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Osteoporosis: What to Eat: Diet, Lifestyle, Nutrition for Healthy Bones

by Kevin Hwang, M.D.

I have osteoporosis (-3.6 is my bone-density score). What diet will improve my condition?
-- Alena, Ontario, Canada

Good question. The key is to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D—and not to neglect exercise. But with your bone-density score, you’re probably going to need to add something else to your regimen. More about that in a minute.

Bone is living tissue comprised of cells and minerals. And just as your skin cells slough off and get renewed, bone is in a constant state of loss and gain: Bone-eating cells, called osteoclasts, remove it. Bone-building cells, called osteoblasts, renew it, by taking calcium and phosphorus from the bloodstream and depositing it in the bones.

In the meantime, vitamin D helps the intestines absorb calcium from food and reduces the amount you lose in your urine.

In your 30s, you start losing more bone than you can build. For women, this really speeds up during menopause. If you lose too much, you have osteoporosis—weak, brittle bones.

Food (approx.)

Calcium Content

Yogurt, 1cup

370 mg

Milk, 1 cup

300 mg

Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 3/4 cup

260 mg

Cheese, 1 1/2 ounces

200-400 mg

Broccoli, 1/2 cup

30 mg


To slow down this bone loss, it’s essential to get enough calcium and vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day for people ages 9 to 18, 1,000 milligrams for those 19 to 50 and 1,200 for people 51 and older.

Vitamin D is a little trickier. This article explains more about that controversy.

If you can meet the recommendations with food alone, that’s great. If not, consider taking a supplement. They’re usually safe and inexpensive.

In addition to eating right, it’s important to do weight-bearing exercises, such as lifting weights or walking—things that put pressure on your bones, encouraging them to build.

Board-certified internist
KEVIN HWANG, M.D., is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and co-director of UT Weight Management.

Article last updated and/or approved: March 2010. Original article appeared in summer 2007 former print magazine. Bio current as of summer 2007. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

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