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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Eating well for strong healthy bones

Te kainga pai e kaha ai ngā kōiwi

Eating well can help you build strong bones from an early age and keep them strong throughout your life.

Stay a healthy weight

Being underweight or very overweight is not good for your bones. Losing weight very quickly or repeatedly gaining then losing weight aren't good either.

If you're struggling to stay a healthy weight, talk to your general practice team. They may refer you to a community healthy eating programme or to a dietitian.

Choose a variety of foods

This is the best way to make sure you get all the nutrients your body needs to build and maintain strong bones.

Have food from all the main food groups every day:

Have calcium-rich foods every day

Calcium is a mineral found in many foods. Your body needs calcium for strong healthy bones.

Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium. They also have other important nutrients such as protein and phosphorous which are important for bone and overall health.

Try to have two to three servings of dairy products every day. One serving is:

If you're a healthy weight or overweight, have low-fat milk (green or yellow top), low-fat yoghurt and cheeses such as cottage cheese, Edam and Noble.

If you need to gain weight, have whole milk (dark blue or silver top), Greek yoghurt and cheeses like Cheddar and Colby.

If you do not like or can’t have dairy products, there are other foods that are good sources of calcium. These include:

Include vitamin D-rich foods

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so we also need it for strong bones. We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight directly onto our skin but having foods that contain vitamin D can help, especially in the winter.

Food sources of vitamin D include eggs, oily fish (sardines, salmon and tuna) and vitamin D-enriched foods such as some types of milk, yoghurt, and margarine.

Include a protein-rich food in every meal

Protein-rich food helps to keep your bones strong and healthy. Lean meat and chicken (with skin removed), fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts and seeds and some plant milks such as soy milk are all protein-rich choices.

Eat plenty of different coloured vegetables and fruit

Vegetables and fruits are full of fibre, vitamins and minerals. We aren't sure why vegetables and fruit are good for your bones, but we know that people who eat plenty of them are less likely to break a bone.

Have at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day (a serving is about a handful). Try to have vegetables or fruit at all meals. Vegetables and fruit are also great snacks.

Cut down on fizzy drinks

Sugary and diet fizzy drinks aren't good for your bones. We aren't sure why, but we know that children and teens who regularly have fizzy drinks are more likely to have weaker bones. Also, middle-aged women who regularly have fizzy drinks are more likely to break a hip.

Go easy on alcohol

If you drink alcohol, follow national guidelines on how much to drink safely.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2023.


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Review key: HIOSP-24517