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Managing Osteoporosis and Osteopenia: Nutrition Tips for Bone Health

nutrition tips for bone health

November is Osteoporosis Awareness Month in Canada. Osteoporosis is a medical condition where the bones become brittle and weak due to tissue deterioration. It normally is the result of hormonal changes, or a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. Similarly, Osteopenia refers to a condition where the bone density is lower than normal. However, it is not low enough to diagnosed as osteoporosis.

There is a lot of information available online, but it would be best to break it down into smaller pieces so it would be easier to assimilate and implement into your daily life. One of the most important components to managing osteoporosis and osteopenia is having essential nutrients for bone health and supplementation. This information also applies to people who don’t have osteoporosis or osteopenia, and want to take preventive measures to ensure they are taking control of their health.

Essential nutrients for bone health and supplementation:

  RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) Supplement  suggested Dietary Sources
Vitamin D  600-800 IU/day 400IU- 1000IU/day oily fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, swordfish) It is difficult to consume sufficient amounts from dietary sources alone.
Calcium  1200mg/day 400- 800mg/day milk, dairy products, salmon, almonds, green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, turnip greens)
Magnesium      320-420mg/day 250mg/day almonds, cashews, peanuts, raisin bran cereal, potato skins, bran rice, kidney beans, black eyed peas, lentils, milk
Silicon   40mg/day 20 -30mg/day whole grains, cereals, carrots, green beans, beer. Stimulates bone formation and therefore increases bone density.
Vitamin K   90micrograms/day for females, 120micrograms/day for males  Kale, collard greens, fresh spinach, brussel sprouts, iceberg lettuce, prunes. Those taking Warfirin (Coumadin) for anti-coagulation should avoid supplemental Vitamin K because Warfarin is a Vitamin K antagonist (and is essential for coagulation of blood). Lower fracture rates from Vitamin K supplementation are not accompanied by increased bone mineral density, which suggests that Vitamin K improves bone properties that increase bone strength without increasing mineral content. 
Boron   1-3mg/day Prunes (3-4mg/3oz), raisins, dried apricots, avocados. Stabilizes and extends the half-life of Vitamin D and oestrogen; increases calcium and magnesium retention by the kidneys.
Vitamin C     Essential for collagen formation and fracture healing.
Inositol         cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, prunes, whole grains
L-arginine              Above 3 increase bone mineral density and increase bone strength; improve various aspects of the bone formation and re-modeling as well as calcium absorption and retention.     dairy products, poultry, seafood, meat, nuts,oatmeal. Do not supplement post-myocardial infarction, especially in patients over 60 at the time of the MI, since it influences vascular relaxation.

Questionable supplements – High levels of supplementation may have deleterious effects and are readily available in the diet:

RDA Supplement Dietary Sources
Zinc 11mg/day for males, 8mg/day females normal intake: 14 mg/day red meat, lamb, shellfish, seeds, nuts, dairy products, poultry, beans. Can supplement if greater or equal to 60 years or if vegan/vegetarian 15-30mg/day.
Manganese  1.8mg/day for females, 2.3mg/day males normal intake: 3-7mg/day cereals, nuts, pineapples, beans, molluscs (e.g. clams, oysters, mussels), dark chocolate, cinnamon, tea. Excessive intake is associated with cognitive disorders in adults and children e.g . > or equal to 11mg/day.
Copper 0.9mg/day normal intake: 1.1-1.4mg/day Meats, seafoods, nuts, grains, cocoa products. Consume <10mg/day.

Strontium is not an essential nutrient and displaces calcium in bone.


  • Essential Nutrients for Bone Health and  a Review of their Availability in the Average North American Diet (Charles T. Price; Joshua R. Langford; Frank A. Liporace)
  • Open Orthop J., 2012

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