Best foods for healthy bones | Gleneagles Hospitals
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Bone & Joint Health

Best foods for healthy bones

17 April 2023 · 5 mins read


Discover how nutrition is vital for your bone health. Learn more about the types of food containing calcium, magnesium, Vitamins D & K for healthy bones.

Like every living cell in the body, our bones are constantly changing and undergoing mineral loss and replacement on a daily basis. The osteoclast cells help to restore minerals, and the osteoblast bone cells help to create new bone cells. It is believed that the adult skeleton is replaced approximately every ten years.

Bone regeneration is faster than the rate of breakdown of the bones in young people. This will help to increase bone mass. However, the process slows down as one ages. Most people reach their peak bone mass by 30 years old.

If you have a higher bone mass in reserve, you are less likely to develop any bone-related condition as you age. For people who do not achieve the requisite bone mass by the age of 30, osteoporosis could be a likely result. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to our bone health.

Types of food that are good for bone health

Healthy bones help store nutrients such as minerals and protect our vital organs. If your bone health is poor, you may be at risk of fractures or even severe conditions causing limited mobility.

Good nutrition is vital for good bone health. Here are the types of food that may help in improving bone health.

  • 1. Foods rich in calcium

    Calcium is a mineral required to maintain strong bones and teeth. It also plays an important role in muscle function, nerve signalling and blood clotting. Unfortunately, your body can't make enough calcium on its own. Hence, the requirement to get it from food or supplements.

    High amounts of calcium are found naturally in dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese. Calcium is also found in green leafy vegetables (like broccoli and spinach), and legumes (beans).

    You can also get extra calcium by drinking calcium fortified beverages and foods. For instance, calcium fortified orange juice or calcium fortified cereal. Generally, the suggested daily intake of calcium for adults aged 19 to 64 is about 1000mg of calcium a day.

  • 2. Foods rich in Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is another nutrient essential for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. It is fat-soluble and also helps regulate the immune system. One can get it from sunlight or foods like fish and eggs.

    Vitamin D’s role in maintaining strong bones is vital because it helps the body to absorb calcium from food which, as mentioned before, is the main building block for bone health.

  • 3. Foods rich in vitamin K

    Vitamin K has antioxidant properties, which helps protect body cells from damage. It is believed that a lack of Vitamin K may be linked to osteoporosis, low bone mass, and fracture risk. Vitamin K can be found in foods such as cabbage, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower.

  • 4. Foods rich in vitamin B

    The B vitamins are essential for several important functions in the body, including rebuilding and maintaining healthy bone tissue. The most common sources of B vitamins are animal products like meat and fish (the most complete source), but plant foods like certain mushrooms and fortified food products can provide good amounts too.

  • 5. Adequate protein intake

    Proteins are an essential amino acid source that supports the building of bone. Inadequate protein intake negatively impacts skeletal growth in adolescents and lead to bone mineral density (BMD) loss in adults. The best protein-rich foods for optimal bone health are animal-based foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy foods.

  • 6. Foods high in magnesium

    Magnesium enhances the absorption of calcium in the body, thus promoting bone health. The best food sources of magnesium are chia seeds, almonds, spinach, peanuts, and soy milk.

  • 7. Foods high in zinc

    Zinc is an essential mineral for skeletal growth and bone homeostasis. In fact, zinc is believed to promote bone regeneration. The best sources of zinc are beans, nuts, red meat, lobster, whole grains, breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

  • 8. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids

    Omega-3 fatty acids improve bone health by preventing bone decay and augmenting bone mineralisation. Omega-3 fatty acids are also believed to help relieve joint pain with their anti-inflammatory properties.

    Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and seafood like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. They can also be found in nuts and seeds like flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Foods to avoid for good bone health

Healthy bones help store nutrients such as minerals and protect our vital organs. If your bone health is poor, you may be at risk of fractures or even severe conditions causing limited mobility.

Good nutrition is vital for good bone health. Here are the types of food that may help in improving bone health.

  • 1. Salty food

    Watch out for salty foods that may interfere with your ability to absorb calcium. These particularly include chips and pretzels. Salt controls the amount of calcium in urine. And because calcium is vital for bone strength, excessive salt in one’s diet may lead to bone weakening.

  • 2. Excessive alcohol

    Chronic, heavy alcohol consumption may compromise bone health by decreasing bone density and weakening the bones' mechanical properties.

    For both men and women, more than two units per day of alcohol can increase the risk of suffering a fragility fracture, while more than four units per day can double fracture risk. So, if an individual chooses to regularly drink alcohol, moderation is the bone-healthy choice.

  • 3. Too much caffeine

    According to research, excessive caffeine consumption is linked to reduced bone mass, and increased risk of fractures. In fact, caffeine may increase urinary and faecal calcium loss, thus adversely affecting bone health.

  • 4. Sugar-sweetened drinks

    Sugary drinks, such as soda and sports drinks, are linked to osteoporosis. A diet high in sugar may cause both vitamin D and calcium deficiency, thus, impairing bone formation by triggering high glucose levels in the blood.

Bone health screening in Malaysia

An effective way to check bone health is through a bone density scan or DEXA scan. The DEXA scan is essentially a low-dose x-ray test that measures calcium content and other minerals in one’s bones.

This test allows one to access their bone density/mass values that show the strength and thickness of their bones. This test can be supplemented by X-rays, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or a special CT scan to determine bone density of the spine or hip.

Bone health screenings mainly focus on preventing and diagnosing bone disorders, ligaments, joints, tendons, and muscles, such as osteoporosis.

Furthermore, bone health screenings via bone density tests are usually recommended for postmenopausal women younger than 65 years to understand the risk of fractures.

Book an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals

The caring and multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals are available for consultation and to provide the best care. Get in touch with us to book an appointment with an Orthopaedic specialist at Gleneagles Hospital today for a DEXA scan to assess your bone density, and consequently, bone health.

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