Original title: Building blocks of healthy bones

According to the Health Promotion Board, the recommended daily intake for adults aged 19 to 50 is 800mg, and 1,000mg for adults aged 51 and above.

“Eating calcium-rich food is important for bone health. The key is to eat a variety from different food groups,” says Ms Mah Wai Yee, principal dietitian, nutrition services, at Farrer Park Hospital.

Build healthy bones by taking more of the following:


Foods rich in calcium strengthen your bones.

Where to get it: Green leafy vegetables (spinach, mustard greens and kai lan), Chinese cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, beans and legumes, as well as salmon, sardines with edible bones, shrimp, almonds and dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt).

Vitamin D

The body requires adequate amounts of vitamin D to help in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, another essential mineral.

Where to get it: Fatty fish (such as tuna, mackerel and salmon), beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms.


A main component found in bone structure, phosphorus contributes to bone-building cells and bone rigidity.

Mr Gary Chiah, a senior dietitian at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), says that phosphorus can be found in tissue and bodily fluids, as well as certain foods.

Where to get it: Dairy products, wholegrains, legumes, eggs, fish, meat and poultry.

Vitamin K

It contributes to the activation of several protein molecules that support bone health, says Ms Cherie Mak, nutritionist, Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy.

It may also have a positive effect on bone mineral density, and decrease the risk of getting a fracture, adds Mr Chiah.

Where to get it: Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy, kai lan and chye sim.


Essential for creating new bones, enhancing bone cell function and contributing to bone crystal structure.

Where to get it: Green vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and legumes.

Meals for bone health

Making bone-healthy meals does not require any fancy or expensive ingredients.

“Choose leaner and more tender cuts of meat, fish and poultry for the elderly,” says Ms Mak.

“Tofu and other soft soya products are other protein sources that are affordable and easy to digest.”

She also recommends dairybased smoothies with fruits and vegetables. When making soups, purée vegetables for a different texture.

Mr Chiah recommends preparing oats with milk or high calcium soya milk instead of plain water to increase the calcium and phosphorus content.

“In curry dishes, substitute coconut milk with low-fat or fatfree yogurt or milk. This reduces the fat content of the dish, and increases the amount of calcium and phosphorus,” he suggests.

Exercise helps too

According to Dr Manju Chandran, director and senior consultant in the Osteoporosis and Bone Metabolism Unit at Singapore General Hospital’s department of endocrinology, people who lead a sedentary lifestyle are at a higher risk of getting osteoporosis.

She says: “Physical activity is necessary to stimulate bone remodelling, a process that removes old bone and forms new bone. A sedentary lifestyle inhibits this process, leading to inadequate bone formation, and decreases bone strength, making one more susceptible to fractures.”

For those with osteoporosis, Dr Cindy Ng (above), principal physiotherapist at SGH, recommends aerobic-based activities that are weight-bearing, such as brisk walking or step aerobics.

Strengthening or resistance exercises also help maintain bone density by building up large muscle groups.

She also advises avoiding dynamic abdominal exercises such as sit-ups, twisting movements such as golf swings, and workouts that involve repetitive trunk fl exion and high-impact, explosive moves.


Ms Gracelina Koh, rehabilitation manager, Rehab Services, Farrer Park Hospital, recommends the following exercises for those with mild and well-managed osteoporosis and no other medical issues:

Strengthening exercises

  • Wall squats
  • Bridging
  • Wall push-ups

Balance exercises

  • Tandem stance
  • Single-leg balance

Flexibility exercises

  • Hamstring stretch
  • Calf stretch