Bone-Strengthening Foods to Fight Osteoporosis

Adding these vitamin D- and calcium-rich foods is good for your bones and joints.

Bone-Strengthening Foods to Fight Osteoporosis

Kids are often told to drink their milk for stronger bones, but what about postmenopausal women? They also need milk and other calcium-rich foods to ward off osteoporosis. It's a condition that causes bones to become thin, brittle and susceptible to breaks, and is common in women who have gone through menopause. About 30 percent of postmenopausal women in the United States 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 food is good for bones and joints? 
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 calcium-rich foods that also contain 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 eat bone-strengthening foods to maintain a healthy diet, especially as you age. 

Calcium-rich foods 
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 

Other osteoporosis-fighting foods include those 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. But, 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. In addition to bone-strengthening foods, weight-bearing exercise is another effective way to fight off osteoporosis. 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. 

Medically reviewed in December 2018. Updated in March 2021. 

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