Which Vitamins And Minerals Are Essential For Healthy Bones?

Most people know that we need to get a variety of vitamins and minerals for different aspects of our health. And looking after our bones as we age can be particularly important. Whilst some of the vitamins and minerals on this list are going to be relatively common knowledge for most readers, calcium for example, there are even different types that can effect how useful it is for your bones.

So, let’s get into everything you need to know about essential minerals and vitamins for bone health, and what you need to do to make sure you’re getting everything you need.

Calcium: The Building Block of Strong Bones

We all know we need calcium for maintaining bone health and density. It’s recommended that adults get 1000 – 1500mg of calcium a day. And unfortunately, a lot of us do not. Most Americans actually only get around 600mg of calcium a day from their diet. [1] As such it is advisable for a lot of people to supplement calcium to make up the shortfall. But, it’s important to know that not all types of calcium can be properly absorbed by the body. Calcium Carbonate for example, mostly used for settling the stomach, isn’t particularly bioavailable and is actually only 40% calcium. [2] The more absorbable forms of calcium are even less of a percentage, this can actually make it a little difficult to supplement. Generally calcium citrate is the most commonly recommended form, but be sure to check the label to make sure the actual calcium content is 500mg.

And on top of that it’s important to note that the body struggles to absorb more than 500mg at once, so if you need to supplement more than this, it’s best to split it up through the day. [3] 

Sources of Calcium: Dairy, Some Green Vegetables, Figs, Fortified Cereal

Vitamin D: The Conductor of Calcium

Vitamin D works hand in hand with calcium to support bone health. It acts as a conductor directing calcium to the bones. Without enough vitamin D, the body struggles to use the calcium. And not getting enough vitamin D can in an of itself cause joint and bone aches. Some studies suggest more than half of americans are deficient in vitamin D. As a result it’s recommended to supplement 1000-5000 IU of vitamin D daily, especially if you live in area with lower amounts of sunlight. [4]

Sources of Vitamin D: Direct sunlight to exposed skin, supplements

Magnesium: A Building Block for Bone Strength

Magnesium much like calcium is essential for the formation of strong bones. As a lot of US adults are deficient it’s also advisable to look at magnesium supplementation. And much like calcium again we have different types. Magnesium glycinate or magnesium gluconate are generally the preferred options as they’re better absorbed and less likely to cause laxative effects compared to magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate.

Sources of Magnesium: Green veg, dairy, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains

Vitamin A: Building Blocks for Strong Bones

Vitamin A is less well known, but it influences both osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the cells responsible for bone formation and breakdown. Although vitamin A has positive effects on bone health taking too much vitamin A has been associated with lower bone density and increased fracture risk. [5]

There are two main sources of vitamin A: retinol and beta-carotene. Retinol is found in meat, fish, fortified cereals, and vitamin supplements. On the other hand, beta-carotene can be obtained from dark green and orange fruits and vegetables. It is important to note that excessive intake of vitamin A, particularly through supplements can have negative effects on bone health. [6]

Sources of Vitamin A: Cantaloupe, carrots, cheese pizza, eggs, fatty fish, fat-free milk, kale, liver, mangoes, sweet potatoes, spinach

Vitamin B12: Impact on Bone Building Cells

Vitamin B12 has been found to affect bone building cells and plays a role in maintaining long term bone health. A study conducted at Tufts University showed that low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis in both men and women. [7]

Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods such as meat and fish making vegans who avoid meat and dairy products more susceptible to bone loss. Generally speaking it’s a good idea for vegans to take several supplements to maintain optimal bone and joint health, because not only does b12 cause issues, but the type of omega 3 from plants is poorly converted for use in the body meaning that only algae based oils are viable.

Sources of Vitamin B12: Dairy products, eggs, fish, fortified breakfast cereal, meat, milk, poultry, shellfish, supplements

Vitamin C: Essential for Collagen Formation

Vitamin C, long associated with teeth conditions (such as scurvy) is essential for healthy gums and bones as it plays a crucial role in collagen formation. Collagen serves as the foundation for bone creation and contributes to bone density. Studies have shown that increased levels of vitamin C are associated with greater bone density.

Low levels of Vitamin C are usually down to poor intake or absorption issues. The elderly and smokers are at higher risk of vitamin C deficiency meaning they need to pay close attention to their levels.

Sources of Vitamin C: Broccoli, bell pepper, cauliflower, kale, lemons, oranges, papaya, strawberries.

Vitamin K: Attracting Calcium to the Bones

Vitamin K (specifically K2) plays a crucial role in normal bone growth and development. It aids in attracting calcium to the bones which is of course, essential for maintaining bone density. Low levels of vitamin K have been associated with lower bone density and a potential increase in fracture risk. [8]

Unfroturtunately vitamin K2 deficiency is more commmon than people think because vitamin K deficiency as a whole is uncommon in healthy adults, as it is found in many everyday foods. Leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and spinach, are excellent sources of vitamin K. The problem is that vitamin K1 doesn't convert very well into vitamin K2 and K2 is the version that plays a role in the use and breakdown of calcium. [9] As a result vitamin K2 does show a lot more often as a deficiency, being notably more common in older populations. As a result there are calls for it to have a seperate RDI from K1. [10]

Sources of Vitamin K: Broccoli (cooked), Brussels sprouts, cabbage, canola oil, kale, olive oil, parsley (raw), spinach, Swiss chard.


1 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683260/

2 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562303/

3 - https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/

4 - https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

5 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2020807/

6 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8003866/

7 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8159105/

8 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6955144/

9 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36305114/

10 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353270/

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