Your bones require specific nutrients to stay strong and healthy. Calcium and vitamin D are the two big ones most people recognize, but magnesium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and K are also essential for bone health.
Here are 25 foods that will supply you with those essential nutrients when included in a balanced diet.
Oranges are rich in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen formation and contributes to bone health. An orange is also an excellent source of vitamin A, which is essential for normal skeletal growth and cell differentiation.
Pro tip: choose an orange juice that's been fortified with calcium, which is also vital for healthy bones.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium, which helps keeps your bones strong. In fact, one cup of milk gives you almost one-third of your daily requirement. Milk is also fortified with vitamin D, to make sure your body absorbs calcium, along with some extra vitamin A, as well.
Pro tip: choose low or non-fat milk if you're looking to cut back on calories.
Milk is one of the easiest ways to feed your bones. Three glasses a day will meet most people's needs for calcium and vitamin D, and you'll get a big boost of .protein and many other vitamins and minerals too.
Swiss chard is just incredibly nutritious. It's high in many minerals, including calcium and magnesium, and it's also high in vitamins A and C, which are all good for your bones. Swiss chard is also high in fiber and low in calories, so it's perfect for just about every diet.
Pro tip: saute your Swiss chard in a little heart-healthy olive oil and a dash of white wine vinegar. Top with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg—super easy.
Parmesan cheese is packed with calcium—one tablespoon of shredded Parmesan cheese has 63 milligrams, which is a lot of calcium in a small amount of food. Parmesan cheese is also an excellent source of protein, and it has a bit of vitamin A. The calories aren't bad either—that one tablespoon has only 21 calories.
Pro tip: buy your Parmesan cheese from the cheese section of the grocery store (skip the grated stuff in the can) and grate or shred it at home, then make these oven-baked cheese crisps.
Rhubarb is high in calcium—one cup of cooked rhubarb has about 350 milligrams of calcium. It's also a good source of vitamins A and C. Rhubarb is low in calories, but it usually has to be cooked with sugar that adds extra calories.
Pro tip: cook your rhubarb first and add sugar later—you won't need as much sugar that way.
Figs contain minerals and vitamins that are essential for bone health. One cup of stewed figs has about 180 milligrams of calcium, plus some vitamins C and vitamin K. Raw figs are low in calories and high in fiber, so they're good for your diet—a couple of raw figs can give you about 24 milligrams of calcium.
Pro tip: buy fresh figs as a snack but eat them right away—they don't keep for long.
Spinach is an excellent source of just about every nutrient that a plant can offer. Spinach is good for your bones because it's high in calcium and vitamins A, C and K. It's also delicious, versatile and low in calories so it really should be a part of everyone's diet.
Pro tip: use spinach leaves on your sandwiches and as your salad greens in place of iceberg lettuce.
Cashews have a little bit of calcium and vitamin K, but what makes them so good for your bones is the magnesium and other minerals they offer, plus some healthy plant-based protein.
Pro tip: make your PB&Js with cashew butter instead of peanut butter.
Kiwi fruit is good for your bones because they're very high in vitamin C, and they're rich in magnesium. Kiwi fruit also adds some calcium and vitamins A and K to your daily intake. They're also deliciously sweet without being high in calories.
Pro tip: add sliced kiwi fruit to a serving of yogurt.
Salmon is rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids that your bones need to stay strong and healthy, and it's also an excellent source of protein. Although it's rich in healthy fats, salmon isn't high in calories either.
Pro tip: keep canned salmon on hand for quick and easy sandwiches and salads. Bonus if you eat salmon with bones because it ups your calcium intake.
Soy milk (and soy in general) is a good source of complete protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Soy milk is also typically fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which makes it even better for your bones.
Pro tip: enjoy flavored soy milk but watch out for added calories from sugar—look for lighter varieties.
Pumpkin seeds contain some calcium and protein, but they're an excellent source of magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. They're also high in fiber, so they make a nice snack or addition to salads.
Pro tip: buy pumpkin seeds that have already been shelled—they're much easier to eat. You can also roast them at home.
Tomato juice is high in several vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamins A and C. It also has some calcium and a little vitamin K. Fresh tomatoes are good too, of course, but tomato juice concentrates all that nutrition.
Pro tip: look for low-sodium tomato juice when you shop.
Red sweet peppers are good for your bones because they're high in vitamins C and A. They also have some vitamin K. They're good for most any diet because they're low in calories and a good source of B vitamins and fiber.
Pro tip: Try yellow and orange sweet peppers for a little variety.
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable that's related to cauliflower and broccoli. It's another one of those foods that are rich in just about every vitamin and mineral you can name. Kale is good for your bones because it's high in calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Pro tip: try baby kale as a salad green—it's a little more tender than mature kale.
Like most greens, collards are rich in vitamins and minerals. Collards are particularly high in calcium, plus they contain a good amount of magnesium. They're also super-rich in vitamins K and A, and they offer a fair amount of vitamin C.
Pro tip: collards can be used in place of spinach or kale in many recipes.
Brussels sprouts aren't appreciated as much as they should be, which is a shame because they're so nutritious. Brussels sprouts are rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Pro tip: shred raw Brussels sprouts and use them in place of cabbage in salad and slaw.
Try roasting your Brussels sprouts for a quick and tasty side.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of calcium and protein, but they're an even better source of magnesium. They're also high in other minerals that might be good for your bones as well. They're a little high in calories—one serving of six nuts has close to 200 calories.
Pro tip: eat a few Brazil nuts with an apple or pear for a healthy afternoon snack.
Molasses isn't really something you'd eat in large amounts because it's high in calories, but a tablespoon of molasses is an excellent source of calcium and an even better source of magnesium. So as far as potential sweeteners go, molasses might be a perfect choice.
Pro tip: try molasses in place of regular sugar.
Walnuts are a good source of calcium, protein, and magnesium. They're also a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Like all nuts, they're a bit high in calories, but they're satisfying so eating a small handful of walnuts in the afternoon can tide you over until dinner.
Pro tip: keep your walnuts in the refrigerator, or even the freezer, to protect the fats in the nuts.
Cheese, in general, is a good source of calcium and protein, but it's also high in fat and calories so you need to watch your serving sizes. One slice of cheddar cheese has almost 200 milligrams of calcium. It also has some vitamin A and a bit of magnesium.
Pro tip: one ounce of cheddar cheese is about the size of two dominoes.
Red beets are delicious and good for you, but did you know you can eat the greens as well? Beet greens are high in several vitamins and minerals. They're very high in calcium and magnesium, plus they've got lots of vitamins A and C, so they're an excellent choice for bone health.
Pro tip: buy whole fresh beets instead of frozen or canned—save the greens and serve them as a side dish.
Yogurt is high in calcium and protein. In fact, one cup of plain yogurt has about 450 milligrams of calcium and over 12 grams of protein. Yogurt is available in a variety of flavors so watch out for brands that are high in calories from all the added sugar.
Pro tip: serve plain regular or Greek yogurt with pecans, berries, and honey.
Asparagus is high in calcium and very high in magnesium. It's also an excellent source of vitamins A, K and C. It's also a good source of plain protein and is very low in calories. In fact, one cup of cooked asparagus has about 40 calories.
Pro tip: choose small spears because they're more tender older larger spears.
Artichokes contain some calcium, but they have a larger amount of magnesium. They're also an excellent source of vitamin C. Artichokes are also high in fiber and low in calories, so they're suitable for most any diet.
Pro tip: keep canned artichokes on hand and add them to soup or sauces.