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Osteoporosis Health Center

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Nutrition and Osteoporosis

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Nutrition and Osteoporosis: Why Food Is Your Best Bet

To strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis, you can get calcium and vitamin D from your diet, supplements, or both. What's most important is that you get them. But if you can, it's best to get these nutrients in the food you eat and the beverages you drink.

Why? Because it's easier to remember. You may not take a pill every day, but you eat every day.

"Study after study has shown that people aren't very good at taking supplements regularly," says Robert Heaney, MD, FACP, a professor of medicine at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., and a nationally recognized expert on osteoporosis. "But eating is something you do every day, so it's easier to make a habit of dairy consumption."

Foods also are a more complete source of nutrition than supplements. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products not only contain high levels of calcium, but other key nutrients for bone health, like phosphorus and protein.

"Milk and yogurt and cheese contain so many of the nutrients that are necessary for bone health that they outperform supplement tablets strikingly," Heaney says.

It’s important to read food labels and look for foods and beverages that provide calcium. Food designated with labels such as ''calcium-rich'' or ''excellent source of calcium'' are high in calcium or fortified with calcium. Select those that contain 10% or more of the Daily Value for calcium.

For those who are dairy or lactose intolerant, there are plenty of other good food sources for calcium:

  • Calcium-fortified orange juice, nondairy milk alternatives, and cereals
  • Green, leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach
  • Seafood can be a calcium rich non-dairy option. Seafood such as oysters, ocean perch, clams, blue crab, and shrimp can be a good source of dietary calcium.

Vitamin D is a little harder to get in your daily diet. Milk is fortified with vitamin D -- an 8-ounce glass of fortified milk provides 98 IU.

Other good food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Certain fish, such as salmon, tuna fish, and sardines
  • Orange juices and breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D

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