11 Foods for Strengthening Bones

These foods are rich in calcium and vitamin D so you can grow and maintain healthy, strong bones.

Growing and maintaining healthy, strong bones is crucial—and that's an understatement.

It's estimated that you reach peak bone mass around age 30. But there's good news: You can play a significant role in your bone health. This may mean that you either slow down or prevent osteoporosis (a disease characterized by brittle and breaking bones).

Learn more about how you can strengthen your bones and what can help, including the foods you'll want to add to your diet.

What Can You Do To Help Your Bone Health?

Exercise and physical activity can keep bones healthy from childhood through adulthood. Kids and teens should aim for an hour of physical activity daily, while adults need about two hours and 30 minutes each week. Ideally, you would mix in exercises that are:

  • Weight-bearing (e.g., walking, running, dancing, team sports)
  • Strength training (e.g., lifting free weights, body-weight regimens)
  • Non-weight-bearing (e.g., cycling, swimming)

You may also like yoga, pilates, or tai chi to improve flexibility, core strength, and balance. Additionally, a diet full of calcium and vitamin D can help if you develop osteoporosis. Getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D may slow the disease and prevent fractures.

How Are Calcium and Vitamin D Helpful in Strengthening Your Bones?

Calcium is a mineral that supports your bone and teeth structure and hardness. About 98% of your body's calcium can be found in your bones. The rest of your body sort of uses your bones as a calcium bank.

Vitamin D is found naturally in a few foods, including fish and mushrooms, but it's mainly found in fortified foods. Your body also produces it when your skin is in the sun. Vitamin D improves calcium absorption and bone growth and helps your muscles, nerves, and immune system.

You want to make sure that you get enough of each nutrient to maintain healthy bones. Adults should aim to get the following recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D:

  • Adults up to age 50: 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 600 international units of vitamin D
  • Adults ages 51 to 70: 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 600 international units of vitamin D
  • Adults aged 71 and older: 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800 international units of vitamin D

You can meet your calcium and vitamin D requirements by trying these 11 foods for healthy bones.

Dairy Products

Dairy products—like milk, yogurt, and cheese—can be excellent sources of calcium to help strengthen your bones.


Milk has several nutrients—18 out of the 22 that are most important for human health, including calcium. It is also considered one of the richest sources of naturally occurring calcium. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, different types of milk contain various amounts of calcium. Some examples include:

  • 1 cup of 1% milk: 305 milligrams of calcium
  • 1 cup of skim milk: 298 milligrams of calcium
  • 1 cup of buttermilk: 284 milligrams of calcium


Another good source of naturally occurring calcium is yogurt. Dairy-based fat-free and low-fat yogurts can provide between 30% and 45% of calcium's daily value. Specifically, 8 ounces of low or nonfat plain yogurt has 448-488 milligrams of calcium, while 8 ounces of non- or low-fat plain Greek yogurt has 250-261 milligrams of calcium.

Yogurt also contains other nutrients, such as:

  • Vitamin D (in fortified versions)
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B12
  • Riboflavin
  • Iodine


You may be happy to know cheese can be a calcium source that provides other minerals, vitamins, and protein. Each kind of cheese packs a different punch so let's break it down. The estimated calcium contents for the following cheeses are:

  • 1/4 cup of diced Swiss cheese: 294 milligrams
  • 1/4 cup of nonfat shredded mozzarella cheese: 272 milligrams
  • 1/4 cup of diced, low-fat American cheese: 240 milligrams
  • 1/4 cup of diced cheddar cheese: 234 milligrams
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese: 213 milligrams
  • 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese: 337 milligrams
  • 4 ounces of cottage cheese: 125 milligrams

As much as you may want to eat cheese for its calcium, it's a good idea to eat it in moderation. Cheese can be high in salt and saturated fats—two things that can raise blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (aka the bad cholesterol).

Dairy Alternatives

Maybe you don't eat or drink dairy products. You may be lactose intolerant or choose not to consume animal products. Don't fret. You can still find many ways to get calcium and vitamin D.

Some plant-based alternatives to dairy milk that provide nutrients for making bones stronger include:

  • 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk: 301 milligrams of calcium and 119 international units of vitamin D
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk: 442 milligrams of calcium and 54 international units of vitamin D
  • 1 cup of rice milk: 283 milligrams of calcium and 51 international units of vitamin D

Check the food labels on packages to determine the calcium and vitamin D content for these or other products you plan to purchase. How much of the nutrients dairy alternatives have can vary between foods or drinks.

Certain Types of Fish

These three types of fish can load you up with calcium and vitamin D (and lots of protein) to help you maintain healthy bones.


Sardines sometimes get a bad reputation, but just 3.75 ounces of canned sardines have 351 milligrams of calcium and 178 international units of vitamin D. You can enjoy sardines straight from the can, on a pizza, or mixed in a pasta or salad dish. You can also try them on crackers with mustard.


Salmon often gets coined a "superfood" because it boasts numerous health benefits, one of which is keeping your bones healthy. A 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon has about 13 milligrams of calcium but a whopping 447 IU of vitamin D.

Salmon is also famous for its omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for heart, eye, and brain health, as well as maintaining your energy level.


Tuna dishes are inexpensive dinner staples (tuna melt or casserole, anyone?), and for good reason. One can of tuna provides 26 milligrams of calcium and 67 international units of vitamin D. Although lower in vitamin D than sardines and salmon, tuna is still a healthy source of vitamin D to include in your diet.

Egg Yolks

Egg yolks can help your bone health too. Just one large egg yolk provides 22 milligrams of calcium and 37 international units of vitamin D. Plus, if you eat the egg white, you'll get about 6 grams of protein from each large egg.

Tofu (With Calcium Sulfate)

If you're vegan or just love tofu (it's delicious, after all), you can find tofu prepared with calcium sulfate. Tofu with calcium sulfate can have as much as 961 milligrams of calcium in a 1-cup serving. Calcium amounts in tofu can vary depending on the brand, so it's a good idea to check your food label.


Soybeans, also known as edamame, make a great snack or appetizer with the bonus of helping your bones. The USDA reports just one cup of cooked soybeans has 175 milligrams of calcium. Adding edamame to your soups and salads is a great way to boost the calcium and protein you get.

Dark Leafy Vegetables

Some people don't realize that dark leafy vegetables—kale, mustard and collard greens, spinach, and bok choy—can be loaded with calcium to support bone health. The calcium contents of these leafy greens are as follows:

  • 1 cup of cooked kale: 177 milligrams
  • 1 cup of cooked mustard greens: 165 milligrams
  • 1 cup of cooked collard greens: 268 milligrams
  • 1 cup of cooked spinach: 245 milligrams
  • 1 cup of cooked bok choy: 185 milligrams


Like humans, mushrooms can create vitamin D when they're in the sun (so the next time you see a batch of wild mushrooms, you can think of them as sunbathing).

A review of mushrooms as a source of vitamin D found that if eaten before the "best-before" date, mushrooms can provide higher levels of vitamin D2 than most foods. The review authors said this could mean mushrooms may be the only non-animal, unfortified source of vitamin D.

A downside? Most commercially sold mushrooms are grown in darkness and therefore boast little vitamin D2. And you should not eat wild mushrooms unless an expert has identified them as safe.

Certain Nuts and Seeds

It's possible for nuts and seeds to play a role in bone health. Some nuts and seeds are also good sources of calcium, like almonds, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds.

For example, 1 cup of almonds delivers 385 milligrams of calcium, and 1 cup of sunflower seeds contains 109 milligrams.

Besides providing you with calcium, nuts and seeds can offer other nutrients such as potassium and magnesium. Magnesium, in particular, is another mineral good for bones, as it helps make the bones in your body. Also, individuals who consume higher amounts of magnesium have stronger, healthier bones.

Fortified Cereals

Most grains do not contain calcium naturally. But since cereal is such a breakfast staple, calcium-fortified options exist to help you keep your bones healthy. There are different ways to enjoy these cereals, like:

  • Eating the cereals dry
  • Adding them to your dessert
  • Adding them to your choice of milk for some additional calcium

A 1/2-cup serving (slightly more than the recommended adult portion) of General Mills Total Crunch Whole Wheat Flakes has 1,665 milligrams of calcium.

This amount of calcium is well over your daily recommended need, which may seem fantastic. However, your body can't absorb that much calcium at one time. So, you may want to consider spreading out your calcium-dense foods throughout the day.

When choosing fortified cereals, look for options with lower sugar content. Research has found 11-13% of daily total sugar intake can come from ready-to-eat cereals. It's also possible for fortified foods to have high amounts of added sugars.

Recommendations from programs and agencies can help point you toward some good options. For example, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) recommends that breakfast cereals contain 21.2 grams of sugar or less per 100 grams (about a 3/4 cup) of dry cereal. The FDA also says that cereals labeled "healthy" should have no more than 2.5 grams of added sugars.

Fortified Juices

Juices have calcium-fortified options, too, so you can keep your bones healthy. In fact, 1 cup of fortified 100% grapefruit juice has 350 milligrams of calcium, and 1 cup of calcium-fortified 100% orange juice has 349 milligrams of calcium.

Sugar content is important to watch for with fortified juices too. Some fortified drinks may contain a lot of added sugars, and 100% fruit juices might have as much total sugar as sugar-sweetened beverages.

If you have a specific fortified juice you plan to buy, check its nutrition label. No more than 10% of your daily calories should come from sugars. A good rule of thumb is to look at how much sugar is in one serving of the juice.

For example, in a 240-millileter (8-ounce) serving of 100% calcium-fortified orange juice from concentrate, there are 110 calories and 22 grams of sugar. If your daily calorie needs are around 1,400 calories, 10% of those calories would be around 140 calories for sugar.

A serving of that juice would keep you under the recommended sugar calorie limit—but only if other foods and drinks you consumed had very low or no sugar. So, it would be helpful to aim for unsweetened or less sweetened juices that are healthier.

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

A Quick Review

Besides being physically active, you can keep your bones strong by ensuring you have enough calcium and vitamin D. The nutrients can be found in things you eat and drink, such as dairy products or alternatives, fortified cereals, and dark leafy green vegetables.

But if you're unsure if you're getting enough calcium and vitamin D, talk with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian.

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