Diet & Bone Health by Rebecca Stevens

Two of the key nutrients for bone health are calcium and vitamin D. This article will help you ensure you’re getting enough of them year-round.

Why we need calcium

Calcium keeps our bones strong and hard so that our skeleton can perform everyday tasks and keep our organs safe. Most adults are recommended to have 700mg/day. However, those taking an osteoporosis medication may need to increase their daily intake to around 1000mg/day. Ideally, your calcium needs should be met by your diet but supplements are available should you be unable to meet the requirements from diet alone.

Which foods contain calcium?

One of the main sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. However, there are plenty of other sources including:

  • green leafy vegetables, for example broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach*
  • sardines (due to the bones within them)
  • tofu
  • soya beans
  • pulses
  • dried fruit
  • almonds
  • sesame seeds
  • breakfast cereals

* Although spinach is a source of calcium, it also contains oxalate, which has an impact on how our bodies absorb calcium.


For those on a plant-based diet or preferring a plant-based milk option, opt for a milk that is fortified with calcium.

Why we need Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in helping our bodies absorb and use calcium. It also has a key role in many aspects of health including immune health (this is really important as we head towards winter), stress reduction, supporting mood and mental wellbeing to name a few. Whereas calcium is readily available in many foods, it is very difficult to meet our Vitamin D requirements through diet alone. Most of our vitamin D comes from the action of the sun on our skin, or more specifically the UV light within the sun rays. During the autumn and winter months here in the UK, we can’t make vitamin D from sunlight so it is important to follow the Government’s advice about supplementation (10 micrograms/day (sometimes called 400 units)) particularly because low levels can increase your risk of osteoporosis and broken bones.

Which foods contain Vitamin D?

As mentioned, it is very difficult to get enough Vitamin D from food alone:

  • oily fish, such as herring, salmon and mackerel
  • eggs
  • lamb’s liver
  • fortified bread
  • fortified yoghurts
  • mushrooms (those grown under UV light).

Finally, another important consideration for keeping your bones strong is to ensure you include physical activity within your daily routine particularly weight-bearing exercises. Being physically active can also positively influence your Vitamin D levels. Please ask your physio for recommendations.

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