Your bones consist of a complex network of proteins, such as collagen, and minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Certain key nutrients such as vitamin D play a part in bone health. But a variety of vitamins and minerals in your diet help encourage bone growth, density and development. While you can't actually grow longer bones once you reach adulthood, eating a well-balanced, whole-food-based diet helps you get the nutrients needed to support bone health and density.
Foods With Major Minerals
Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are the major minerals needed to encourage strong, healthy bones. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, contain all three of these minerals. You also get dietary calcium from eating broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu and dried beans. Phosphorus is found in meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, whole grains, potatoes, corn and peas. Other sources of magnesium include lentils, tofu, peanuts, cashews, almonds, whole grains, beef, chicken and pork.
Trace Mineral Sources
Other minerals are needed in smaller amounts by your body; they encourage bone growth and strong bone collagen production. Zinc, copper and silicon are three of these trace minerals. You get zinc from eating protein-rich foods, such as beef, chicken, seafood, shellfish, beans, peas, nuts, seeds and dairy products. Copper is found in shellfish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables and prunes. Eating more whole grains and root vegetables helps boost your silicon intake.
Vitamins D and K in Food
Your bone density also relies on vitamin D to help regulate calcium absorption and vitamin K to promote bone protein formation and calcium binding. Eating dairy products, seafood such as salmon, tuna and shrimp, liver and eggs helps you get more vitamin D. Your body can also synthesize vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin K comes from green leafy vegetables, such as chard, kale, collard greens and spinach, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fish, meat and eggs.
Sources of Vitamins C and B-6
Getting an adequate amount of vitamins C and B-6 also helps promote bone repair and density by encouraging bone collagen formation and triggering bone cell activity. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, melons, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes. You'll get vitamin B-6 from eating seafood, chicken, beef, pork, eggs, beans, peas, bananas, avocados, watermelon, potatoes and carrots.