What you can’t see can still harm you—especially when it comes to bone mass. Most people don’t know they have low bone mass until they have a broken bone. Osteoporosis (a disease where bones become brittle and weak) is estimated to affect 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men over age 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
While many foods and eating habits can speed up bone loss, there are also plenty of foods you can eat to keep your bones strong and healthy. Nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K are all essential to prevent aging bones.
Instead of trying to add these nutrients up one by one, here’s a list of five recipes to prevent aging bones and support bone health at any age. Then, for more healthy recipe ideas, check out these 50 Best Easy (and Fast) Dinner Recipes.
A great way to start your day and fill up on bone-supporting nutrients is with this pumpkin parfait. Each serving has half a cup of Greek yogurt, which adds a significant amount of calcium to this recipe.
Calcium is essential for bone building. Over 99% of the calcium in the body is found in bones, and without enough of it, your bones are unable to rebuild themselves faster than they break down.
This fall favorite breakfast is filled with other important nutrients to keep your bones young and strong as well. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium while pumpkin puree is packed with potassium and iron.
While iron isn’t typically thought of as a bone-building nutrient, studies have found that maintaining adequate iron levels is essential for strong bones. Too much or not enough iron can both result in weak and fragile bones, according to an article in Pharmaceuticals.
Each serving of this pumpkin parfait has 15% of the daily value (DV) for iron from the pumpkin puree and pumpkin seed granola.
Get our recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Parfait.
If you’re in the mood for a savory breakfast (or lunch or dinner), this egg scramble is packed with flavor and nutrients to keep your bones young.
Salmon and egg yolks are some of the few foods that have naturally occurring vitamin D. One ounce of smoked salmon has 4.9 micrograms of vitamin D, or 24% of the DV, and two eggs provide another 5% of the DV.
Without enough vitamin D, your body is unable to absorb the calcium you eat. While your body can make its own vitamin D from the sun, it may not be enough during winter months or if you spend most of your time indoors or wearing sunscreen.
The older you are, the more difficult it may be to get enough vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels can lead to secondary hyperparathyroidism, lower bone density, and an increased risk of fractures, according to a review in Bone Research.
The higher risk of low vitamin D in older adults is related to less time outdoors, lower rates of vitamin D synthesis in the skin from sunlight, and not eating enough vitamin D-rich foods.
Get our recipe for Scrambled Eggs with Salmon, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese.
If you have trouble getting leafy greens, like kale, into your diet, this salad is an excellent way to sneak them in. The leaves of baby kale are tender and delicate, much unlike full-grown kale which can be tough and intense in flavor.
Baby kale does more than taste delicious in this dish. It’s a good source of calcium and vitamin C, and just one cup of baby kale leaves has 270% of your DV for vitamin K.
Low levels of vitamin K are associated with low bone density and an increased risk of fracture. But, beware if you’re taking a blood-thinning medication. Eating inconsistent levels of vitamin K-containing foods can make blood thinners more or less effective than they need to be.
Besides the nutrients in kale, this salad is a protein powerhouse with walnuts, chicken, and cannellini beans. The 24 grams of protein from this salad will keep you full and satisfied, and keep your bones strong.
While calcium often gets most of the credit for bone strength, protein makes up 50% of your bone structure and is essential as your bones are constantly breaking down and building back up. Adding a protein source to each and every meal and snack can help you get enough for strong and healthy bones.
Get our recipe for Salad with Rotisserie Chicken, Kale, and White Beans.
If you need any extra boost for bone health, check out the #1 Best Supplement for Aging Bones.
If cooking salmon at home isn’t your thing, you can easily get your vitamin D fix from canned tuna. While most tuna salads are just a mix of tuna and mayonnaise, this recipe takes the bone-building power up a notch by adding beans and greek yogurt.
Canned tuna is easy to find, budget-friendly, and high in nutrients. One 3-ounce serving of canned tuna has 5.9 micrograms or 28% of the DV for vitamin D.
This recipe lightens things up by using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Less saturated fat is one benefit of using greek yogurt, and your bones will thank you for the extra boost of calcium.
Garbanzo beans are a good source of protein as well as magnesium, which is essential for the activation of vitamin D (which in turn is needed for the absorption of calcium).
These three nutrients are necessary to work together and promote strong and healthy bones as you age. If you’re missing one, your bones could be at a higher risk for fractures. Thankfully, this easy meal has this trifecta of essential bone nutrients covered.
Get our recipe for Healthy Tuna Veggie Melts.
This bone-building meal is perfect if you follow a vegan, dairy-free, or gluten-free. Between the swiss chard, tofu, and butternut squash, you can support your bone health no matter what diet you follow.
Butternut squash is a good source of potassium, which helps to neutralize acids in the body that can break down bone. In a 2017 study on Korean post-menopausal women, those with the highest potassium intake had 21% higher hip bone mineral density than the women who ate the least potassium.
Tofu, along with other soy foods, is an excellent dairy-free source of calcium. Just one-half cup of tofu has 861 milligrams of calcium or 66% of the DV for adults.
To absorb as much calcium as possible from this dish, serve it alongside an ice-cold glass of vitamin D fortified plant milk.
Get our recipe for Tofu and Butternut Squash Curry.