Food for Bone Health

Other Important Bone-Building Nutrients

CalciumNutrition, healing food, strength training, and exercise can prevent osteoporosis risk factors and lead to better bone health.

Adult women need 1000-1200 mg of calcium a day. I suggest 2-4 servings of high calcium food each day and supplements to meet the rest of your needs. Calcium with D supplementation reduces fracture rates. The following foods are high in calcium:

  • Dairy products (low fat, but cottage cheese isn’t a great source)
  • Soy products
  • Fish canned with bones (salmon, sardines)
  • Dark leafy greens especially cabbage family (listed in order of calcium content)Kelp or seaweed. The calcium content varies, so you don’t know unless you have a labeled product. Still, seaweed is a good source of many minerals important for bone density.
      • Best sources: collard greens, bok choy, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, broccoli, and dandelion greens
      • Good sources, but not as easily absorbed: parsley, chard, spinach, and raw dark green lettuce

Vitamin D3

1000-2000 IU. It’s now recommended that we get at least 1000 IUs of vitamin D daily, especially in the winter.  See Recent Findings About Vitamin D and Our Health  for details about these recommendations. Vitamin D is available from brief exposure to sun from spring to fall equinox, the following food sources, and supplements (including vitamin D-enriched foods).

  • Cold water fish (300-400 mg per 3-4 ounce serving): salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines (contaminants may be a problem)
  • Liver and fish oil, cod liver oil: 1 T = 1360 IU
  • Eggs: 1 yolk = 25 IU
  • Shitaki & morel mushrooms

Other Important Bone-Building Nutrients

Magnesium: RDA 250 – 400

Sources: whole grains and legumes (especially split peas, lentils, and soy), almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, beets, chard, collards, spinach, and kelp

Phosphorus: equal amount as calcium

Plentiful in whole foods diet (soy, other legumes, whole grains, dairy, nuts and seeds, etc.).

Excessive amounts in processed foods and meats cause calcium loss.

Potassium: recommended amount = 3.5 or more g a day

Sources: plentiful in fruits and vegetables.

Research doesn’t show that potassium supplements are helpful, but high potassium foods contribute to proper acid balance so that calcium is not drawn from bone for this purpose.

Zinc: 15 mg

Sources: whole grains, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, animal protein, and green peas

Manganese: 2-5 mg

Sources: beets, whole grains, soy, peanuts, blackberries, raspberries, pineapple, hazelnuts, pecans, and tea

Boron: 3 mg

Sources: avocado, green and orange vegetables, legumes, fruits (especially grapes and raisins), almonds, and wine

Vitamin K: 70-140 mcg

Sources: kale, green tea, turnip greens, and other dark leafy greens

Copper: 2-3 mg

Sources: shell fish, organ meat, legumes, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, potatoes, yeast, and dark leafy greens


Sources: plentiful in fruit and vegetable skins and in unrefined grains. The herbs oat, straw, and horsetail are excellent sources.

Vitamin C: ideal intake is 250 mg or more

Source: fruits and vegetables


Source: plentiful in fruits and vegetables

Vitamin B6: 2 mg

Source: protein sources (animal and vegetable), walnuts and peanuts, and some vegetables

Vitamin B12: 3 mcg or more

Sources: organ meat, dairy, egg yolk, and fish

Folic acid: 400 mg

Sources: dark leafy greens, many fruits, and whole grains

Essential fatty acids, especially omega 3s:

Sources: flax seed and oil, walnuts and oil, pumpkin seeds, fish, and soy oil

Protein: 45 g a day for women (lower associated with low bone density and higher than 100 also associated with bone loss)


Recent research showed that low hematocrit correlates with low BMD, but it is not clear if this is because of other nutritional factors that accompany anemia.

Sources: red meat, legumes, dark leafy greens (except spinach, chard, beet greens, and parsley), blackstrap molasses, prunes, raisins, and modest amounts in many vegetables

Alkaline Diet

1.   Body chemistry should be slightly alkaline. If body is acidic, we use alkalinizing minerals in bone to maintain balance through chemical buffering.

2.   Need an abundance of foods that produce an alkaline ash after digestion. Fruits and vegetables are alkalinizing, including what we usually think of as acidic like lemon juice or cider vinegar. Look at Susan Brown’s book, Better Bones, Better Body, for detailed food lists.

3.   Modern diet is acid producing. Bodies become excessively acidic due to excess protein intake (especially animal sources like meat and dairy), excess sugar, caffeine, and processed foods, prolonged exercise, aging, or respiratory disease. (Grains are also acid producing, but it’s fine to eat whole grains in a balanced diets.) Still, you can see how easy it is to get out of balance if you eat the usual American diet, or the Atkins Diet.

4. Read this article to learn how to test your acid/base chemistry.