Two nutrients are key factors in building strong bones – calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for maintaining bone mass and tooth structure, while vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and bone growth.
Dairy is a well-known source of calcium but not the only way to get this bone-building mineral in your diet. Green vegetables like spinach, collard greens, broccoli and bok choy are high in calcium. White beans, tofu, almonds, sardines with bones and fortified juices also are good calcium sources.
How much calcium a person needs varies by age and sex.
- Kids age 4-8: 1000 mg/day
- Kids age 9-18: 1300 mg/day
- Men and women age 19-50 and men 51-70: 1000 mg/day
- Women over 50 and men over 70: 1200 mg/day
“Having 2-4 servings of dairy per day, depending how much calcium you need, or eating other high calcium foods at every meal should satisfy your daily need,” said Kristene Schulte, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian.
Spending 10-20 minutes in the sunlight each day causes the body to make vitamin D, but certain foods can provide more of the vitamin. Fortified milk and juice, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and egg yolks contain vitamin D.
“People who live in areas that don’t get a lot of sunlight, like northern regions in the winter, don’t always get enough vitamin D,” Schulte said. “You may want to ask your doctor about taking a supplement.”
People ages 1-70, including breastfeeding women, need 600 IU of vitamin D per day and people 71 and older need 800 IU.
While certain foods can build strong bones, drinking too much alcohol can decrease bone density. Limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day.
Try this bone-building breakfast recipe
You can get more calcium and vitamin D in your diet using foods you already eat. Next time you think about making eggs for breakfast, try this recipe that includes eggs, dairy and spinach for stronger bones.
Spinach and Feta Frittata
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 4 whole large eggs
- 8 egg whites
- 4 tablespoons whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Freshly ground pepper and salt-free seasoning
Place the bell pepper on a baking sheet under the oven broiler. Turn with tongs for 5 minutes to char all sides. Transfer the pepper to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap while you prepare the frittata.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium non-stick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and spinach and stir about 4 minutes until wilted. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and remove from heat. Whisk eggs, egg whites, 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and 3/4 cup of water in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture and feta to the skillet. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake about 15 minutes until the frittata is set and golden on top.
Peel the skin from the roasted red pepper while the frittata is cooking. Cut the pepper in half, discard the seeds and slice the pepper into strips. Toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and freshly ground pepper. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve with roasted pepper. Season with salt-free seasoning to taste.
Each serving contains 278 calories, 17.9 g fat, 9.7 g carbohydrates, 18.7 g protein, 2.7 g fiber and 380.8 mg sodium.