6 Foods and Drinks That Support Bone Health (Besides a Glass of Milk)

Chugging a carton of milk isn't the only way to build strong bones.


JackF/Getty Images

You may not be able to see them, but your bones play a huge role in your body. They serve a few different functions, but they’re mainly there to support you and protect your internal organs.

In fact, your bones are living, growing tissues, according to the National Institutes of Health, and it’s important to make bone health a priority. If your bones become fragile and brittle, you may be at risk for developing one of the most common bone conditions, osteoporosis. It affects millions of people per year, but it’s more common in women, particularly after menopause. The CDC estimates that around 20 percent of women aged 50 or older will develop osteoporosis while only 5 percent of men the same age are affected by it.

While it’s more common in people who are older, you shouldn’t wait to start thinking about your bone health until you’re in your 50s. Some ways to maintain strong bones include exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and eating a nutritious diet. Everyone should aim to get a variety of nutrients in their diet, and there are certain nutrients that specifically support bone health. Here are the best bone-friendly nutrients and the healthiest foods (and drinks!) to incorporate in your meal plan. 

The Most Important Nutrients for Bone Health

Like many aspects of well-being, your diet and bone health are related. “What we eat has a direct impact on bone health,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RD, Los Angeles–based registered dietitian. “Some foods provide nutrients that replenish and strengthen bones, while others diminish and destroy healthy bone mass.”

If taking care of your bones is your goal, certain foods may be worth avoiding or enjoying moderation. “Too much sodium, caffeine, and alcohol can hurt bones,” she explains.

We were probably all taught as kids to drink plenty of milk to build strong bones, and there's truth behind that. Dairy products are rich sources of calcium, and approximately 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in bones, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Vitamin D is also important, since it helps the body absorb calcium, Moon says.

In addition to calcium and vitamin D, Moon emphasizes the importance of the following vitamins and minerals to support healthy bones:

“It takes a village of nutrients,” Moon says. “It’s easier to get that wide variety of nutrients in foods, which naturally have a mix of nutrients, [rather] than in supplements.” 

Top Foods and Drinks for Bone Health

01 of 06

Soy Milk

Creamy Date Shakes Recipe
Greg DuPree

Those with dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, or other dairy-free diets can rejoice—soy milk that’s fortified with calcium can be a great bone-friendly substitution. “Many soy milks are fortified with calcium for strong bones, and soy is a complete protein, which further contributes to bone health,” Moon says. “Check the nutrition label to ensure you’re getting at least 10 percent of the daily value of calcium per serving.”

Adults need up to 1,300 mg of calcium per day, according to the National Institutes of Health, so aim for 130 mg of calcium per serving of soy milk.

Earlier research suggests that soy foods can be part of a bone-building diet since they can improve markers of bone health and may reduce the risk of bone fractures. A 2020 review found that soy foods are especially beneficial for postmenopausal women. Soy protein can improve bone density quality and may prevent a bone condition called osteosarcopenia, researchers note.

ther soy products, such as edamame, tempeh, miso, and tofu, may have similar bone health benefits.

02 of 06



Greg DuPree

With calcium hailed as the best nutrient for bones, it’s no surprise that calcium-rich dairy products like yogurt may help build strong bones. A cup of yogurt provides 296 mg of calcium, which is about 23 percent of your daily need, per USDA data. What’s more, yogurt is a great source of other bone-building nutrients, such as protein, phosphorus, zinc, and B vitamins, and greek yogurt is an especially rich source of gut-friendly bacteria. The fermented aspect of yogurt may also help. The prebiotics and probiotics found in yogurt may contribute to bone health by increasing calcium absorption and bone metabolism, according to a 2017 article

If you plan on upping your calcium intake, Moon has an important warning: “The body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time, so stagger your intake throughout the day to get the recommended 1,300 mg.” 

Getting enough calcium is important, but there is a limit. There's some evidence that too much calcium can weaken your bones, though this usually only happens with high doses of calcium supplements, Moon adds. So enjoy calcium-rich foods, but don’t go overboard.

03 of 06


fruit-nut-energy-bars-0219miy tout
Jennifer Causey

Heavily associated with gut health, prunes may also help build strong bones—especially in the hips, an area prone to fractures. A 2022 study found that a daily serving of prunes prevented bone mineral loss in the hips and reduced the risk of hip fractures in postmenopausal women. Participants in the study ate 50 grams of prunes per day, but another 2022 study had male subjects eat 100 grams of prunes per day, and the researchers concluded that daily prune consumption can have bone-protective effects in men.

Certain nutrients found in prunes may help explain why they’re so good for your bones. For starters, they’re super high in vitamin K, which plays a critical role in bone well-being, research shows. A 100-gram serving of prunes offers nearly 60 mcg of vitamin K, per the USDA. Men and women should aim for 120 mcg and 90 mcg daily, respectively, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Based on this, prunes can satisfy up to 66 percent of your daily need for vitamin K. They’re also a good source of other nutrients beneficial for bone health, including potassium, copper, manganese, and vitamin A.

Not sure how to eat more prunes? “It’s easy to enjoy five prunes a day, which is what was used in one study,” Moon says. “I like to chop them up and add them to farro along with chopped asparagus to add a sweet contrasting note in a whole grain side dish.” You can also add them to your smoothies or simply snack on them.

04 of 06


Lemony Spaghetti With Sardines and Bread Crumbs
Greg DuPree

Sardines are an extremely healthy type of seafood to eat, supporting healthy bones with their high calcium and vitamin D content. “Sardines are underappreciated in America,” Moon says. “They provide bone-building calcium in their edible bones, plus vitamin D and protein.” Since they’re often tinned, sardines are also a convenient, shelf-stable, and affordable source of nutrients.

According to USDA data, a can of sardines offers 351 mg of calcium, or about 27 percent of your daily need. They also contain 4.42 mcg of vitamin D, which is roughly equivalent to 29 percent of your daily requirement, based on the 15 mcg recommendation of the National Institutes of Health.

There’s a lot of reasons to love sardines, but if you need ideas on how to eat more of them, Moon has some thoughts. “Try mashing up sardines into a pasta sauce for some stealth umami—they break apart and integrate into the sauce, so the only way you know they’re in there is the amazing flavor,” she says.

05 of 06


Parmigiano-Reggiano Scrambled Eggs

Eggs are an excellent source of protein and vitamin D, which may help explain their potential bone health benefits. “They’re an easy way to load up on nutrients important for bone health, such as vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, and magnesium,” Moon says, adding that they get bonus points for brain-boosting lutein and choline.

There’s not a lot of research on whether eggs are good for bone health, but the existing research is promising. A 2021 study found a positive association between egg consumption and bone mass density, with researchers considering the high choline content to be partly responsible. A low intake of choline can increase the risk of osteoporosis, per a 2021 study.

Eggs are a delicious source of nutrients ane a favorite at the breakfast table, but some experts warn that you can have too much of a good thing. Eggs can be a concentrated source of cholesterol, so the American Heart Association recommends a limit of one whole egg or two egg whites per day, particularly for those who are at risk for high cholesterol levels.

06 of 06

Fruits and Vegetables

Greg DuPree

There are a million reasons to eat more fruits and veggies every single day, and supporting your bone health is one of them. The Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation recommends eating fruits and vegetables rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Here are some the best options that support healthy bones:

Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables ensures you’re getting an array of bone-building nutrients.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles