12 Foods to Boost Bone Health
Getting the calcium and vitamin D you need is easier than you think -- if you eat the right foods.
Suppers for Strong Bones
If cereal's not your thing -- or you'd rather spread your calcium across the
day for better absorption -- try adding a few calcium-rich foods to your dinner
or lunch. Make an omelet with a bit of cheddar cheese, sautéed greens, and
salmon. Or whip up a scrambled-egg stir-fry by adding Swiss cheese, broccoli,
and sardines to your eggs, and you've got a lunch for strong bones. If you like
soups and stews, try adding salmon, kale, or turnip greens to your other
Just as your bones store calcium, fish bones do, too. Those tiny bones in
canned fish like sardines and salmon hold high levels of calcium, so be sure to
eat those, too.
Lunch, Dinner, and Snack Foods
Average Calcium (mg)
Canned sardines, 3 ounces
Swiss cheese, 1 ounce
Cheddar cheese, 1 ounce
Canned salmon, 3 ounces
Turnip greens, 1 cup
Kale cooked, 1 cup
Broccoli, raw, 1 cup
How to Find Calcium-Rich Foods
Try this trick to help you decipher the food labels and "Nutrition
Facts" you now see on packaged foods.
The calcium amounts you'll see listed are percentages, based on the standard
of 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. So to figure out how much calcium you're
actually getting in each serving, it's easy. Just add a zero to the percentage
of calcium you see on the label to convert it to actual milligrams (mg). So,
for example, if a cereal box says "Calcium: 50%," then that cereal has
500 milligrams of calcium in each serving.
Bone Health and Vitamin D
The experts all agree: Don't forget your vitamin D. You need it to absorb
the calcium from all those calcium-rich foods.
Your skin normally makes vitamin D from sunlight. "But as people
age," says Mystkowski, "their skin doesn't convert vitamin D as
well." So while the standard recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults
is 400 IU of vitamin D, he advises taking even more when bone loss is a
"I'd say most people with osteoporosis should be on 800 IU a day,"
says Mystkowski. And he advises even higher doses -- up to 1,200 IU of vitamin
D a day -- if you have bone thinning and live in a climate without much sun.
People with darker skin or who live in cities with intense air pollution absorb
less vitamin D from sun, and may want to bump up their vitamin D, too.
Calcium-rich foods are often high in vitamin D. Sardines, herring, and
salmon have high levels of vitamin D, and many calcium-enriched foods have
vitamin D added. And it's an easy vitamin to supplement. "Vitamin D is a
little bit easier to absorb, so you can usually get away with taking
supplements once a day," says Mystkowski.
So Mom was right after all: Drink your milk. Especially if it's fortified
with calcium and vitamin D.