Did you know that the basis for robust bone health is typically established during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood? By implementing some simple dietary and lifestyle modifications, you can maintain optimal bone health. Continue reading to discover the top foods for healthy bones.

Bones are the foundation of our body, providing strength, support, and mobility. Yet, bone health is often overlooked until it's too late in life. As we age, our bones go through a continuous process of remodelling, with peak bone mass achieved by the age of 30. After this point, our bone density gradually declines, making us more vulnerable to fractures, breaks, and other bone-related issues.

But age isn't the only factor at play. Our genetics, lifestyle habits, and medical conditions can all contribute to accelerated bone loss. For example, osteoporosis is a common condition that weakens bones, making them more susceptible to fractures.

There have been many studies that show that if we maintain a diet that is loaded with bone strengthening foods, it helps in decreasing the rate of bone degradation. Some of the important nutrients to be included in foods for bone health that need special attention in your diet are:

  1. Calcium
  2. Vitamin D
  3. Phosphorus
  4. Protein

Let us now understand how much of each nutrient is needed to maintain strong bones, and what are some great foods for bone health?

Calcium: How Much is Needed and Food Sources

When we think of bone strengthening foods, the first nutrient that comes to mind is calcium. In fact, calcium has always been synonymous with good bone health. The daily recommended allowance for calcium as per the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau is 1000mg/day.

The major calcium containing bone strengthening food sources that can be added to our diet are as follows:

1. Cereals and Millets:

Cereals and millets are a good source of calcium, with ragi and amaranth being two of the best options. Ragi, also known as finger millet, contains 364 mg of calcium per 100g serving and Amaranth contains 162 mg of calcium per 100g serving. This banana ragi porridge could be a great breakfast option filled with calcium to include in your diet.

2. Pulses and dals:

Pulses are considered excellent food for strong bones. For instance, 100g of rajma contains 134mg of calcium. To ensure adequate calcium intake, it's recommended to include a small portion of pulses in every meal. A bowl of moong rice is a delicious way to incorporate this calcium-loaded food into your daily diet.

3. Dairy Food:

One of the most popular and easily accessible sources of calcium is milk. A glass (100ml) of milk has approx. 118 mg of calcium in it. A glass of milk or milk products in your everyday diet would be ideal food for strong bones.

4. Vegetables:

Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of calcium for those who follow a plant-based diet or do not consume dairy products. Drumstick leaves and fenugreek leaves are two such examples. Drumstick leaves contain 314 mg of calcium per 100g and fenugreek leaves contain 274 mg calcium/100g). This methi aloo recipe can be a great addition to your lunch.

5. Seeds:

Black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, and black niger seeds are some rich sources of calcium. Many other seeds contain substantial amounts of calcium. Sunflower seeds, for example, contain 176mg of calcium per 100g serving. Combining chia, sunflower, and sesame seeds in a fruit bowl or smoothie can elevate the calcium content of your diet, making it one of the best bone strengthening foods. You may also try this oats sunflower seed bar recipe at home.

Vitamin D: How Much is Needed and Food Sources

Vitamin D is very important to maintain ideal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. ICMR recommends 600 IU/day of Vitamin D for an average Indian adult. Vitamin D is obtained primarily from exposure to the sun, and very scarce amounts can be obtained from our daily diet by including foods for bone health.

Types of People at Risk:

Regular sun exposure may not be feasible for certain groups of people due to various reasons. Therefore, it is crucial to closely monitor the Vitamin D levels of these individuals.

  1. People who are dependent, living in a care home or are too frail to move around.
  2. People who are always indoors, and receive no sunlight

Some bone strengthening foods rich in Vitamin D are fatty fish like swordfish, mackerel, etc., cod liver oil, and eggs. There are also foods that are fortified with vitamin D, like milk, certain cereals, and yoghurt. On the other hand, vegetarian food for strong bones include mushrooms (like shiitake, portobello, etc.), along with many other choices.

Phosphorus: How Much is Needed and Food Sources

A mineral found in the bones, phosphorus, along with calcium, helps keep our bones healthy. A deficiency of phosphorus can impair bone health and can also affect the quality of life. The ICMR recommends 1000mg of phosphorus per day for adults.

Common sources of phosphorus are:

  1. Dairy products like milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yoghourt
  2. Nuts, seeds, peanut butter
  3. Bran cereals and whole grain products

Protein: Importance and Benefits

Adequate protein intake is beneficial to our bones because it helps in increasing bone mineral density. Protein also has a positive effect on the overall health of our bones as it increases muscle mass and calcium absorption while suppressing parathyroid hormone, which can make your body take calcium from your bones.

Vegan Sources of Important Nutrients for Bones

Vegan diet has been found to be linked to low bone density. Non vegans most commonly get the nutrients from dairy sources, but vegans will have to opt for alternative bone strengthening foods. Some of the foods for healthy bones are mentioned below:

Nutrient Calcium Vitamin D Phosphorus Protein
Source Fortified soya, rice and oat drinks, soya beans, tofu, sesame seeds, tahini, pulses, finger millet (ragi), dried fruit like raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots Fortified products like breakfast cereals and soya drink Milk, kidney beans (rajma), soybeans, pearl millet (bajra), brown rice, sunflower seeds and almonds Eggs

Effect of Too Much Vitamin A

Excess intake of vitamin A is linked to an adverse impact on bone metabolism. Men require 1000 micrograms and women require 840 micrograms of Vitamin A per day. While it is good to include vitamin A within recommended quantities, consumption in quantities greater than the daily requirement can lead to hypercalcemia, which may cause bone abnormalities. Skeletal deformities in foetuses are also seen in such cases. It is linked to an increased risk of bone fractures.

Organ meats like chicken liver are a very rich source of vitamin A. Thus, you should reduce its frequency in your diet to no more than once a week.


Taking care of your bones ultimately results in a good quality of life. A simple way to keep your bones healthy and strong is to eat protein rich balanced meals that contain foods for strong bones, which include dairy, eggs, pulses, whole grains, fish, seeds, etc. A fine example of a meal with foods for strong bones is amaranth thoran or rajma curry. A fruit yoghurt bowl with seeds sprinkled on it is also an ideal food for strong bones. So, have well balanced diets along with ample outdoor time, and your bones will remain as strong as ever. You may also consult with your health care provider for personalised advice before making any major dietary changes, especially if you’re already dealing with a medical condition.