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After Menopause, Osteoporosis Risk Increases — But the Foods You Eat Can Reduce It

You actually are what you eat.


For most of us, bone density isn’t something we thought about when we were young — and by young, I mean pre-menopause. Bone health, however, should be a consideration throughout our lives, and particularly as we age. That’s because, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 80 percent of Americans with osteoporosis are women, and roughly half of us will eventually develop osteoporosis after age 50. (We also sustain 75-80 percent of all hip fractures.)

As a menopausal woman turning 50 later this year, these statistics are more than a little scary (and compounded by the fact that I work from home and, thus, don’t get as much vitamin D or exercise as I should). Though I could take calcium supplements, I’d rather avoid pills where I can, since it feels like medications are playing a bigger role in my life in recent years. (I have prescriptions for both menopausal migraines and menopausal depression.)

I’ve often wondered if adjusting my diet might inhibit osteoporosis. Basically, are there foods that support bone density? Apparently, I’m not alone in this wondering, as a First for Women reader recently wrote in asking our consulting nutritionists the same question. Here was our experts’ response.

Q: I know I’m at higher risk for osteoporosis now that I’m postmenopause, but I hate taking pills, so calcium supplements aren’t a great option for me. Can I get what I need through diet alone?

A: Yes! And you’re right to take action since the drop in estrogen puts postmenopausal women at higher risk for bone thinning. But while women are often told to increase calcium intake, it may not be the best strategy, as studies show that increased calcium intake yields only slightly higher bone density and does not reduce fractures in people over 50.

A better bet: Snack on prunes. These gems are often touted for their high fiber content and terrific digestive benefits, but their rich stores of boron, potassium, and antioxidants make them a boon for bone health. In fact, Penn State researchers found that a daily dose of prunes prevented loss of bone density in postmenopausal women; additional research found that eating five prunes a day enhanced new bone formation — a benefit that reduces the risk of brittle bones by 50 percent. Prunes make a great snack, but you can also chop them and add to salads, oatmeal, or smoothies.

Meet our expert

Nutrition experts Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, are leading authorities on nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. They are also the bestselling authors of Rebuild Your Bones: The 12-Week Osteoporosis Protocol (available at Amazon). To ask them a question, send an email to

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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