How to get (and keep) strong bones

HEALTH MATTERS This article was made possible through the financial support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, […]


This article was made possible through the financial support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which has sponsored Qcitymetro’s Health Page since 2010.

Ayesha Qureshi
Ayesha Qureshi, MPH

It is important to keep our bones strong for our bodies. Bones are what protect our organs from injury. Once we reach age 30, our bodies can start to lose bone mass, and once the bones get too thin and brittle, this is when osteoporosis sets in. Osteoporosis can affect both men and women. But, with proper diet and exercise, this can be prevented.


Calcium is an important mineral needed for strong bones.  A lack of it can lead to osteoporosis, a condition where bones become thin and weak. Up to 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of calcium is needed per day to prevent bone loss. Along with eating calcium-rich foods, it is also important to get enough vitamin D, because this helps your body absorb the calcium and other minerals.

Dairy is the most well-known of food groups linked to calcium. Good sources are most cheeses, yogurt, and milk, fortified with vitamin D. Remember to be mindful of eating full-fat dairy versus low to non-fat, as too much full fat can lead to higher cholesterol and weight gain. For those who prefer not to eat dairy, there are a lot of other good options, such as juices fortified with calcium and vitamin D, dark green leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collards. Broccoli and soybeans (edamame) are also great sources. Certain dried fruits like figs have a good amount of calcium, as does a fresh large orange. Canned fish with bones, like sardines, are another great way to get calcium.


Certain physical activity increases bone density, mainly weight-bearing exercises. Walking, running, weight training. Using an elliptical or a glider are good, low-impact, weight-bearing cardio exercises, meaning they will be gentle on the knees. However, exercises like swimming and using a bicycle are good cardio but don’t help in building bones. New studies are also showing that yoga and tai chi are beneficial in increasing mineral production in bones, which helps them become stronger.

What to Avoid for Strong Bones

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If you are at risk for osteoporosis or concerned about bone density, limit caffeine. Caffeine is known to leach calcium out of bones. Salt also can do this, so it is important to stay away from high-sodium foods, especially for women over 50.

For more information on osteoporosis and bone health, check out this site from the National Institute of Health: