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07th March 2014

A Recipe for Healthy Bones

caregiver helping senior woman walking down stairsEvery three minutes in the day someone somewhere in the UK has a fracture as a result of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, a disease that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and more likely to break, can lead to severe disability, reduced quality of life and decreased life expectancy.

Bone loss is part of the natural ageing process, particularly in women, when decline in oestrogen levels post menopause accelerates the loss of calcium from bone, but bone loss also occurs in men.

Key nutrients for bone health

Even in the face of age-related deterioration, nutrients can play a major role in slowing down this natural process. The key nutrients for bone health are protein and calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc magnesium and phosphorus.


Vitamin DOily fish (e.g. salmon, herrings, mackerel, sardines, trout, pilchards), liver, eggs, fortified breakfast cereal and fortified fat spreads
People should be encouraged get some summer sun (but not too burn), and those aged 65 years and over should also take a daily vitamin D supplement
Vitamin COranges and orange juice, spring greens, peppers, broccoli, strawberries
Vitamin C is heat-sensitive and water soluble so leaving vegetables to stand in water and overcooking can substantially reduce amounts
CalciumTinned sardines and pilchards, milk, cheese and yogurt, fortified soya drinks, dried fruit, white bread
ZincLiver, red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, nuts, wholegrain breakfast cereal
MagnesiumNuts, beans, lentils and peas, wholegrain bread and cereals
PhosphorusWholegrains, oats, nuts dairy, meat, fish


Table: Food sources of key micronutrients for healthy bones

A word on protein as it received some bad press this week. Protein is necessary for both good bone and muscle health, important for maintaining mobility and a greater degree of independence. Low dietary intake of protein in the elderly occurs for various reasons including reduced appetite, consuming nutrient poor diets typified by a ‘tea and biscuit’ diet and a high perceived cost of protein foods.

Lifestyle for healthy bones

Weight-bearing exercises are also important. Reviews have shown that functional weight bearing exercise, such as rising from a chair or stair climbing, can be suitable for people in residential care including those with cognitive impairments as these can be simple and there is no need for specific exercise facilities.

Smoking and high alcohol intake can damage the cells that make new bone, so smoking cessation and alcohol in moderation are important for bone health. Limiting salt intake (less than 6g of salt day) is also recommended, as it is suggested that high salt intake can increase the loss of calcium from bones.

It’s never too late

Although nutrition for bone health starts as early as in the womb, it’s never too late to look after your bones. A healthy diet will help minimise bone loss.


*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Ayela Spiro

Nutrition Science Manager, British Nutrition Foundation

Ayela is a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, where her role involves providing expert advice on nutrition and health issues to a number of key audiences including consumers, health professionals, charities, the media and the food industry. At the heart of her work is the communication of nutrition science that promotes understanding of nutrition and health and contributes to the improved wellbeing of all.

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