What are the best foods to promote bone health?
A healthy balanced diet, combined with proper exercise, is recommended to promote bone health from childhood to old age.1 Maintaining a healthy body weight is recommended to avoid being exposed to higher risk of bone fractures.1
In particular, the NHS recommends calcium, vitamin D to promote bone health.1
1. Daily consumption of calcium is recommended to promote bone health.
Calcium is an essential nutrient to promote bone formation and maintenance from early childhood to old age.2
Good sources of calcium include: 1
- Dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables except spinach; spinaches are not a good calcium source because they contain oxalate, a substance that reduces calcium absorption
- Soya beans
- Dried fruits (raisins, prunes, figs, dried apricots)
- Sesame seeds and tahini
- Fortified flours and milks
- Sardined and pilchards
2. Vitamin D is an important nutrient to promote optimal calcium metabolism and absorption into bones.2
Good sources of vitamin D include: 1
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
- Egg yolks
- Fortified fat spreads and breakfast cereals
- Vitamin D supplements
3. Vitamin K is an important nutrient to protect bone mineral density and prevent the loss of calcium from bones.3,4
Vitamin K intake has been associated with increased osteocalcin synthesis.5 Osteocalcin is a calcium-binding protein hormone that prevents the loss of calcium from bones.
Good sources of vitamin K include:6
- Green leafy vegetables
- Vegetable oils ( soybean oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil)
- Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut
- Beef and pork liver
Vitamin C through its antioxidant properties has been suggested to have the potential to contribute to optimal bone health against osteoporosis.4 More studies are necessary to support implementation in current guidelines.7
4. Potassium and magnesium are important minerals to prevent fracture risk.
It has been suggested that potassium intake may reduce calcium depletion.4
Potassium supplementation in diets in people with a low calcium intake has been associated with increased bone density and bone health.4
Magnesium is an important nutrient for bone formation and vitamin D metabolism.4 Several studies have found an association between bone mineral density, decreased fracture risk, and magnesium intake.8
Good sources of magnesium include whole foods, in particular: 9
- Whole grains and cereals
5. Protein consumption is important for bone health maintenance
Dietary proteins improve bone formation and calcium absorption.4
Adequate protein intake has been associated with greater bone density, and strength, lowered risk of bone fractures, and slower bone loss especially when associated with appropriate calcium intake and exercise.4
Both animal and vegetable proteins have been associated with promoting bone health.4
6. Vitamin A excess might increase the risk of bone fractures.
Vitamin A-rich diets are not advised for people at risk of osteoporosis.1
In these populations, following the NIH recommended dietary allowances for vitamin A-rich foods such as animal liver and liver products and retinol supplements is extremely important.10
7. The olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet has been suggested as beneficial for bone health.
It has been suggested dietary patterns are more beneficial in promoting bone health than single nutrients.4
A healthy balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish, and poultry has been associated with reduced risk of osteoporosis.4
Instead, diets rich in processed foods, fat products, sodium, and additives have been indicated as detrimental.4
- Beto JA. The role of calcium in human aging. Clin Nutr Res. 2015 Jan;4(1):1-8. doi: 10.7762/cnr.2015.4.1.1. Epub 2015 Jan 16. PMID: 25713787; PMCID: PMC4337919.
- Koitaya, N., Sekiguchi, M., Tousen, Y., Nishide, Y., Morita, A., Yamauchi, J., Gando, Y., Miyachi, M., Aoki, M., Komatsu, M., Watanabe, F., Morishita, K., & Ishimi, Y. (2014). Low-dose vitamin K2 (MK-4) supplementation for 12 months improves bone metabolism and prevents forearm bone loss in postmenopausal Japanese women. Journal of bone and mineral metabolism, 32(2), 142–150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00774-013-0472-7
- Muñoz-Garach, A., García-Fontana, B., & Muñoz-Torres, M. (2020). Nutrients and Dietary Patterns Related to Osteoporosis. Nutrients, 12(7), 1986. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12071986
- van Summeren, M. J., Braam, L. A., Lilien, M. R., Schurgers, L. J., Kuis, W., & Vermeer, C. (2009). The effect of menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2) supplementation on osteocalcin carboxylation in healthy prepubertal children. The British journal of nutrition, 102(8), 1171–1178. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114509382100
- Mladěnka, P., Macáková, K., Kujovská Krčmová, L., Javorská, L., Mrštná, K., Carazo, A., Protti, M., Remião, F., Nováková, L., & OEMONOM researchers and collaborators (2022). Vitamin K – sources, physiological role, kinetics, deficiency, detection, therapeutic use, and toxicity. Nutrition reviews, 80(4), 677–698. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuab061
- Brzezińska, O., Łukasik, Z., Makowska, J., & Walczak, K. (2020). Role of Vitamin C in Osteoporosis Development and Treatment-A Literature Review. Nutrients, 12(8), 2394. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082394
- Rondanelli, M., Faliva, M. A., Tartara, A., Gasparri, C., Perna, S., Infantino, V., Riva, A., Petrangolini, G., & Peroni, G. (2021). An update on magnesium and bone health. Biometals : an international journal on the role of metal ions in biology, biochemistry, and medicine, 34(4), 715–736. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10534-021-00305-0
- Fiorentini, D., Cappadone, C., Farruggia, G., & Prata, C. (2021). Magnesium: Biochemistry, Nutrition, Detection, and Social Impact of Diseases Linked to Its Deficiency. Nutrients, 13(4), 1136. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13041136
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