Let’s play a fast phrase affiliation recreation. What meals do you affiliate with wholesome bones? Is it milk? And what does milk have in it that builds robust bones? Most individuals assume “calcium.”

When you consider wholesome bones, you in all probability flash again to the extremely profitable “Got Milk?” advert marketing campaign, which started flooding tv and different media in 1993. Its message? Drinking calcium-rich cow’s milk is one of the best factor you are able to do in your bones. Boomers and Gen Xers discovered that dairy was one of many “four basic food groups” as a result of calcium is so essential to skeletal well being.

It seems that each one this advertising is simply that: advertising — not science. Not solely is dairy consumption not the savior of bone well being, consuming milk truly seems to improve the chance of bone fractures as you age. And there are different rather more essential, if much less well-publicized components, which have a a lot better influence on osteoporosis prevention and the power of your skeleton.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is usually referred to as a silent illness as a result of many individuals don’t know they’ve it till they find yourself with a fracture. Others could discover their backbone beginning to curve, or that they’re getting shorter, which may point out bone loss.

The title “osteoporosis” interprets to “porous bone.” Osteoporosis is a bone illness that happens when your physique loses an excessive amount of bone, makes too little bone, or each. As a consequence, bones turn into weaker, spongier, and susceptible to fracturing. This signifies that they might break rather more simply when you fall. In critical circumstances, osteoporosis can put your bones in danger for breaking from minor issues like sneezing or bumping into one thing that might in any other case simply trigger a small bruise.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis causes two million damaged bones and $19 billion in associated healthcare prices yearly. Currently, there are almost 54 million Americans dwelling with osteoporosis.

Although osteoporosis largely impacts older individuals, the method of bone loss sometimes begins a lot earlier in life. Bone mass stops growing round age 30, after which life-style decisions and habits can both retain wholesome bones or begin selling bone weak point and porosity that will sooner or later lead to a scientific analysis. That’s why, even when you’re in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, it’s essential to undertake habits that can set you up for a sturdy, bone-healthy previous age.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Elderly people hiking

Many components can contribute to the method by which bones weaken over time.

Some of the components are out of our management. These embrace being over the age of 50, being feminine, being postmenopausal, having a household historical past of osteoporosis, and having a small body. Hormone adjustments that happen naturally with age may improve osteoporosis threat, particularly the rise in parathyroid hormone, which controls calcium and phosphorus ranges in your bones.

There are additionally some life-style components we do have management over that may contribute to osteoporosis threat. Smoking, main an inactive life-style, being below or chubby, consuming extreme alcohol, not consuming sufficient fruits and veggies, and consuming giant quantities of protein, fats, and sodium, in addition to not getting sufficient calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, or vitamin B12, can all increase your threat for osteoporosis.

Certain drugs may promote bone loss. Some of those embrace steroids like glucocorticoids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to cut back abdomen acid, the category of antidepressants often called selective serotonin receptor inhibitors (SSRIs), some sort 2 diabetes meds (like thiazolidinediones), anticonvulsants, medicine to forestall blood clots (like heparin), and some chemotherapies. If you utilize one in every of these drugs, and aren’t certain the way it could also be impacting your bone well being, it’s a good suggestion to have a dialog with your doctor so you may make an knowledgeable alternative.

Pre-existing well being circumstances may put you at increased threat for osteoporosis. If you’ve Celiac illness, a number of myeloma, inflammatory bowel illness, most cancers, lupus, or kidney or liver illnesses, you could have a better chance of creating osteoporosis. This signifies that incorporating wholesome life-style habits — like a nutritious weight loss plan and weight-bearing train — is particularly essential for osteoporosis prevention.

How To Prevent Osteoporosis — Or Reverse it Completely

Father daughter prepping vegetarian dinner
iStock.com/Vladimir Vladimirov

When it comes to stopping and reversing osteoporosis, it turns on the market’s lots you are able to do. And all of it begins with the constructing blocks of your skeleton (and each different a part of your physique) — the meals you eat.

1. The Role of Calcium in Osteoporosis Prevention

Calcium is essentially the most plentiful mineral in your physique, and it’s discovered significantly in your bones and enamel.

Your bones endure fixed reworking, through which they handle calcium resorption and deposition wanted for bone formation and upkeep. As you age, your bones have a tendency to lose extra calcium than they preserve, which raises the chance of creating osteoporosis. This is particularly widespread amongst postmenopausal ladies.

How a lot calcium do you want? Here are the really useful dietary allowances (RDA) primarily based on age teams:

  • Zero-6 months = 200 mg
  • 7-12 months = 260 mg
  • 1-Three years = 700 mg
  • Four-Eight years = 1000 mg
  • 9-13 years = 1300 mg
  • 14-18 years = 1300 mg
  • 19-50 years = 1000 mg
  • 51-70 years = 1000 mg for males; 1200 mg for ladies
  • 71+ years = 1200 mg

Do You Need Dairy to Get Enough Calcium?

For a very long time, the dairy business, aided by authorities allocation of taxpayer cash, has been selling excessive calcium consumption as the important thing to osteoporosis prevention. And they touted milk merchandise as one of the best supply of calcium.

But research persistently fail to present excessive consumption of calcium in a weight loss plan helps forestall fractures. Enough is essential, however getting extra doesn’t appear to assist.

There’s little question that dairy is excessive in calcium. In truth, a cup of cow’s milk has over 300 grams. So aren’t dairy merchandise correlated with stronger bones?

If that have been true, you’ll count on that in locations the place individuals eat a lot of dairy — just like the US, Great Britain, and Scandinavia — you’ll discover little or no osteoporosis. However, once you take a look at the info, simply the alternative is true. Studies have proven that fracture charges are considerably increased amongst populations that eat increased quantities of dairy, in contrast to those who eat little to none of it.

Hip fracture rates correlated to dairy consumption
Figure 1: A Fitted Line Plot displaying the correlation between Hip Fracture charges per 100 000 and Dairy Consumption, utilizing information from 40 international locations in Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia, and Oceania.
Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/A-Fitted-Line-Plot-showing-the-correlation-between-Hip-Fracture-rates-per-100000-and_fig5_304609076

In the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, researchers tracked 77,761 ladies between 34 and 59 years of age for 12 years. They discovered that those that consumed essentially the most calcium from dairy meals broke extra bones than those that hardly ever drank milk.

OK, so possibly you don’t want dairy for robust bones. And research inform us that getting giant quantities of calcium won’t assist a lot, if in any respect. But getting sufficient calcium remains to be factor. And there are many plant meals that may do the job.

2. What Sources of Plant-Based Calcium Should You Be Eating?

Plant based calcium food sources

Some of one of the best plant-based sources of calcium are listed beneath. Note that each one calcium content material listed comes from the USDA FoodKnowledge Central nutrient database.

  • Green Leafy Vegetables
    • 1 cup free kale = 53 mg
    • 1 cup mustard greens = 64 mg
    • 1 cup romaine lettuce = 21 mg
  • Beans & Legumes
    • ½ cup canned kidney beans = 45 mg
    • ½ cup chickpeas = 80 mg
    • ½ cup cooked black beans = 40 mg
    • ½ cup cooked lentils = 20 mg
    • ⅔ cup inexperienced peas = 40 mg
  • Broccoli
    • 1 cup uncooked broccoli florets = 35 mg
    • ½ cup cooked chopped broccoli = 31 mg
  • Whole Grains
    • 1 cup cooked quinoa = 31 mg
    • 1 cup cooked oatmeal = 21 mg
    • 1 cup cooked amaranth = 116 mg
  • Dried Fruit
    • ¼ cup dried figs = 57 mg
    • 5 dried apricots = 20 mg
    • 1 field (28 g) raisins = 20 mg
  • Seeds and Nuts
    • 2 Tbsp chia seeds = 177 mg
    • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds = 176 mg
    • 1 ozalmonds = 75 mg
    • 1 ozhazelnuts = 56 mg
    • 1 oztahini = 42 mg
  • Soy Foods (go natural to keep away from GMOs)
    • ½ cup edamame = 80 mg
    • Three oztofu = 150 mg
    • 1 cup tempeh = 184 mg

Calcium Inhibitors

Some calcium-rich plant meals additionally comprise oxalic acid, or oxalates, that may inhibit the quantity of calcium absorbed from them. Plant meals with the very best quantities of oxalic acid embrace spinach, rhubarb, chard, and beet greens. Research signifies that calcium absorption could also be restricted to as little as 5% from these explicit greens. However, when you cook dinner chard or beet greens in with different greens corresponding to kale or collards, the oxalic acid within the chard or beet greens isn’t sufficient to compromise the worth of the calcium in these different greens.

Another compound that inhibits calcium absorption is phytic acid, which is discovered primarily in beans. Of course, beans are an ideal supply of different wholesome vitamins, like fiber, nutritional vitamins, and minerals, so their phytic acid content material isn’t a cause to keep away from consuming them. You can cut back phytate content material in dried beans by soaking them for a number of hours, or in a single day, earlier than draining and cooking them in new water. Furthermore, prolonged soaking and cooking of beans additionally seems to improve the bioavailability of minerals like calcium.

Three. What Foods Should You Avoid for Osteoporosis Prevention?

A collection of animal products on a table

While together with a wide range of the meals above helps meet your calcium wants, it’s additionally a good suggestion to keep away from sure meals that might work towards your calcium steadiness. Some meals and drinks may very well promote calcium loss out of your bones.


Foods which might be excessive in sodium, like quick meals and many packaged comfort merchandise, can promote calcium loss. This additionally means it is best to keep away from including extreme quantities of salt to meals you make at dwelling. Instead, use spices and different salt-free seasonings to add taste to do-it-yourself dishes.

Wheat Bran

Wheat bran is excessive in phytic acid, which, like oxalic acid present in sure leafy greens, inhibits calcium absorption. Interestingly, in contrast to beans, wheat bran is the one phytate-rich meals that seems to inhibit calcium absorption from different meals eaten on the similar time.


Alcohol consumption can lead to bone loss and improve your threat of osteoporosis. If you drink any alcoholic drinks, needless to say they’re no good friend to your skeleton.


Caffeine can cut back calcium absorption from meals and contribute to bone loss. If you’re frightened about osteoporosis, this might be a cause to restrict your consumption of caffeinated drinks like soda, tea, and espresso, and to not drink them inside two hours of consuming calcium-rich meals or taking calcium-containing dietary supplements.


While soda actually isn’t a well being meals, sure kinds of sodas can contribute extra to bone loss than others. In explicit, darkish colas appear to have essentially the most damaging influence. This is due to their increased phosphorus content material, which seems to hurt bone well being when consumed in giant quantities, particularly when you don’t get sufficient calcium in your weight loss plan.

Animal Protein

Animal protein may contribute to calcium loss by selling the leaching of calcium from bones. This seems to be due to the excessive sulfur-containing amino acid content material in animal proteins, particularly cystine and methionine. Sulfur from these sources converts to sulfate within the physique, which has an acidifying impact in your blood. Your physique interprets acidic blood as a life-threatening emergency and will do no matter it could actually as rapidly as it could actually to convey the blood pH again into the protected vary. The quickest means to do that is to dump calcium (and different alkaline minerals corresponding to magnesium) into the blood to neutralize the acid.

And the place do we’ve giant provides of calcium and magnesium? In our bones. That’s proper. Your physique will truly dissolve your bones to get a fast hit of calcium and magnesium into your bloodstream after you’ve consumed plenty of animal protein. There are two to 5 instances the quantity of sulfur-containing amino acids in meat and eggs as in contrast to plant meals.

How to Prevent Osteoporosis with Lifestyle Strategies

Family doing yoga to prevent osteoporosis

Diet is a giant a part of the anti-osteoporosis equation, but it surely’s not the entire story. It seems that common bodily exercise is a big issue, too.

The finest exercise in your bones is weight-bearing train. This means participating your physique in issues like strolling, operating, weight-lifting, dancing, climbing stairs, and taking part in tennis. These kinds of train make the most of your physique weight and encourage upkeep of your bone power. The pressure of muscular exercise stimulates your physique to shore up your bones. It’s a traditional case of “use it or lose it.”

How a lot train is finest? Many specialists suggest at the least 30 minutes of weight-bearing train per day, most days of the week.

If you’ve extreme osteoporosis, nevertheless, stay prudent. While it’s by no means too late to begin exercising, individuals with osteoporosis ought to begin slowly. Before starting a brand new train routine, it’s your decision to communicate with your well being care practitioner, who would possibly suggest doing a health evaluation and bone density take a look at to decide one of the best subsequent steps. Some of the actions most frequently really useful for individuals with osteoporosis embrace stability and steadiness workouts, flexibility and weight-bearing cardio workouts, and power coaching workouts that target the higher again. If you’ve superior osteoporosis, your physician could refer you to a bodily therapist to assist guarantee your train routine is protected and acceptable earlier than beginning.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D can prevent osteoporosis
iStock.com/Helin Loik-Tomson

Vitamin D performs an essential half in defending your bones. It’s vital to your physique’s skill to take up calcium, and it additionally helps the muscle tissue that you just want so as to keep away from falls. If you don’t get sufficient vitamin D, you’re extra seemingly to break bones as you age.

If you’ve by no means had your serum vitamin D ranges checked, it might be a good suggestion to request a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D take a look at. You can get it finished similtaneously different customary blood exams. While suggestions can range, the Endocrine Society reviewed out there research and concluded that between 40 and 60 ng/mL was optimum for each youngsters and adults. According to this metric, the overwhelming majority of individuals within the trendy world are poor.

To be sure to get sufficient vitamin D, there are two most important issues you are able to do. First, get loads of daylight. Your pores and skin produces vitamin D when uncovered to direct ultraviolet gentle. While suggestions for one of the best daylight routine range, research point out advantages from getting wherever between 10 and 30 minutes of solar publicity per day, over a lot of your physique. People who reside removed from the equator (the place the solar is weaker), or who’ve darkish pores and skin, may have extra solar publicity. Note that tanning beds usually are not really useful and shouldn’t exchange pure daylight, as they’ll improve your threat for pores and skin most cancers.

Direct, common solar publicity is not really useful as the first means for infants and infants to meet vitamin D necessities. Rather, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all breastfed infants and youngsters are supplemented with 400 IU of vitamin D day by day quickly after start.

Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D dietary supplements for adults are additionally an choice, particularly when you get your blood ranges checked and discover that they’re low. A typical complement routine for vitamin D upkeep is round 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. This quantity can usually be present in a multivitamin or by itself. Some individuals discover they do higher with 5,000 IUs, or much more, per day.

If you’re taking vitamin D dietary supplements, it’s clever to get your blood ranges checked periodically to guarantee that you’re getting sufficient and that you just aren’t overdosing. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and extreme quantities could construct up within the physique.

Note that almost all vitamin D3 dietary supplements come from animal merchandise like lanolin, present in sheep’s wool. However, vegan vitamin D3 dietary supplements have gotten extra out there and are often comprised of lichen, an organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria. Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is a man-made model that’s at all times vegan-friendly however isn’t often as efficient at elevating blood ranges of vitamin D as vitamin D3.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency may improve the chance of osteoporosis. A situation referred to as pernicious anemia — attributable to both insufficient consumption of vitamin B12, or inadequate uptake of the vitamin due to an absence of intrinsic issue within the intestine — is a threat issue for osteoporosis. Studies have discovered that B12 deficiency is particularly a threat issue amongst aged ladies. And offering supplementation to sufferers who’ve extreme osteoporosis and pernicious anemia causes a big enchancment in bone well being. Even although ladies are at an total increased threat for osteoporosis than males, a 2005 examine decided that males are at equal threat for low bone mineral density if they’re poor in B12. Although extra analysis is important on the correlation between vitamin B12 and bone well being, it does seem that B12 deficiency can increase your threat for bone loss.

While vegans and vegetarians are at increased threat of not getting sufficient B12, research present that many omnivores are poor, too. In truth, researchers at Tufts University concluded that 40% of all Americans are poor in B12. Fortunately, it’s straightforward and economical to add a B12 complement to your weight loss plan.

Healthy Habits Support Healthy Bones

How to prevent osteoporosis - strength and resistance training

Osteoporosis is a quite common situation, however even having threat components doesn’t imply you possibly can’t do issues to reduce your chance of creating it. Choosing calcium-rich, entire plant meals, incorporating common, weight-bearing workouts, having fun with a wholesome dose of daylight, and supplementing the place obligatory are nice habits to undertake. If you’ve an present medical situation, take drugs, or are struggling with habits which may be placing you at a better threat for poor bone well being, communicate with your well being care supplier about how to finest help your skeleton, so your skeleton can proceed to help you.

Three Recipes to Help Strengthen Bones and Prevent Osteoporosis

If you really need to maximize your calcium and total bone-supporting nutrient consumption, think about beginning with the Creamy Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Pudding for breakfast, which incorporates rock-star ingredient chia seeds. Then, transfer to the 12-Ingredient Superfood Salad Bowl for lunch with calcium superstars kale and edamame. Finally, finish the day with Kung Pao Tofu and Broccoli with calcium-rich… Well, are you able to guess the calcium stars right here? (Hint: It’s within the title!)

1. Creamy Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Pudding

Osteoporosis diet: Creamy vanilla chia pudding

Fun truth about chia seeds (in case you missed it above): they’ve a whopping 177 mg of calcium in simply two tablespoons! When it comes to nuts and seeds, chia seeds are powerhouses. This chia pudding for 2 affords all of that calcium and extra! Add some plant-based milk to it, and you’ve your self a scrumptious bone-building deal with.

2. 12-Ingredient Superfood Salad Bowl

Osteoporosis diet: 12 ingredient superfood salad

How many bone-building vitamins are you able to efficiently squeeze into one bowl? Lots! While kale and edamame stand-out as diet heroes given their calcium content material, this salad can be packed with magnesium from nuts and seeds and protein from hemp and walnuts — each of that are important vitamins for supporting bone well being.

Three. Kung Pao Tofu and Broccoli

Osteoporosis diet: Kung Pao Tofu and Broccoli

Not solely is that this dish easy to make and bursting with taste, but it surely’s additionally jam-packed with calcium given the 2 stars of the present, natural tofu and broccoli. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on prime for an additional calcium bonus!


While the chance of osteoporosis and bone loss will increase as you age, you possibly can assist forestall it, and in some circumstances, reverse its course by paying particular consideration to life-style components corresponding to weight loss plan and train. In explicit, plant meals excessive in calcium, vitamin D, and B12 will strengthen and preserve bone well being. Even when you don’t at the moment have osteoporosis, a little bit little bit of prevention now can go a great distance in making certain a wholesome future.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • What are your favourite calcium-rich plant meals?
  • What are your favourite types of weight-bearing train?
  • Do you make any life-style decisions with osteoporosis prevention in thoughts?

Feature picture: iStock.com/quickshooting

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