FREE E-Guide: 10 Things Every Vegan Needs to Know About Nutrition

How to Build Strong Bones

build strong bones

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of strong bones?

If it’s milk, you’re not alone. In fact, billions of dollars have been spent to achieve exactly that — get Americans to think they need milk to build and maintain strong bones.

Is it true that your bones require dietary calcium? Yes. Is it true that cow’s milk contains a good amount of calcium? Yes. Is it true that you need cow’s milk to build strong bones? No!

Two important facts to remember:

1) You can consume plenty of calcium from foods other than cows’ milk
2) Bone health involves way more than just getting enough calcium!

An image of people doing squats in an exercise class and a picture of tofu tacos with text that says 6 strategies for strong bones without dairy

Don’t Diet!

Did you know that dieting can hurt your bones? Dieting depletes and weakens your body’s tissues, including your bones, muscles and organs. Say no to restriction and yes to food freedom!

You might think you’re helping your health by dieting, but you’re actually doing the opposite. Plus, we don’t need to lose weight to protect our health. Here are 6 things you can do for your health that aren’t about weight loss!

Eat Plenty of Protein

Contrary to common vegan myth, protein doesn’t “leach” calcium from your bones. Eating plenty of protein is associated with strong bones!

One simple way to make sure you’re getting enough protein as a vegan is to eat at least 3 to 4 servings of legumes every day. Legumes include beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. Soy is a bean and therefore soy foods such as tofu, tempeh and soy-based meats are great for protein as well!

Eating lots of legumes, in addition to whole grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables will ensure a good protein intake for plant eaters.

Learn all about plant-based protein here!

Eat Enough Calcium

This one is well-known, yet many vegans don’t eat enough calcium. And the high bone fracture risk among vegans seen in some research may be due to vegans’ lower calcium intake.

The richest plant-based sources of calcium are calcium-fortified milk, collard greens and kale. A few other types of greens, tahini and almonds contribute some calcium as well.

And of course calcium supplements can help fill in the gaps. Check out this post all about vegan calcium!

Crispy cubed tofu with text that says simple vegan tips & tricks for strong bones

Take Your Vitamin D Supplement

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Many folks require a vitamin D supplement, as this vitamin isn’t naturally occurring in many foods and most of us can’t make a reliable amount of it from the sun during the majority of the year.

There is debate within the scientific community on how much vitamin D we need (400-1,000 IU/day). Officially, 600 IU is the recommended daily intake of vitamin D in the United States.

There are very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, vegan or not.  Many of us get most of our vitamin D from fortified foods like milks and cereals and via the sun.

There are two kinds of vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D3 is almost always animal-derived and vitamin D2 is plant-derived. If you’re vegan, make sure your vitamin D supplement is D2 or a vegan D3 supplement which is made from lichen.

Eat a Variety of Plant Foods for Other Important Bone-Building Nutrients

Calcium, protein and vitamin D aren’t the only important nutrients for healthy bones. Other nutrients that are needed for good bone health include phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K.  Eating a wide variety of legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits will help you reach your nutrient needs to build and maintain healthy bones!

To learn more about vegan nutrition without any diet culture nonsense, join the Anti-Diet Vegan Nutrition Online Course!

Engage in Regular Weight-Bearing Movement

Weight-bearing exercise is a good kind of stress on bones helps keep them strong. Think strength training, hiking, jogging, dancing and jumping. Movement is just as important for bones as nutrition!

Activities like swimming and bicycling are not weight-bearing exercises and don’t do much for your bones (though they’re still great for your muscles, joints, heart, lungs and brain!).


  1. […] do not exist to make us all look like bodybuilders (see point #3); they exist so we have strong bones and muscles to support our daily lives. This becomes especially important as we age–to […]