Though you might not think of them that often, bones play a significant role in our bodies and overall health. They provide structure for our bodies, protect our organs and store minerals like calcium. Our bones continually regrow to remain strong by breaking down old bone and replacing it with new bone mass. This process slows as we age, causing our bone mass to decrease.

Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to weak, brittle bones and an increased chance for fractures. Some factors that determine how likely you may be in developing osteoporosis are out of your control such as race, sex and age. For instance, white women entering menopause have increased chances of developing the condition.

However, there are many ways to actively protect your bone health as you age. Make sure you are getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D, as well as plenty of exercise. We’ve all been told to drink your glass of milk every day, and this is due to the fact that calcium is a mineral vital to building strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and is gained from exposure to sunlight. Like calcium, vitamin D can be found in foods we eat.

Foods for bone health

Dairy products

Because they are naturally full of calcium and vitamin D, dairy products like yogurt, cheese and milk are strongly recommended to support bone health. If you don’t eat dairy, you can use non-dairy milk that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Leafy greens

Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens and bok choy are great choices for a non-dairy source of calcium. Greens also contain high amounts of vitamin K, which is another vitamin vital for optimum bone health.

Seafood

Certain seafoods like salmon, tuna and canned sardines contain high amounts of vitamin D. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids that may help improve bone health.

Fortified foods

Some foods like orange juice or certain cereals and breads are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. For breakfast, a bowl of calcium-fortified cereal with milk accompanied by a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice is a great way to get in the nutrients your bones need to stay strong.

Of course there is no substitute for eating healthy, but if you’re concerned that you may not be getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, consider adding supplements, and talk to your pharmacist or doctor about your osteoporosis risk factors.