prunes in a tree representing preserving the environment

Supporting Your Structure

Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, Owner- Active Eating Advice

As a sports dietitian who works with both male and female active individuals and professional athletes, I am an advocate for food choices and eating patterns that support bone health. Too often, I have clients who are diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis or who have experienced stress fractures or stress reactions. Therefore, it is important to be preventative, impactful, and proactive with food choices and eating behaviors that are constructive – not destructive – to bones.

Let’s discuss a few actions you can take to preserve your bones. These recommendations are important for men as well as for women.


  1. Minimize actions that contribute to bone breakdown
  2. Know your bone-building foods
  3. Take up an active lifestyle
  4. Get creative with bone-healthy foods in the kitchen


  1. Minimize actions that contribute to bone breakdown, which include:
  • Being sedentary
  • Drinking alcohol to excess
  • Smoking
  • Crash diets
  • Carrying excess body fat
  • Not consuming enough protein
  • Not consuming enough vitamins and minerals
  • Being under-fueled


  1. Know your bone-building foods. What nutrients help build and maintain bone? There are quite a few worth noting. Here are the nutrients that are involved in optimizing bone health and some foods that you can include in your daily meals and snacks to be sure you’re getting enough of each.

Protein Bone formation, skeletal muscle strength 0.4-0.9 grams protein/lb BW

Distribute protein evenly across all meals

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, soy foods, legumes, nuts, seeds
Calcium Confers bone strength and structure, skeleton mineralization, bone development, and metabolism 14-18: 1300 mg19-50: 1000 mg

51-70: F 1200 mg

M 1000 mg

71+ 1200 mg

Dairy foods, fish with bones, fortified cereals, fortified juices, fortified plant “milk”
Phosphorus Skeletal development and bone integrity 14-18: 1250 mg19+ 700 mg Meats, dairy foods, beans
Magnesium Helps the body to better use calcium, improves bone strength 14-18: F 360 mgM 410 mg

19-30: F 310 mg

M 400 mg

31 + F: 320 mg

M 420 mg

Leafy greens, nuts/seeds, whole grains, tomato products, chocolate
Potassium Maintain acid/alkaline balance

Neutralize acid load and minimize calcium loss from bone. May suppress calcium resorption and bone mineral dissolution

14-18: F 2300 mgM 3000 mg

19+: F 2600 mg

M 3400 mg

Beans, lentils, squash, prunes, beef, poultry potatoes, bananas, kiwi, citrus, tomatoes, dairy
Zinc Important for bone metabolism and mineralization 14-18: F 9 mgM 11 mg

19+ F 8 mg

M 11 mg

Shellfish, beef, pork, poultry, beans. Pumpkin seeds, fortified cereal, dairy
Manganese Bone development and maintenance 14-18: F 1.6 mg/M 2.2 mg19+ F: 1.8 mg/M 2.3 mg Whole grains, nuts, leafy vegetables, prunes, tea, soybeans, oats, rice
Vitamin D Maintain adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal bone mineralization. Involved in bone growth and bone remodeling 14-18: 15 mcg (600 IU)19-70: 15 mcg (600 IU)

70+: 20 mcg (800 IU)


Dairy foods, some plant milk, fortified cereals, cod liver oil, rainbow trout, sockeye salmon, egg yolk
Vitamin K Necessary for bone formation and mineralization 14-18: 75 mcg19 + F 90 mcg, M 120 mcg Leafy greens, cabbage family vegetables, prunes, fish, liver, meat, eggs, soy foods esp. natto,  green tea, vegetable oils
Boron Important for bone health and development and the metabolism of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D No established RDA or AI Prunes/prune juice, coffee, milk, beans, peanuts, apples, peaches
Vitamin C Necessary for collagen synthesis

-collagen is the main protein in bone, may increase bone mineral density

14-18 F: 65 mg, M 75 mg19-50: F 75 mg, M 90 mg Citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, peppers, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, cantaloupe
Copper Helps to prevent low  bone mineral density 14-18: 890 mcg19+ 900 mcg Beef liver, oysters, prunes, potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, cashews, crab, tofu, cocoa


  1. Take up an active lifestyle. Incorporate a variety of exercises to strengthen your bones and maintain your overall health. An ideal exercise regimen includes cardio, strength training, and flexibility. Examples of these exercises can be seen below:
Cardio Strength Training Flexibility
Brisk walking/hikingJogging/running


Jumping rope

Stair climbing

ResistanceIsometrics: Own body weight

Free weights

Weight machines

Tai chi





  1. Get creative with bone-healthy foods in the kitchen. Make a point to use different bone-supporting ingredients to add flavor, texture, and color to all of your meals and snacks.

Breakfast Ideas:

  • Add chopped prunes to your cereal, oatmeal, or pancakes
  • Make oatmeal with milk instead of water
  • Swap cereal to pick one fortified with bone-building micronutrients
  • Make a smoothie with milk, yogurt, fruits, and spinach

Lunch Ideas:

  • Add canned salmon or sardines to a salad
  • Throw some beans into a wrap
  • Add canned tomatoes to a vegetable soup
  • Use a chopped potato instead of rice for a bowl or make the potato the base of lunch
  • Toss prunes into a salad

Dinner Ideas:

  • Add chopped prunes to Brussels sprouts, or other roasted veggies
  • Toss pasta with broccoli, ricotta, and pesto
  • Add more produce to the plate with roasted, sauteed, stir-fried, or grilled veggies
  • Puree cannellini beans and add to a soup or sauce

Snack Hacks:

  • Cubes of cheese, almonds, prunes, shelled edamame
  • Turkey jerky, roasted chickpeas, and prunes
  • Trail mix with chopped prunes, Cheerios, walnuts
  • A smoothie with milk, yogurt, cocoa, nut butter, and banana
  • Hummus with bean chips and veggies
  • Stuff a cored apple with ricotta and almonds


Your bones support you every day. They are important for everything you do, so it is critical that you take care of them. Try one or all of these tips to keep your bones healthy for now and for your lifetime.