Mother Earth Living

How to Make Bones Stronger

Add herbal foods to your diet for stronger bones. These eight herb-rich dishes can help you eat more calcium and other nutrients vital to bone health.
By Letitia L. Star
August/September 2011
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Make a bone-boosting parsley pesto for a late-summer pasta dish. Find the recipe below.
Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison

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With every bite, you have a precious opportunity to build better bones. And that forkful can be delectable, thanks to enticing culinary herbs. All of the delights of the summer’s herb garden can flavor foods that can help keep you standing tall and strong—no matter what your age or gender. Once you learn the basics of bone-building foods, you can get daily nutrients you need while enjoying gourmet herb flavors. While no single recipe below can provide all of the nutrients needed to maintain bone health, each one can provide some of your daily requirements.

Foods For Bone Health: 8 Recipes

Horseradish Yogurt Cheese Spread
Emerald Herb Tossed Salad
Tangerine Tango Dressing with Dark, Leafy Green Sauté
Herb-Feta Chopped Salad
Herb & Smoked Gouda Quesadillas
Herb Flower Buds Ricotta with Rotini
Lavender-Hibiscus Grapefruit Granita
Parsley Presto Pesto

What is Osteoporosis?

If you have osteoporosis, a condition in which bones are brittle and weak, bone health is especially concerning. But everyone can benefit from strong bones. “While postmenopausal women are more at risk, everyone should be concerned about building strong bones,” says Jill Ryan, spokesperson for the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

Essential Nutrients for Bones

When it comes to keeping bones strong, you must consume at least 1,000 mg of calcium daily, plus 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D. (Adults age 50 and older: 1,200-plus mg of calcium and 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D.) Many medications and health conditions can impact bone health, so consult your health practitioner about your specific requirements.

Good calcium sources include low-fat or non-fat dairy products, dark leafy greens, broccoli and more. Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, is found in few foods. Foods fortified with calcium and vitamin D include breads, cereals, pastas, juices and soy milk.

Here are other important nutrients for building bones with a few suggestions of dietary sources:

Magnesium: Tomato products, collard greens, artichokes, sweet potatoes, raisins
Potassium: Orange juice, bananas, tomato products, potatoes
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries
Vitamin K: Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens 

Herbs and Foods for Bone Health

Thanks to herbs, eating healthily never means sacrificing great taste. Herbs wonderfully combine with the following popular and budget-friendly foods:

Mozzarella: Basil, garlic, oregano, sage, rosemary, parsley        
Cheddar: Garlic, thyme, fennel
Ricotta: Basil, garlic, parsley, chives, oregano, marjoram, tarragon
Feta: Dill, garlic, oregano, mints, sage and other herbs from Mediterranean dishes
Yogurt: Chives, dill, garlic, ground mustard, mustard seed, horseradish, fennel seed, chervil, parsley
Dark leafy greens: Garlic, allspice, basil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, ground mustard, ginger
Calcium-fortified fruit juices: Mints, lavender, hibiscus, tarragon, ginger

Eating properly for strong bones is a complicated issue. See "How the Foods You Eat Affect Your Bones" for more bone builders and robbers. 

Q: What foods can block calcium absorption? (The answers may surprise you!)

A: Although a nutritional superstar, spinach shouldn’t be counted as a calcium source, according to the NOF. Reason: Your body can’t absorb calcium well from spinach and other foods high in oxalates.

Special high-protein diets or high-sodium foods can cause your body to lose calcium. Also watch out for heavy alcohol consumption and drinking more than three cups of coffee daily.

Wheat bran, because of its high phytate levels, appears to reduce calcium absorption from foods eaten at the same time.

More Resources

For a list of calcium-rich foods:

International Osteoporosis Foundation
• For the latest research studies on nutrition and bone health, visit

A healthy-living writer and photographer, Letitia L. Star has written more than 1,000 published articles, including many features on healthy eating and gardening.  

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