How to Increase Bone Density—and 3 Ways to Make Bones Stronger

Take note of these strategies to improve bone density and overall bone health.

The best time to work on your bone health was yesterday (for most, bone mass peaks by our late twenties). But since that's already passed us by, the next best time is now. Truth be told, it's never too early, or too late, to improve bone density, overall bone health, and prevent bone loss. Fortunately, there are many steps we can take to help prevent bone loss, from our daily lifestyle choices, including the foods we eat, to the exercise and overall movement we do. Why does this even matter? At 50 years of age, one in three women and one in five men will suffer a fracture in their remaining lifetime. Yes, men too, even though osteoporosis and bone health are often considered a problem for women.

"Men often think that osteoporosis is a disease that only impacts women, but a male over the age of 50 is just as likely to suffer an osteoporotic-related fracture as he is to develop prostate cancer," says Shirin Hooshmand, PhD, RD, and Professor at San Diego State University, whose team completed a study examining the role of prunes and bone health in men.

The outcome is very promising and shows a mainstream food, like prunes, can be such a simple way to help improve your bone health.

dried prunes in white bowl
Scott Little

Prunes to Increase Bone Density

Hooshmand's study was a randomized controlled trial during which 57 healthy men (ages 50-79 years) were assigned to eat either 10 to 12 prunes (100 grams) a day or no prunes for 12 months. At the end of the study, the researchers saw improvements in bone geometry, which indicates greater bone strength. Overall, these are promising results for the positive role that eating prunes can play in the overall bone health of men.

The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation estimates over half of Americans over age 50 have either osteoporosis or low bone mass. Because postmenopausal women are at the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis, it's also important to consider interventions to help reduce this risk. Several recent papers have examined such options and both have concluded, like the previous study, prunes are a promising and functional food to aid in preventing bone loss in this group of women.

Prunes have vitamins and minerals that likely work together to protect the bone, including fiber, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, boron, copper, and polyphenols. The magic is in the theory of the synergy of these nutrients. Prunes taste great alone, or can easily be added to a salad, pork chops, breads, or beef stew.

Prunes aren't the only food out there with added benefits. In fact, check out the many other suggestions below.

athletic woman working out at home checking their fitness watch and drinking a green smoothie
Davide Angelini / Adobe Stock

Strategies to Improve Bone Health

There are more possible ways to increase bone density. Start implementing some of these ideas today.

Get Moving

It's not just nutrition. "Many studies have shown that any form of strength training, with weights, yoga, or other similar exercise modalities, can play a role in slowing bone loss as well, which translates to overall wellness, prevention of osteopenia, and also reduces the risk of falls, says registered dietitian and athletic trainer, Dana White, RD.

Exercise enhances the benefits of bone-healthy nutrition. Consider engaging in regular, weight-bearing exercises to maintain strong bones and muscles. Perform weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking, jogging, or yoga for 30 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week.

Start the Day Smart

Consider warming up in the morning with simple yoga exercises that focus on your hips and spine. Spinal stretch, cat pose, and puppy pose are a few poses that not only help your bones but also may curb your stress too.

Balance Your Plate

Eat a well-balanced diet of bone-friendly foods that contain vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin K, found in a wide variety of foods.

woman making a healthy smoothie at home
Luna Vandoorne / Adobe Stock

"Leafy greens—like kale and spinach—are great for bone health, and may be a surprising choice for some people," suggests Brierley Horton, RD. What's so great about spinach and kale and other leafy greens is that they deliver two bone-healthy nutrients: magnesium and vitamin K (those two nutrients play a role in bone metabolism)."

Other foods to include? Avocados, yogurt, nuts, sardines, and canned salmon are all loaded with nutrition and contain many of these key nutrients.

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  2. "Just for Men," Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation, 2023

  3. Hooshmand, Shirin et al. "Effects of 12 Months Consumption of 100 g Dried Plum (Prunes) on Bone Biomarkers, Density, and Strength in Men." Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 25, no. 1, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., doi:

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  5. Arjmandi, Bahram H. et al. “Bone-Protective Effects of Dried Plum in Postmenopausal Women: Efficacy and Possible Mechanisms.” Nutrients vol. 9, no. 5, 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9050496

  6. Foster, Charlie, and Miranda E. G. Armstrong. “What Types of Physical Activities Are Effective in Developing Muscle and Bone Strength and Balance?” Journal of Frailty, Sarcopenia and Falls, vol. 3, no. 2, 2018, pp. 58-65. doi:10.22540/JFSF-03-058

  7. Lin Yan. "Dark Green Leafy Vegetables." U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016

  8. "Eye on Nutrition: Magnesium." U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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