Osteoporosis and nutrition: 5 key steps

A bone-healthy diet can help in preventing and managing osteoporosis.

Like any living tissue, bones need nutrients so that they can grow and then maintain that growth. That's why a key component to both managing and preventing osteoporosis is good nutrition. Is there a bone-healthy diet? The answer is yes. Here are five steps to eating well for strong bones.

1. Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains

Studies show that eating more vegetables and fruits will lead to improved bone health. These foods are generally lower in calories and fat and are high in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. They also contain phytochemicals, substances that can help protect against a variety of diseases, including osteoporosis.

Aim to eat four or more servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit each day. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C, K and A. All play a role in maintaining bone health.

Also eat four servings of grains daily. Choose whole grains when possible because whole grains contain more nutrients, especially magnesium and fiber, than do refined grains.

2. Choose healthy sources of protein and fat

Protein is important for bone health, because it's a major component of bone tissue and plays a role in maintaining bone. The best choices include plant proteins, such as beans and nuts, as well as fish, skinless poultry and lean cuts of meat. Plant proteins are rich in vitamins, minerals and estrogen-like plant compounds that help preserve bone. Low-fat dairy products, including milk and plain yogurt, are another good source of protein and also provide calcium, which benefits bone health. Protein should account for 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories.

You need some fat in your diet for your body to function properly. The best choices are monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, nuts and seeds. Cold water fish also provide essential omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Even these fats, however, should be eaten in limited amounts. Avoid saturated fats, which have been shown to be detrimental to bone health in adults.

March 10, 2017 See more In-depth