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  2. Nov 24, 2020

A Plant-Based Diet Can Build Strong Bones

by Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD

Strong Vegan
Photo: Getty Images

The nutrients you need to build strong bones can be found by eating plants, without the negative health risks from milk and dairy products.

Nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables, along with exercise, can help build and maintain strong bones. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to build bone density, or the measurement of the amount of minerals contained in a certain volume of bone. Exercise will also help decrease the risk of osteoporosis.

Here are five key nutrients to give your bones a boost and help them stay healthy and strong.


Calcium helps to build and protect bones. You want to aim for about 600 milligrams of calcium per day, which can easily be achieved on a plant-based diet. 

Eating plants helps absorb calcium at a higher rate than if you got it from cow’s milk. Leafy green vegetables, like cooked broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens are excellent sources and offer high absorption rates.  

Calcium can also be found in beans and fortified plant milks. There is more than 800 milligrams of calcium in a single serving of calcium-set tofu (about a half a cup).  All types of beans and chickpeas are great, with a cup of chickpeas offering over 100 milligrams. 

These foods also contain magnesium, which is another important mineral for strong bones. 

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D comes from the sun, and about 15 minutes a day of direct sunlight on skin should give you enough vitamin D. However, having darker skin, living in the north, and even the winter season can all make it hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun alone. Fortified cereals, grains, bread, and soy or almond milk exist as options for providing vitamin D through diet, and vegan supplements are available and equally as beneficial. 

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is essential for making collagen, the protein that binds connective tissue in bones. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers and other fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C. 

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is thought to stimulate bone formation. You can find Vitamin K in the same foods that have an abundance of calcium, like dark leafy greens, beans, and soy products. 


Potassium decreases the loss of calcium and increases the rate of bone building. Oranges, bananas, potatoes, and many other fruits, vegetables, and beans are all rich sources of potassium. 

Bone Health and Plant-Based Diets

Watch Dr. Neal Barnard discuss a recent study on vegan diets and bone health

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