Preventing osteoporosis with nutrients

Osteoporosis is called the silent disease because many people do not know they have it until they suffer a fracture. Ninety percent of adult bone mass is in place by the end of adolescence, then bone mass begins to decline in adulthood. Studies show that one out of every two women and up to one in four men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

According to registered dietitian Ann Caldwell, the following nutrients—and the foods that contain them—hold particular promise in promoting peak bone health:

  • Calcium is a mineral essential for both building bones and keeping them healthy. However, the majority of Americans are not getting enough. Ideal food sources include milk and enriched milk alternatives such as soy or almond milk, cheese, and yogurt. Other sources include bok choy, kale, turnip greens, almonds, white beans, tofu, and fortified orange juice. The recommended daily allowance for adults over 50 is 1,200 mg per day.
  • Vitamin D also is important for bone health, as it promotes calcium absorption. There are a few sources of vitamin D in food, such as fatty fish, cheese, egg yolk, fortified milk, orange juice, and cereals. Vitamin D can also be obtained through sunlight, but with the use of sunscreen, it is usually not an adequate source. The best advice is usually to get vitamins from foods, but with vitamin D, supplementation is often required. The recommended daily allowance is 600 IUs, but for people who are deficient, the dose can be much higher.
  • Other nutrients have been linked with bone health, including vitamins C and K, and magnesium. Eating a diet filled with fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants—such as watermelon, tomatoes, pink grapefruit, bell peppers, and guava—may protect bones.
AAMC registered dietitians can help you meet your health goals. Visit the Eat Healthy section of our website for more information.
Ann Caldwell, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To make an appointment for nutrition counseling, call 443-481-5555.

Originally posted September 2015. Last updated January 2020.

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