of how much calcium and other minerals are in your bones, usually peaks in your 20s or 30s, so it’s important to maintain a bone-healthy diet, especially as you age.

Foods high in calcium
Most adults need between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium every day depending on age. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, try these foods:

  • Milk (8 oz glass): 300 mg per serving
  • Yogurt (6 oz): 250 mg
  • Cheese (1 oz): 195 mg to 335 mg (harder cheese has more calcium than softer cheese)
  • Cottage cheese (1/2 cup): 130 mg
  • Ice cream (1/2 cup): 100 mg
  • Soy milk (8 oz glass): 300 mg
  • Dark leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach (1/2 cup cooked): 50 to 135 mg
  • Beans (1/2 cup cooked): 60 to 80 mg

You can also eat foods that are fortified with calcium, like orange juice, tofu and breakfast cereal.

What about vitamin D?
Vitamin D is measured in international units (IUs); most adults should get between 600 and 800 IUs per day. So, what foods are best for vitamin D? Most foods don’t contain much vitamin D—the best source for vitamin D is actually sunlight. You only need about 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week to reap the benefits. You can supplement your vitamin D intake with these foods:

  • Swordfish: 566 IUs per serving
  • Salmon: 447 IUs
  • Canned tuna: 154 IUs
  • Fortified orange juice: 137 IUs
  • Fortified milk: 115 to 124 IUs
  • Eggs: 41 IUs

Don’t forget the iron
Iron weights, that is. Weight-bearing exercise is another effective way to strengthen your bones. By challenging your bones with weight and gravity, they’ll get stronger and thicker. Running, walking and resistance exercises like weight training are best for bone strength. Not sure where to start? Check out these five exercises for strong bones.

Medically reviewed in December 2018.

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