Improving Bone Health

Bone Health at the Beach

"balance" by Mario A. P. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Strengthen your bones with diet and exercise

Bone health is important throughout your life and is essential to maintaining overall health and mobility.  Building bone density by your 30s and then minimizing bone loss is the best way to stave off osteoporosis.  If you are middle-aged or older, you can still preserve and possibly replace lost bone with appropriate diet and exercise.[1]   Consuming enough calcium, vitamin D and protein[2] and incorporating weight-bearing exercise into your daily routine are important in keeping bones strong.[3]  You may already be doing everything you can for your bones – read on and find out.

What you eat matters

It’s important to enough calcium, Vitamin D, and protein in your diet and to take supplements if you need to (consult with your doctor about what you need).  Calcium is the principal mineral that makes bones strong – 99% of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and teeth[4] - and vitamin D helps your bones absorb the calcium they need.  The table below shows how much calcium you should be consuming – older adults need more calcium to protect their bones and ward off osteoporosis.[5]



Recommended Daily Allowances

Dietary Equivalent


women 19 to 50

1,000 milligrams (mg)

2 servings of calcium-rich food (e.g., dairy or foods and beverages fortified with calcium)

women over 50

1,200 mg

2-3 servings of calcium-rich foods

men 18 to 70

1,000 mg

Two servings of calcium-rich food (e.g., dairy or foods and beverages fortified with calcium)

men over 70

1,200 mg

2-3 servings of calcium-rich foods


Calcium-rich foods include dairy products and foods and beverages fortified with calcium.  You can also get calcium from non-dairy foods such as trout, blue crab, lobster, canned sardines (in oil with bones), canned pink salmon with bones, fortified plant-based milks, greens (turnip and collard greens, kale), beans, papaya, dried figs, broccoli, edamame, and acorn squash.[6], [7]  Adults who eat cheese, yogurt, milk, and fortified beverages daily are likely getting sufficient calcium from their food and do not need a supplement,[8] but only about a third of adult women get enough calcium from diet alone. 

A cautionary note about supplements:  According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, there is evidence that too much calcium from supplements may be harmful and that men and premenopausal women may not benefit from calcium supplements.[9]  Please follow the advice of your doctor. 

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body.[10]  Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and most people should make what they need from early April through September. In winter, you may not get enough sun to make enough vitamin D.  One way to increase your level of vitamin D is to eat the small number of foods that contain vitamin D:  oily fish (salmon, herring, sardines, halibut), red meat, egg yolks, liver, or fortified foods (e.g., some breakfast cereals).  Another way to increase your vitamin D is taking supplements – your doctor can advise you about whether you need it and if so, the amount you need.[11]



Recommended Daily Allowances

Dietary Equivalent

Vitamin D

women 19-50

15 micrograms (mcg) (600 IU)

The primary source of vitamin D in our bodies is what we produce when exposed to sunlight.  See the paragraph above for foods that contain vitamin D.

women 19-50 who are pregnant/nursing

20 mcg (800 IU)

women over 50

20 mcg (800 IU)

men 19-70

15 mcg (600 IU)

men over 70

20 mcg (800 IU)


Suntanning at the Bay

"Suntanning at the Bay" by AgentAkit is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Epidemiologic studies show greater protein intake to be beneficial to bone health.[12]  According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, adequate dietary protein is essential for optimal bone mass gain during growth and for preserving bone and muscle mass with ageing.[13]  Protein-rich foods include seafood (especially cod, shrimp, salmon, tuna, trout, catfish, sardines, crab, lobster, and halibut), dairy foods, meat, poultry, and eggs.[14], [15] Vegetable sources of protein include legumes (e.g., lentils, kidney beans), soya products (e.g. tofu), grains, nuts and seeds.[16]



Recommended Daily Allowances

Dietary Equivalent


women 19+

15 mcg (600 IU)


men 19+

20 mcg (800 IU)


In addition to eating for bone health, exercise is key to maintaining strong bones.

Exercise for health and bone health

Exercise is vital at every age for healthy bones and is especially important for treating and preventing osteoporosis. Exercise can improve bone health and can lead to better overall health.[17]  In addition to reducing risks of heart and cardiovascular disease, moderate and vigorous exercise appears to reduce risks for some cancers.[18]  Most people reach peak bone mass in their 20s, but with appropriate exercise older adults can better maintain strength, coordination, and balance – which helps prevent falls and related fractures.[19]

Running Shoes

"Running Shoes, Hand Weights & Resistance Band" by Alabama Extension is marked with CC0 1.0

The best bone building exercises are weight-bearing and resistance exercises that make you work against gravity.  Examples of weight-bearing exercises are walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing.  Resistance exercises include lifting weights and using resistance bands.  Experts recommend that older adults follow an exercise program that includes weight-bearing aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening activities and balance training, like tai chi, yoga or Pilates.[20]

According to the National Institutes of Health, exercise can help strengthen bones at any age.  Regular exercise has been shown to slow or stop muscle and bone loss. And the right kind of exercise can even trigger the body to build new muscle and bone.[21] 

Even with a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and protein and a good exercise routine, however, you may not be able to prevent bone loss.  Speak with your doctor about your bone health and find out whether you might be a candidate for a bone mineral density test. If you are diagnosed with low bone mass, ask what medications might help keep your bones strong.[22]

Eat seafood for your bones

Salmon Dinner

"dinner with salmon, spicy greens and citrus, wild rice" by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Not only is seafood tasty, it’s also really good for you.  The American Heart Association recommends two to three servings of fish or other seafood per week for cardiovascular health and to help reduce risk of stroke,[23] but you’re also helping keep your bones strong and healthy.  The bullets below are a recap of some seafoods that are rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

  • Calcium:  trout, blue crab, lobster, canned sardines (in oil with bones), and canned pink salmon with bones
  • Vitamin D: oily fish, including salmon, herring, sardines, and halibut
  • Protein: cod, shrimp, salmon, tuna, trout, catfish, sardines, crab, lobster, and halibut delivers high quality seafood to your door.  High-quality natural, sustainably sourced seafood is good our customers and for the earth.  You can trust us to supply you with pure natural fish portions, with tools and tips for quick easy preparation, and with honest information about the benefits you are receiving from Sizzlefish products.












[12]   Mangano, K. M., Sahni, S., & Kerstetter, J. E. (2014). Dietary protein is beneficial to bone health under conditions of adequate calcium intake: an update on clinical research. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 17(1), 69–74.






[18]   Moore, S.C., Lee, I., Weiderpass, E., et al. (2016).  Association of leisure-time physical activity with risk of 26 types of cancer in 1.44 million adults. JAMA Intern Med. 176(6):816–825.







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