Osteoporosis Diet

What Foods Should be Included as Part of an Osteoporosis Prevention Diet?

Many nutrients are known to play an active role in the bone remodelling cycle. It stands to reason that by incorporating foods rich in these nutrients into your diet, that you will be taking a significant step towards preventing osteoporosis.

There are numerous reasons why it is better to get nutrients through ones diet as opposed to taking expensive supplements; perhaps one of the most important ones is that people do not usually forget to eat, but they often forget to take supplements.
Therefore, by including known bone-building nutrients into your diet you can naturally help to lower the risk of developing osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Yoghurt is a great part of an osteoporosis diet
Yoghurt contains calcium, vitamin K and copper; it is often fortified with vitamin D. This makes it an ideal component of an osteoporosis diet. Photograph by Mom The Barbarian.

Nutrients to Include in an Osteoporosis Diet

As the bones are made of calcium it stands to reason this mineral is very important for skeletal health. However, consuming calcium alone will not prevent the osteoporosis condition; it requires many ‘helper’ components in order for calcium to be incorporated into the bone. Perhaps the best known of these with regards to osteoporosis is Vitamin D (this can usually be obtained by a 15 minute walk in the sun–a great way to strengthen bones, as it will also act as a weight bearing exercise). Other important nutrients for bone health are vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, zinc and copper.


This mineral is found in significant quantities in dairy products such as eggs, milk, cheeses, and butter. Fish are another great source of calcium, especially fish such as sardines, salmon and halibut; nuts and seeds, especially almonds, Brazil nuts and walnuts; and fruits like oranges, mangoes, and blackberries.

Although calcium is found in large quantities in many vegetables (especially kale, and turnip greens), you should be aware that many vegetables (especially spinach and rhubarb) are also rich in oxalic acid; this can act to inhibit the absorption of calcium in the body. Therefore, vegans need to consider the oxalic acid levels of vegetables separately if this is their only source of calcium. Go here for an in-depth calcium rich foods list.


Lysyl oxidase is an important copper-dependent enzyme that is involved in the formation of collagen–an important part of the bone matrix.

Foods rich in copper include nuts/seeds, organs and shellfish. Particular good dietary sources of copper are liver, oysters, clams, lentils, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, chocolate, and mushrooms.


Magnesium comprises around one percent of the mineral content of bones. It is known to have a very important structural function, when magnesium levels are low the size of bone crystals increase and they become more brittle. Further to this, magnesium serum levels are strongly linked to those of calcium, and low levels may result in decreased bone mineral density through inhibition of vitamin D functionality.

Some great sources of magnesium foods for osteoporosis include nuts and seeds (Pumpkin seeds, Almonds, Brazil nuts, Peanuts, Pine nuts and cashews); Fish and mollusks (Scallops, Halibut, Tuna, Oysters); grains; beans; milk products; and fruit and vegetables such as banana, broccoli, figs, potatoes, artichokes, spinach and okra.


Manganese acts as a cofactor for glycosyltransferases enzymes. These are involved in the synthesis of proteoglycans, which themselves are required for the formation of healthy bone and cartilage tissue. Research has revealed that a deficiency of manganese leads to abnormal development of the skeleton in many animals.

The AI of manganese set by the FNB (LINK) is 1.8 mg/d in adult women and 2.3 mg/d in adult men. Most people following a western or vegetarian diet naturally consume much more than this.

Good sources of manganese are pecan nuts, almonds, beans, blackberries, bran, chickpeas, dark chocolate, kidney beans, oats, oysters, rice, seeds (especially pumpkin, flax, sunflower and sesame), spaghetti, spinach, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and tomato puree.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is required for absorption of calcium into the bone. The body is naturally able to produce vitamin D3 in the skin when exposed to the UVB rays present in sunlight. People living at high latitudes, or who are unable to get out in the sun may be lacking in this mineral.

Due to the importance of the vitamin, and the fact that the general population does not usually consume it in adequate quantities, vitamin D is often fortified into products such as cereals and milk.

 Vegans who require this vitamin may consider eating mushrooms that have been exposed to UVB light (in order to step up the natural synthesis of vitamin D2). There are numerous animal sources of vitamin D3 including eggs; cod liver oil; milk products such as cheese, butter and yoghurt; fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardines, and salmon.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K2 has been shown to play an active role regarding bone health. Vitamin K is found in many vegetables in the vitamin K1 form–this is easily converted to the active K2 form by the body.

 As K1 is produced as part of a plants photosynthesis mechanism it is no surprise that it is present in high amounts in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, beet greens, collards and Brussels sprouts. The K2 form of the vitamin can also be incorporated into an osteoporosis diet by including products such as Pâté, egg yolks, Gouda cheese, and poultry. Visit this page for a full list of vitamin K food sources.


Zinc plays two major roles regarding bone health: it stimulates the bone building osteoblasts; and together with fluoride, it makes up part of bone mineral hydroxyapatite crystals.

The best sources of the mineral are from meats, seafood, and eggs.

Although zinc can be obtained from vegetable sources such as grains, nuts, grains and legumes, these also contain phytic acid. This is known to bind to zinc (and manganese and magnesium) making them less bioavailable. Therefore, vegans may need to increase their consumption levels of these minerals if their only source of zinc is from vegetables. Good sources of zinc are oysters, breakfast cereals, chuck beef, baked beans, almonds, and walnuts. Further information on Zinc rich foods.


It is easy to incorporate foods into an osteoporosis prevention diet by including ones that are rich in nutrients known to play important roles in bone health. The major nutrients (though not the only ones) that should be included into an osteoporosis diet are the minerals calcium, magnesium, manganese, and copper; and the vitamins D and K. Many foods, such as eggs, cheese, spinach, greens, almonds, fish and oysters contain many of these key nutrients and incorporating them into your diet is a good preventative measure that could lower your risk of developing osteoporosis.