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Top Foods for Healthy Bones

By Stacey Feintuch

Created: 10/06/2015
Last Updated: 07/08/2019

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More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens and thins bones, making them fragile and prone to breaking. An additional 18 million have low bone mass, which puts them at risk for osteoporosis, according to the National Dairy Council (NDC).

One way to prevent osteoporosis is to get enough calcium and vitamin D, the two nutrients that are essential for strong bones. Calcium is a mineral that builds bones and keeps them healthy, says the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

When we don't have enough calcium, it's taken from our bones, which is why it's important to get it from what we eat. And vitamin D helps protect bones and is necessary for the body to absorb calcium, says the NOF. If you don't get enough vitamin D, you may have lower bone density and be more prone to breaking bones as you get older.

It sounds easy—just eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. The problem is that Americans don't get enough dairy foods. In fact, the NDC says that Americans are only eating about 1.5 servings, or half, of the dairy servings that they should consume daily. Don't become part of that statistic.

Most also don't get enough vitamin D because few foods in nature contain vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Some foods, like milk, are fortified with vitamin D, but the best source is sunlight. Unless you live where it's sunny year-round and you get out and expose your skin to sunlight for about 20 minutes a day (without sunscreen), then you may come up short and need a vitamin D supplement.

Here are some foods that are rich in bone-healthy calcium and vitamin D.

Yogurt
Eat yogurt any time of day for a calcium fix. You'll get a host of other nutrients, too—iodine, protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B5, potassium, riboflavin and phosphorous. Try this simple Yogurt Cake that can be eaten plain or topped with fresh fruit.

Cheese
Cheese naturally boasts calcium and is often fortified with vitamin D. With so many kinds to choose from, have fun finding one that you like. Opt for varieties made from skim milk, which means they're healthier for you. Just don't overdo it, because even a little bit of cheese goes a long way calorie-wise. Add some cheese to dinner with this Chicken Cutlets With Broccoli Rabe & Mozzarella recipe.

Milk
Drinking milk isn't just for kids. It's a no-brainer that gulping down a glass of milk is an ideal way for everyone from kids to adults to strengthen their bones. Look for milk fortified with vitamin D and go for one that's nonfat or 1 percent, which is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Dark leafy greens
Kale, watercress, collard greens and arugula provide a nondairy form of calcium. Want to try kale, a nutritional powerhouse, but unsure how to integrate it into a meal? Whip up Baked Kale Chips or Gluten-Free Grilled Fish With Roasted Kale Chips.

Salmon
Although few foods contain much vitamin D, fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are among the best ways to get some vitamin D into your diet. Tonight, serve up Baked Salmon with Sautéed Spinach or Garlic Salmon.

Orange juice
Start your day off healthfully with a glass of orange juice. Many brands fortify their orange juice to contain calcium and vitamin D. Plus you'll get potassium, folate and thiamin. Put orange juice into your breakfast bowl with this Orange Millet Cereal.

Almond butter
Almond butter boasts a high amount of calcium per serving. Plus, it's full of protein and good-for-you monounsaturated fats and contains no cholesterol. Spread almond butter on a piece of whole-grain bread, a banana or an apple.

Eggs
Eggs offer a healthy dose of vitamin D. But, if you opt for egg-white omelets, you won't reap this benefit; vitamin D is only in the yolks. You can eat your eggs and vegetables, too, with this Garden Frittata.

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