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Home/Blog/Best Foods for Bone Health, Plus Other Ways to Support Healthy Bone Density

Best Foods for Bone Health, Plus Other Ways to Support Healthy Bone Density

By Joe Boland

March 21, 2024

Foods for bone health

Our bones are the foundation of our bodies, literally. They provide structure, support our movement and protect our organs, and you can support healthy bones by consuming more foods for bone health.

Just like any building, our bones need proper care to stay strong throughout our lives. This is especially true as we age, when maintaining healthy bone density can become more of a focus.

That’s where, coupled with regular weight-bearing exercise and other lifestyle factors, bone-building foods come into play. As always, however, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen.

What Is Bone Density?

Bone density refers to the amount of bone mineral packed into your bones. Think of it like how tightly packed the bricks are in a wall. Higher bone density means stronger bones.

Bone density is influenced by various factors, including:

  • Genetics

  • Age

  • Sex

  • Hormonal levels

  • Nutrition

  • Physical activity

  • Health status

Bone Health as We Age

As we get older, our bodies naturally become less efficient at producing new bone tissue. This can lead to a gradual decrease in bone density, which is normal.

This is especially true for women, who can typically see bone density impacted after menopause compared to men.

There are a number of factors that can impact bone density and bone health as we normally age, including:

  • Decreased hormone levels, especially estrogen in women after menopause

  • Loss of calcium and other minerals from our bones

  • Decreased physical activity

  • Health status

Can you increase bone density after 60? Absolutely! While bone density naturally decreases with age, it's never too late to take steps to focus on or even improve bone health.

By prioritizing weight-bearing exercise and a healthy bone-supporting diet, you can strengthen your healthy bones well into your golden years. (It's also important to eat the right foods for joint health.)

Remember, a strong foundation starts from within. By fueling your body with the right nutrients and keeping your bones active, you can help ensure a lifetime of strength and mobility.

Ways to Support Healthy Bone Density

What is the best way to increase bone density? There's no magic bullet for rapidly increasing bone density. However, consistently incorporating the strategies below can have the most significant impact.

1. Eat These Foods

Eating a diet rich in bone-building nutrients plays a crucial role in maintaining strong bones. Which foods support healthy bone density? Some of the best foods for bone density and bone health include:

  • Calcium-rich foods: Calcium benefits are very real when it comes to bone health. This mineral is one of the most important nutrients to support healthy bones, for it's the building block of bone. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are great sources, but don't forget calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives and leafy green vegetables, like kale, spinach, broccoli and collard greens.

  • Vitamin D foods: Our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are packed with vitamin D, and some dairy products and cereals are fortified with it as well. You can also get vitamin D through moderate sun exposure, but be sure to talk to your doctor about safe sun practices.

  • Foods high in vitamin K: Vitamin K helps activate proteins that are essential for bone formation. Leafy green vegetables and fermented foods like natto are good sources.

  • High-protein foods: Protein is another important building block for bones. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and lentils are all excellent sources.

  • Fruits and vegetables: These provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that contribute to support bone health and healthy bone density.

Other bone-building foods that research shows support healthy bone density include prunes, dried figs, canned salmon, plant milks, tofu, almonds and almond butter, white canned beans, cabbage, okra, soybeans, nuts, bread and fortified flour foods, fish with edible bones like sardines, fortified rice and oat drinks, sesame seeds, tahini, pulses, dried apricots, and raisins.

What drink is good for bone density? Milk is a classic choice because it's a natural source of both calcium and vitamin D. However, there's no single "bone density drink."

Focus on incorporating a variety of bone-building foods and drinks into your diet. Fortified plant-based milks and orange juice can also be good options.

You also want to monitor vitamin A intake, as some research suggests too much vitamin A can have a negative impact on healthy bones and bone density.

2. Perform Weight-Bearing Exercise

Weight-bearing exercises — such as walking, running, dancing and resistance training — support healthy bone formation and healthy bone density. Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can help strengthen bones and potentially maintain healthy bone density.

Low-impact alternatives can also support healthy bones, such as:

  • gentle aerobics

  • walking briskly (indoors or outdoors)

  • elliptical training

  • climbing stairs

3. Make Smart Lifestyle Choices

Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption is important for bone health. Smoking can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium, while excessive alcohol intake can potentially negatively affect bone density.

4. Get Screened

Regular bone density screenings, such as DXA scans, are recommended for older adults, especially postmenopausal women and individuals with a focus on maintaining healthy bone density. Early detection of bone density status allows for timely interventions to help maintain healthy bones and bone density.

5. Mitigate the Risk of Falling

Falls are a common cause of fractures in older adults, so taking steps to prevent falls is crucial for maintaining bone health. This includes removing hazards from the home, using assistive devices if needed, maintaining good balance and strength through exercise, and having regular vision check-ups.

By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of foods for healthy bones, staying active and addressing risk factors early, individuals can help support bone health and healthy bone density.

6. Try Resistance Training

Incorporate resistance training exercises using weights, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises to strengthen muscles and bones. (See how to build muscle, including after age 40.) Focus on exercises that target major muscle groups, including squats, lunges, push-ups and weightlifting.

7. Incorporate Balance and Flexibility Exercises

Include activities that improve balance and flexibility, such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates. These exercises can help reduce the risk of falls by enhancing stability and coordination.

8. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being underweight can negatively impact bone health and density, while excess body weight can strain the bones and bone density, too.

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