How to Build and Preserve Bone Mass

Three Parts:Eating the Right Foods to Build and Preserve Bone MassExercising to Build and Preserve Bone MassAvoiding Activities that Reduce Bone Mass

Bones are your body’s support system. Building up bone mass at a young age and maintaining it as you grow older helps prevent osteoporosis, a condition where bones become very brittle and break easily. It’s hard to reverse osteoporosis once it sets in (usually after age 65), so it’s best to try to prevent the condition from a young age.

Part 1
Eating the Right Foods to Build and Preserve Bone Mass

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    Get lots of calcium. Calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, and it makes them hard and sturdy. The average adult needs 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Adolescent girls and premenopausal women need about 200 mg more.[1]There are lots of ways to incorporate calcium into your diet. Your options include[2]
    • dairy (such as milk, yogurt, and cheese)
    • juices fortified with calcium
    • boxed cereals fortified with calcium
    • oatmeal
    • beans
    • legumes
    • salmon
    • dark leafy greens (such as broccoli, spinach, collards, or bok choy)
    • almonds
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    Eat plenty of protein. Though older studies suggested that protein was actually detrimental to bone mass, newer research shows that, eaten in moderation, it aids with the absorption of calcium. [3][4] Men should get about 56 grams of protein per day, women should get 46, and pregnant women should get 70. Eat plenty of lean protein, including:
    • fish
    • beans
    • cheese
    • eggs
    • nuts
    • chicken
    • oats
    • Greek yogurt
    • milk
    • broccoli
    • quinoa
    • brussels sprouts
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    Get enough Vitamin D. Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D, like protein, helps the body absorb calcium. You should get about 600 IU (but no more than 4,000 IU) of Vitamin D every day. Talk to your doctor about taking a Vitamin D supplement if you are concerned that you aren’t getting enough from sources such as these: [5]
    • eggs (with yolks)
    • fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, or tuna)
    • shrimp
    • cod liver oil
    • beef liver
    • dairy products fortified with Vitamin D
    • cereals fortified with Vitamin D
    • juice fortified with Vitamin D
    • the sun (about 10-15 minutes three times per week will do) [6]
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    Get more Vitamin K. Though experts are not yet clear on exactly how Vitamin K contributes to bone health, several studies have shown that it aids in calcium absorption. Women should get 90 micrograms of Vitamin K, and men should get 120.[7] Get Vitamin K in foods such as [8]
    • leafy greens
    • onions
    • asparagus
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    Eat more potassium. Potassium may help neutralize acids that take calcium out of your body, so it’s important to get this nutrient alongside calcium, proteins, and vitamins. Adults should get, in general, 4.7 grams of potassium daily.[9] Foods high in potassium include [10]
    • sweet potatoes
    • white potatoes with the skins on
    • bananas
    • yogurt
    • dairy products
    • meat
    • nuts

Part 2
Exercising to Build and Preserve Bone Mass

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    Get up! Leading a sedentary lifestyle contributes immensely to bone loss. Particularly if your job requires you to sit for long periods of time, be sure to take frequent breaks to stand, stretch, or take a quick walk.
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    Do weight-bearing exercises. Along with eating a diet rich in calcium and other nutrients, this is the key to building and improving bone mass. Exercise to keep those bones strong! The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends about 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise every day. [11]Some effective weight bearing exercises include
    • walking
    • dancing
    • jogging
    • jumping rope
    • skiing
    • climbing stairs
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    Make time for resistance training. In addition to getting plenty of weight bearing exercise, it’s also a good idea to improve your strength by lifting weights or using elastic bands. This will not only improve bone mass, but also aid in strength and balance, which can help prevent falls (and broken bones) as you get older. [12]
    • Alongside lifting weights, yoga, tai chi, and pilates are good ways to incorporate resistance training into your routine. Be careful though! Some positions are not recommended for people who already have osteoporosis. [13]
    • Try to do resistance training 2-3 days per week. [14]Work each major muscle group if you can (legs, hips, back, abs, chest, shoulders, and arms), but if you aren’t up for that, rotate and work on a different set of muscles each day. [15]

Part 3
Avoiding Activities that Reduce Bone Mass

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    Quit smoking. Smoking leads to bone loss. Adults who smoke are more likely to fracture bones, and the risk increases the more you smoke. Studies indicate that even secondhand smoke can effect bone mass.[16]
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    Cut down on caffeine. Too much caffeine can make it hard for your body to absorb calcium.[17]Especially if you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, stick to 2 or fewer cups of coffee or soft drinks per day.[18]
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    Go easy on the alcohol. Drinking excessively can cause bone loss, so stick to moderate consumption. One drink per day for women and two for men is okay, and some studies have even shown that alcohol in moderation can help bone health in the long term. [19]


  • You can visit your doctor for a bone density test, which will help your doctor determine how strong your bones are, how at risk you are for osteoporosis, and your risk for fracture. Usually, people who are eligible for these types of tests are postmenopausal women over 65, as well as women younger than 65 who have certain clinical risk factors, such as advanced age, previous fracture, glucocorticoid therapy, history of hip fracture, low body weight, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and rheumatoid arthritis.


  • If it’s been a long time since you exercised, check with your doctor before starting a new routine.

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Categories: Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating