A diet to maintain bone health should focus on adequate, high quality protein and foods high in vitamins and minerals necessary for bone rebuilding.
A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis because animal protein generally contains higher amounts of phosphorous, which mobilizes calcium from bone. Calcium is also mobilized from bone to buffer the acidic breakdown products of protein. However, protein is required to build bone so an adequate amount of high-quality, non-meat protein should be maintained.
- Soy, including tofu, tempeh, soy nuts, miso, fresh edamame beans
- High protein grains (e.g., quinoa)
- Eggs (a complete protein source)
Vitamins and Minerals
A variety of vitamins and minerals are required to support formation and maintenance of healthy bone.
- Vitamin B6
- *Breaks down homocysteine, a protein which promotes osteoporosis, decreases fracture healing time
- Found in: Bran cereals, granola; Watermelon, banana, pineapple; Salmon, rainbow trout, steelhead, mackerel, halibut, tuna, herring; Almonds, sunflower seeds; Tomato, sweet potato, potato, broccoli; Soybeans
- Vitamin C
- *Promotes formation and cross-linking of structural proteins in bone
- Found in: Oranges, grapefruit (and juice), watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, papaya, kiwi, mango, guava, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries; Peppers, including red chili, green, sweet; Dark leafy greens, including turnip greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach; Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, tomato, sweet potato, cabbage; Mung bean sprouts
- Vitamin D
- *Enhances dietary calcium absorption
- Found in: Vitamin-D fortified dairy products; Fish; Eggs; Liver
- Folic Acid
- *Breaks down homocysteine, a protein which promotes osteoporosis
- Found in: Brewer’s yeast; Blackeyed peas, lentils, lima beans, kidney beans; Peanuts; Turnip greens, Romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, parsley; Leeks, broccoli, bok choy, acorn squash, tomato, brussel sprouts;Orangejuice; Wild rice, oat bran; Tofu
- Vitamin K
- *Attracts calcium to bone tissue
- Found in: Dark, leafy greens, including kale, collard greens, Romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard; Broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, alfalfa; Wheat, oats, rye
- *Reduces urinary excretion of calcium and magnesium
- Found in: Dark, leafy greens, including kale, collard greens, Romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard; Tomato; Pear, apple, prunes, raisins, dates; Peanuts, almonds, filberts; Honey; Seafood
- *Essential in bone formation
- Found in: Dark, leafy greens, including kale, collard greens, Romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, dandelion greens, beet greens, mustard greens; Sea vegetables, kelp, dulse; Swiss/cheddar/cottage cheeses, goat’s milk, buttermilk, yogurt; Carob flour, dates, figs, raisins; Black-strap molasses; Almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts; Brewer’s yeast; Parsley, watercress, broccoli, celery, rutabaga; Tofu, soybeans; Wheat bran, buckwheat; Olives
- *Inhibits bone resorption
- Found in: Rye, whole wheat, millet; Beans, refried beans; Brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, peanuts; Black strap molasses; Tofu; Prunes, banana; Halibut
- * Influences both matrix and mineral metabolism in bone, and is required for proper calcium metabolism
- Found in: Dark, leafy greens, including kale, collard greens, Romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens; Kelp, dulse; Wheat bran and germ, buckwheat, millet, whole wheat, rye;
- Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, filberts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts; Molasses; Brewer’s yeast; Tofu; Coconut; Celery, asparagus, cabbage; Bananas, oranges, prunes; Legumes; Nuts, seeds- cashews, almonds
- *Increases amount of calcium laid down in bone
- Found in: Dark, leafy greens, including kale, collard greens, Romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard; Celery, beets, asparagus; Bran, whole grains; Pineapple, banana; Egg yolks; Legumes
- *Reduces urinary excretion of calcium
- Found in: banana, raisins; Potatoes; Salmon, halibut; Carrots; Almonds; Soybeans
- *Essential for bone formation and enhances vitamin D action
- Found in: Wheat germ; Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds; Seafood; Nutritional yeast; Soybeans
Additional lifestyle changes, such as weight bearing exercise, and supplementation for hormone balance or additional nutritional needs should be addressed with dietary changes. Any organ system imbalance and energetic patterns underlying the development of osteoporosis also need to be treated.
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- High sodium, high fat
- Soda (any high phosphorous beverages)
In Chinese medicine, osteoporosis may be associated with yin deficiency and/or liver blood and/or yin deficiency.
Foods that tonify yin
- Millet, barley, wheat germ, wheat, teff, quinoa, amaranth
- Seaweeds, algae
- Black beans, kidney beans, mung beans and sprouts
- Beets, string beans
- Persimmon, grapes, blackberry, raspberry, mulberry, banana, watermelon
- Dairy, egg
Foods that build liver blood and yin
- Mung beans and sprouts
- Chlorophyll-rich foods
- Flax, borage, evening primrose oils
- Grapes, huckleberry, blackberry, raspberry
- Black strap molasses
Hudson, T. 1999. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Keats Publishing:Los Angeles,CA.
Marz, R. 1999. Medical Nutrition from Marz, 2nd Edition. Omni-Press:Portland,OR.
NationalCollegeof Naturopathic Medicine. Dietary Guidelines for the Prevention of Osteoporosis.. Patient Handout.Portland,OR.
Pitchford, P. 1993. Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books:Berkeley,CA.