Eat These Foods to Build Strong Bones

As we age, it is common to lose calcium from our bones. When this happens, our bones become less dense, which can make them brittle.

Sylvia Gaboriault is a clinical dietitian, nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator who maintains a private practice in Montpelier and works part-time as a dietitian at Woodridge Rehabilitation & Nursing in Berlin. “The majority of our bone building happens when we are young and growing, before the age of 30, at which point we stop building new bone tissue. Because of this, it is so important for adults, especially older adults, to take steps to maintain their bone health by eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and incorporating regular, muscle-building exercise into their daily routine. This will help make the body much more resilient and reduce the likelihood of a bone break or fracture after a slip or fall.”

To help people understand how our bodies process calcium, Sylvia uses this analogy. “The bones are like your bank account, and your calcium levels in your blood are like your cash flow. You always want to deposit more money, or calcium-rich foods, into your bank account than you withdraw. Unfortunately, unlike a bank account, it’s not always easy to tell when your bones have become depleted—until it’s too late. Taking a fall when you are 20 years old is going to have a different result than a fall as an older adult.”

There are many factors that contribute to bone density, including gender (men tend to acquire greater bone mass), lifestyle, hormones, and nutrition. “Calcium is one of the major building blocks of our bones and our bodies.” Here is a list of calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods that Sylvia recommends incorporating into your diet to optimize bone health.

Calcium-Rich Foods

Milk & Yogurt These are some of the biggest sources of calcium, says Sylvia. An eight-ounce glass of milk or a six-ounce serving of yogurt includes about a third of your recommended daily dose. If you are on a dairy-free diet, choose a milk alternative that’s fortified. And, for those of you with a sweet tooth, a half-cup serving of vanilla ice cream contains about 100 milligrams of calcium.

Tofu When it’s processed with calcium sulphate (which is common), tofu is another excellent source of calcium. A four-ounce serving has close to half of the daily recommended allowance—especially good news for vegetarians and vegans.

Mineral Water If you like seltzer, consider switching to sparkling mineral water, which has naturally occurring calcium.

Dark, Leafy Greens Spinach, kale, and collard greens are wonderful sources of calcium. Sylvia advises cooking the greens to break down the hearty vegetables, which makes the nutrients easier to absorb. Sylvia likes to sauté leafy greens with garlic, onions, and a splash of tamari or soy sauce.

Nuts and Seeds Almonds and sesame seeds tend to be good sources of calcium. One cup of whole almonds has about the same amount of calcium as one cup of milk, plus a whopping 800 calories. Consider sprinkling an ounce or two of almonds on your yogurt for a calcium boost.

Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Here are three good sources of vitamin D, which promotes calcium absorption.

Fatty Fish Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and fish liver oils are good sources of vitamin D and have been shown to boost the immune system.

Mushrooms Dried and fresh mushrooms convert one type of vitamin D, D2, to vitamin D3, which our body absorbs.

Breakfast Foods Milk, most cereals, and orange juice—common breakfast options for kids—are fortified with vitamin D.

To learn more about how nutrition and diet can affect your health, contact Sylvia Gaboriault at Sylvia Gaboriault Wellness online or by calling 802-249-1218.