Two minerals that boost bone health better than exercise

Exercising is one of the best ways to keep your bones healthy. It helps you achieve better bone density and strength. Plus, it prevents the bone loss that typically happens with age.

But what if you can’t exercise for a while because you’re sick, injured, or just too dang busy to fit in your usual workouts? Is there any other way to keep your bones strong while you take a sabbatical from the elliptical machine?

Yep. In fact, there’s another option that’s more effective at protecting your bones than exercise — a diet infused with two minerals.

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A mineral-rich diet best for healthy bones

Scientists have always wondered whether diet or exercise was more important for maintaining healthy bones. And a recent study just tipped the scales in favor of diet…

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that nutrition has a bigger effect on bone health and strength in mice than exercise.

For this 16-week study, they split mice into two groups. One group exercised for eight weeks and ate a normal diet. The other group exercised for eight weeks and ate a diet infused with the minerals calcium and phosphorus. For the second eight weeks, both groups continued with their diets but stopped exercising.

Of course, eating the mineral-rich diet and exercising led to improvements in bone mass and strength. But here’s the surprising thing…

Once mice who were eating the mineral-rich diet stopped exercising, they still maintained their bone strength and density. Researchers also found that mice who only ate a mineral-rich diet without ever exercising still had strong, dense, healthy bones.

So, diet makes a bigger difference in bone health than anyone would’ve thought… whether you exercise or not.

Phosphorus and calcium-rich foods for your bones 

Since this study was done on mice, it’s hard to say if the results will hold true for humans. But there’s already research showing that the proper balance of phosphorus and calcium keeps bones healthy.

Does that mean you should go get phosphorus and calcium supplements? Not quite.

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If you get too much of either of these minerals it can cause health problems too. You’re much more likely to overdo them if you’re taking supplements. I’d suggest getting them from your diet instead.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of phosphorus is 700 mg per day for adults. And you can get this mineral from foods like:

  • Salmon
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Halibut
  • Turkey
  • Chicken (Try this Slow Cooker Chicken Broth)
  • Beef
  • Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Cheese
  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Whole-wheat bread

The RDA for calcium is 1,000 mg per day for adults between 19 and 50. But women over 50 and men over 70 should get 1,200 mg per day. Here are some foods that can help you get enough calcium:

  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Sardines
  • Milk
  • Tofu
  • Salmon
  • Turnip greens
  • Kale
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Broccoli

And make sure to get plenty of vitamin D too. Vitamin D deficiency keeps your body from absorbing calcium and phosphorus properly, which leads to weak bones. So, eat a calcium and phosphorus-rich diet, get some sun (for vitamin D) and start exercising again as soon as you’re able. It may not make as big of a difference in bone health as diet. But it does plenty of other things for your health, like support your brain, heart, lungs and more.

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  1. Exercise for Your Bone Health — National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
  2. Bone Health In Brief — Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute
  3. Nutrition has a greater impact on bone strength than exercise — MedicalXpress
  4. Calcium — National Institutes of Health
  5. Phosphorus — Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and