As we age, it becomes even more important to take good care of our bones. Ageing can cause bones to become thinner, which increases the risk of bone fractures, breaks, or osteoporosis.

Although there are many things you can do to improve bone health, one of the easiest steps is to eat the right foods. And, contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean drinking a glass of milk.

Which nutrients do we need to keep bones strong?

Calcium and vitamin C

While it’s widely known that calcium is important for maintaining strong bones, it isn’t the only nutrient we should pay attention to. Getting enough vitamin C is also key as it helps your body produce bone-forming cells and can protect bone cells from damage.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another necessary nutrient for bone health. It helps us absorb and store calcium, which is the main mineral in our bones. Studies show that vitamin D plays a key role in helping prevent osteoporosis and may prevent the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. Adequate protein is also important for preserving bone and muscle mass with ageing.

Magnesium and zinc

Magnesium and zinc are important too. Magnesium helps convert vitamin D into an active form that aids calcium absorption, while zinc helps produce bone-building cells and stops too much bone from being broken down.

10 bone-strengthening recipe ideas

Eating meals that contain several of these nutrients can be an incredibly effective (and very delicious!) way to strengthen your bones.

So, here are 10 bone-strengthening recipe ideas.

1. Crispy sesame tofu

Crispy sesame tofu

Most tofu is prepared with calcium sulphate, a naturally occurring mineral which, as the name suggests, is very high in calcium. Just one cup of tofu contains a whopping 132% of your recommended daily value (DV) of calcium!

Seeds are also tiny nutritional powerhouses, and many, like sesame, poppy, and chia seeds, are high in calcium. Poppy seeds have the most, with one tablespoon containing 10% of the DV, but one tablespoon of sesame seeds also contains 7% of the DV for calcium – as well as being high in other nutrients like iron, copper, and manganese.

While tofu is naturally bland, it absorbs the flavours of other ingredients, so cooking it with things like ginger, garlic, and soy sauce makes it incredibly flavoursome. This crispy sesame tofu recipe from Love + Lemons is savoury, tangy, and moreish – and really good for you!

2. White bean and kale stew

White bean and kale stew

Dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spring greens are also excellent sources of calcium – and are packed with many other health-busting nutrients too. Just one cup of cooked spring greens, for example, has 21% of the DV of calcium.

Kale, meanwhile, is packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, beta-carotene, and unusually high levels of vitamin K. Low levels of vitamin K are linked to low bone density and an increased risk of fracture.

This white bean and kale stew doesn’t just contain lots of key nutrients from the kale – it also contains additional vitamin C from tomatoes. Plus, white beans are also incredibly good for you; not only does one cup contain 12% of your calcium DV, but they’re also high in protein, fibre, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium.

To make this smoky white bean stew with kale, check out this recipe from Cook Report.

3. Pumpkin yoghurt parfait

Pumpkin yoghurt parfait

If you’re looking for a healthy yet sweet recipe, this pumpkin yoghurt parfait is ideal. Parfait is an American-inspired breakfast that may sound fancy, but is actually quite simple: it’s just layers of yoghurt, muesli or granola, fruit, and some type of tasty sauce. And while it looks like a dessert, it’s usually high in calcium, protein, good fats, and fibre.

This particular recipe contains Greek yoghurt, which is high in both protein and calcium. Pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium, and pumpkin purée is high in iron and potassium. While iron isn’t considered a key bone-building nutrient, studies suggest that low levels of iron are linked to weaker bones. Plus, people who have high levels of potassium also seem to have stronger bones.

The addition of banana adds more potassium, as well as a lovely sweet taste. To make pumpkin yoghurt parfait, try this recipe from Hungry Couple.

4. Scrambled eggs with spinach and smoked salmon

Scrambled eggs with spinach and smoked salmon

If you prefer savoury foods, this next dish might be right up your street. Salmon and egg yolks are both natural sources of vitamin D: one ounce of smoked salmon contains 24% of the DV for vitamin D, while two eggs provide a further 5%.

Without adequate levels of vitamin D, your body can’t absorb the calcium you eat. And, while the body makes its own vitamin D from sunshine, in winter there isn’t enough sun in the UK – so we need to ensure we’re getting it from our diet. This may be in supplement form or from foods like fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms.

Spinach also contains calcium. One cup of cooked spinach contains 19% of the DV. However, it’s also worth noting that spinach contains oxalates, which bind with calcium and can make it difficult for the body to absorb the nutrient. That said, eating it with foods that contain vitamin D – which supports absorption – can offset this.

Plus, spinach is extremely nutrient-dense, and contains high levels of carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, and iron, so it’s always a good idea to eat more of it. Try this scrambled eggs with spinach and smoked salmon recipe from Diet Doctor.

5. Grilled sardines

Grilled sardines

Sardines may be small, but they pack a big nutritional punch. Not only are they rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but thanks to their edible bones, they’re also high in calcium. A can of sardines contains 27% of the DV for calcium – and they’re also a good source of protein.

While some seafood contains mercury, small fish like sardines have low levels – and sardines are also high in selenium, which can prevent and even reverse mercury toxicity. They’re also inexpensive, so they’re easy on your wallet too!

The mild, fishy flavour and meaty texture of sardines means they’re delicious grilled, and some of the best recipes are incredibly simple. This grilled sardine recipe from Serious Eats uses olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and smoked paprika to bring out the flavour of the fish.

6. Spring green and parmesan tart

Spring green and parmesan tart

While most cheeses are good sources of calcium, hard rind cheeses like parmesan contain the most because they have less water content. While one ounce of soft rind cheeses, like brie, only contain 4% of the DV for calcium, an ounce of parmesan contains 19%.

As previously mentioned, spring greens are also an excellent source of calcium, and one cup of cooked spring greens contains around 21% of the DV for calcium. Plus, spring greens and parmesan taste great together, so when you pair them in a recipe you get a delicious as well as calcium-rich meal!

This spring green and parmesan tart recipe from Riverford is incredibly tasty, and just as good eaten cold as hot. If you want to save time, you can use shop-bought pastry instead of making your own.

7. Fig, plum, and almond cake

Fig, plum, and almond cake

If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to give this next recipe a go! While it looks beautiful and tastes delicious, this fig, plum and almond cake is also packed with nutrients.

Of all nuts, almonds are the highest in calcium, and just a single 28g serving (around 23 nuts) contains 6% of the DV for calcium. Almonds also contain healthy fats, fibre, and protein, and are especially good sources of magnesium, manganese, and vitamin E.

Dried figs are packed with fibre and antioxidants, and they also contain more calcium than any other dried fruit: a single 40g serving contains 5% of the DV. More good news is that figs are also great sources of potassium and vitamin K, two micronutrients that are essential for bone health.

This fig, plum and almond cake recipe from Rebel Recipes is easy to make and is also vegan and gluten-free. Serve it with a dollop of Greek yoghurt for even more calcium!

8. Jollof beans

Jollof beans

Beans and lentils aren’t only good sources of protein and fibre, they’re also packed with essential micronutrients like iron, zinc, folate, magnesium, and potassium. Some varieties, like black-eyed beans, also contain decent amounts of calcium: a single cooked cup of black-eyed beans contains 16% of the DV.

This jollof beans recipe from Delicious is healthy, flavoursome, and thanks to the scotch bonnet chilli, fiery. Because the key ingredients are dried black-eyed beans and canned tomatoes, it’s also a cheap meal to make, so if you’re looking for an inexpensive yet satisfying meal, it might be just the ticket.

9. Broccoli cheese soup

Broccoli cheese soup

Broccoli is packed with important vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and is a particularly excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. It also contains calcium, and one cup of cooked broccoli offers 5% of the DV.

While there are all kinds of delicious cheese and broccoli recipes, broccoli and cheese soup is a classic. And while you can use many different types of cheese, hard cheeses work better as they contain higher levels of calcium.

This broccoli cheese soup recipe from Cookie + Kate uses cheddar cheese, but you can swap the cheddar for other hard cheeses if you like: Edam, gouda, Gruyère, parmesan, or Swiss cheese all work well.

10. Okra and tofu

Okra and tofu

Okra is one of the more surprising sources of calcium: one cup of cooked okra contains 9% of the DV. It’s also very low in calories, but very high in other nutrients: it’s packed with magnesium, folate, fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins C, K, and A.

We’ve already seen that tofu is particularly rich in calcium, so pairing it with okra means you’re in for an incredibly calcium-rich dinner – as well as a tasty one!

So, why not try this okra and tofu recipe from Ginger and Cilantro?

Final thoughts…

It’s really important to look after our bones, especially as we age – and the good news is that there are many easy ways to do this.

Calcium is the most important nutrient when it comes to strengthening our bones, and because it’s found in a wide variety of foods, it’s generally easy for us to eat more of it – no matter our diets or taste preferences.

Nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and protein are also important for maintaining bone health. The recipes featured above contain a wide array of these health-boosting vitamins and minerals, so hopefully there are at least a few meal ideas here that stir your appetite!

To find out more about strengthening your bones, you might like to read our article; 9 ways to improve bone health. Or, check out the diet and nutrition section of our website for more healthy meal ideas.

Are you planning to try any of these bone-healthy recipes? Or perhaps you have some recipe ideas of your own that you’d like to share. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.