Building Bone Health

Human Body 5 min

Find out how diet and physical activity can help you build and maintain strong bones

By DFC - PLC, Nutrition Team
Hanging skeleton
Young boy gazing up a skeleton


  • Calcium sources in the diet
  • How to get enough vitamin D
  • Getting enough nutrients for healthy bones
  • Physical activity for healthy bones

Building Bone Health

Bone health begins at birth:

  • Most of our bone growth takes place during childhood and adolescence.
  • Girls and boys reach their maximum bone density by ages 18 and 20 years, respectively.
  • It is therefore important to teach children about the importance of bone health.

Here are four tips to help build and maintain strong bones:

1. Choose calcium-rich foods

Milk and milk products such as cheese, kefir and yogurt are naturally rich sources of calcium and can be enjoyed as part of a nutritious diet. Other sources of calcium, such as canned salmon with bones, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts and calcium-fortified foods, can be incorporated into the diet. Although some plant-based foods contain lots of calcium, the body does not absorb calcium as well from these sources. 

2. Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D, sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, helps you absorb calcium from foods. In addition to being produced when the skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, vitamin D is also found naturally in a few foods: fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel; fish-liver oil; and egg yolks.

In Canada, milk is the main source of vitamin D in our diet- it is required to be fortified with vitamin D. Fortified plant-based beverages as well as some yogurts also provide vitamin D.  Because only a limited number of foods contain vitamin D, you may wish to consult a dietitian to determine whether you may need a supplement.

3. Get enough bone-building nutrients

In addition to vitamin D and calcium, potassium, vitamin K and magnesium also play important roles in bone health and are found in foods such as vegetables, fruits, lentils and whole grains.  Protein is very important- it’s a major component of bones and muscle.  Choose protein-rich foods such as dairy foods, meat, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, nuts and seeds.

4. Get moving!

Children and youth should aim for 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity daily. This should include activities that increase the heart rate and activities that build muscle and bone. More daily physical activity provides greater health benefit!  

Here are some ideas to get children and youth moving and having fun while building strong bones:

  • Play an active game, such as tag or four square.
  • Challenge yourself to walk or run in the park.
  • Bike, rollerblade or skateboard to a friend’s house.
  • Dance or skip to a favourite song.
  • Try a sport such as basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis or volleyball.
  • Enjoy winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowshoeing or sledding in the park.




For All Ages
Human body
Healthy eating