5 Foods and Drinks That Support Bone Health Apart from a Glass of Milk

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5 Foods and Drinks That Support Bone Health Apart from a Glass of Milk

The Most Important Nutrients for Bone Health

Like many aspects of well-being, your diet and bone health are related. “What we eat has a direct impact on bone health,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RD, Los Angeles–based registered dietitian. “Some foods provide nutrients that replenish and strengthen bones, while others diminish and destroy healthy bone mass.”

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If taking care of your bones is your goal, certain foods may be worth avoiding or enjoying moderation. “Too much sodium, caffeine, and alcohol can hurt bones,” she explains.

We were probably all taught as kids to drink plenty of milk to build strong bones, and there’s truth behind that. Dairy products are rich sources of calcium, and approximately 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in bones, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Vitamin D is also important, since it helps the body absorb calcium, Moon says.

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In addition to calcium and vitamin D, Moon emphasizes the importance of the following vitamins and minerals to support healthy bones:

Protein

Magnesium

Phosphorus

Potassium

Fluoride

Manganese

Copper

Boron

Iron

Zinc

Vitamin A

Vitamin K

Vitamin C

B vitamins

“It takes a village of nutrients,” Moon says. “It’s easier to get that wide variety of nutrients in foods, which naturally have a mix of nutrients, [rather] than in supplements.”

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Top Foods and Drinks for Bone Health

Soy Milk

Those with dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, or other dairy-free diets can rejoice—soy milk that’s fortified with calcium can be a great bone-friendly substitution. “Many soy milks are fortified with calcium for strong bones, and soy is a complete protein, which further contributes to bone health,” Moon says. “Check the nutrition label to ensure you’re getting at least 10 percent of the daily value of calcium per serving.”

Adults need up to 1,300 mg of calcium per day, according to the National Institutes of Health, so aim for 130 mg of calcium per serving of soy milk.

Earlier research suggests that soy foods can be part of a bone-building diet since they can improve markers of bone health and may reduce the risk of bone fractures. A 2020 review found that soy foods are especially beneficial for postmenopausal women. Soy protein can improve bone density quality and may prevent a bone condition called osteosarcopenia, researchers note.

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ther soy products, such as edamame, tempeh, miso, and tofu, may have similar bone health benefits.

Yogurt

With calcium hailed as the best nutrient for bones, it’s no surprise that calcium-rich dairy products like yogurt may help build strong bones. A cup of yogurt provides 296 mg of calcium, which is about 23 percent of your daily need, per USDA data. What’s more, yogurt is a great source of other bone-building nutrients, such as protein, phosphorus, zinc, and B vitamins, and greek yogurt is an especially rich source of gut-friendly bacteria. The fermented aspect of yogurt may also help. The prebiotics and probiotics found in yogurt may contribute to bone health by increasing calcium absorption and bone metabolism, according to a 2017 article.

If you plan on upping your calcium intake, Moon has an important warning: “The body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time, so stagger your intake throughout the day to get the recommended 1,300 mg.”

Getting enough calcium is important, but there is a limit. There’s some evidence that too much calcium can weaken your bones, though this usually only happens with high doses of calcium supplements, Moon adds. So enjoy calcium-rich foods, but don’t go overboard.

Sardines

Sardines are an extremely healthy type of seafood to eat, supporting healthy bones with their high calcium and vitamin D content. “Sardines are underappreciated in America,” Moon says. “They provide bone-building calcium in their edible bones, plus vitamin D and protein.” Since they’re often tinned, sardines are also a convenient, shelf-stable, and affordable source of nutrients.

According to USDA data, a can of sardines offers 351 mg of calcium, or about 27 percent of your daily need. They also contain 4.42 mcg of vitamin D, which is roughly equivalent to 29 percent of your daily requirement, based on the 15 mcg recommendation of the National Institutes of Health.

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There’s a lot of reasons to love sardines, but if you need ideas on how to eat more of them, Moon has some thoughts. “Try mashing up sardines into a pasta sauce for some stealth umami—they break apart and integrate into the sauce, so the only way you know they’re in there is the amazing flavor,” she says.

Eggs

Eggs are an excellent source of protein and vitamin D, which may help explain their potential bone health benefits. “They’re an easy way to load up on nutrients important for bone health, such as vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, and magnesium,” Moon says, adding that they get bonus points for brain-boosting lutein and choline.

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There’s not a lot of research on whether eggs are good for bone health, but the existing research is promising. A 2021 study found a positive association between egg consumption and bone mass density, with researchers considering the high choline content to be partly responsible. A low intake of choline can increase the risk of osteoporosis, per a 2021 study.

Eggs are a delicious source of nutrients ane a favorite at the breakfast table, but some experts warn that you can have too much of a good thing. Eggs can be a concentrated source of cholesterol, so the American Heart Association recommends a limit of one whole egg or two egg whites per day, particularly for those who are at risk for high cholesterol levels.

Fruits and Vegetables

There are a million reasons to eat more fruits and veggies every single day, and supporting your bone health is one of them. The Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation recommends eating fruits and vegetables rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Here are some the best options that support healthy bones:

Dark leafy greens

Sweet potatoes

Bell peppers

Cruciferous vegetables

Oranges

Bananas

Artichokes

Tomatoes

Pineapples

Strawberries

Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables ensures you’re getting an array of bone-building nutrients.

Contributed to Lacey Muinos

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