Osteopenia Diet – What Is It And What Foods To Avoid?

Use the diet to its full potential by knowing what to eat and making lifestyle changes.

Medically reviewed by Kristen Arnold, RDN, CSSD
Written by Charushila Biswas, MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist
Edited by Ravi Teja Tadimalla, Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health
Fact-checked by Payal Karnik, Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach  • 

One’s bone strength and density tend to decrease with progressing age. This decline usually starts from the age of 30 (especially in females), leading to a condition called osteopenia. However, following an osteopenia diet that includes foods to promote bone strength and density can help one manage or even prevent this condition. The bones of a female are thinner than a male. With progressing age, health conditions, sedentary lifestyle, hormonal changes, and food habits, the risk of developing osteopenia in females is higher compared to males (1). Though this condition does not have any associated pain, osteopenia may increase the risk of osteoporosisi  XA condition more common in old age in which bones become brittle and weak to the extent that they are easily fractured. (2). A survey conducted on 8,704 US adults found that low bone mass prevalence was 50.3% among women aged 50-64 which was higher compared to men aged 50-64 years with 27.5%. The prevalence of osteoporosis was also noted more commonly in women and has increased in past years. So it is very important to indulge in an osteopenia diet to increase bone strength.

A balanced diet and regular exercise regime can help minimize the risk of osteopenia. Read on to get a diet plan and exercise routine, and learn about the lifestyle changes you should adopt to combat osteopenia.

protip_icon At A Glance: Osteopenia Diet
  • Principle: Diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients that help maintain bone health
  • Purpose: To support and improve bone health in individuals diagnosed with osteopenia
  • Who It Is For: Individuals with osteopenia or those at risk
  • Duration: Long-term
  • Who Should Avoid: Individuals taking Warfarin and pregnant or breastfeeding individuals
  • Cons: May cause constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nutritional deficiencies.

Osteopenia Diet

  1. How Diet Affects Osteopenia
  2. Osteopenia Sample Diet Plan
  3. Foods To Eat
  4. Foods To Avoid
  5. Osteopenia Diet Recipe
  6. Role Of Exercise
  7. Lifestyle
  8. Benefits Of Osteopenia Diet
  9. Dos & Don’ts

How Diet Affects Osteopenia

Image: Shutterstock

Osteopenia is the stage just before osteoporosis sets in. It is not a disease. How a person falls prey to osteopenia is largely determined by the food. Consuming a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, performing weight-bearing exercises to strengthen the muscles and bones, and avoiding foods that interfere with the absorption of calcium will improve bone density (3), (4).

According to health experts, over the last century, people have switched from vegetables, dairy products, foods rich in fiber, and fruits to more meats, grains, and processed foods. This shift has limited the available calcium and other bone-building minerals and nutrients that are essential for bone health.

Osteopenia Sample Diet Plan

Image: Shutterstock
Early Morning1 glass warm water with 1 tablespoon honey
  • Poached egg and toast
  • Calcium-fortified protein powder and milk
  • Spinach, figs, and ricotta cheese salad
  • Baked salmon and collard greens salad
Post Lunch1 cup yogurt
Evening Snack4 almonds and calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Broccoli soup
  • Grilled sardines with veggies
  • Beetroot, carrot, peas, and cottage cheese curry with 2 wheat flour flat bread
Bed Time1 glass of warm milk
Why This Works

The foods listed in the diet chart are rich in calcium, vitamin D, Vitamin K, and other micronutrients. Ideally, it would help if you stick to home-cooked foods. A glass of milk before bed will not only prevent osteopenia but also ensure sound sleep.

Foods To Eat

Image: Shutterstock

Our daily intake of food can be categorized into alkaline and acidic.

The following foods may reverse bone loss and help calcium absorption in the bones (5):

  • Sardines with bones
  • Low-fat yogurt (I didn’t want to get atherosclerosisi  XThe hardening and narrowing of artery walls due to fat and cholesterol buildup, causing obstruction of blood flow. with high-fat!)
  • Tofu processed with calcium salts
  • Milk (go for soy milk if you are lactose intolerant)
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Collard greens
  • Almonds
  • Dried figs
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans
  • Orange juice fortified with calcium
  • Broccoli
  • Turnip greens
  • Kale
  • Spinach

Even though these foods are rich in calcium, for your body to absorb the same, Vitamin D is essential. You can get sufficient Vitamin D from sunlight and foods rich in the sunshine vitamin (6). Spend at least 10 minutes in the sun with most of your skin exposed, mostly in the early hours of mornings to help your body synthesize Vitamin D. This is where outdoor activities help. During winters, consume Vitamin D-enriched foods to ensure your body doesn’t suffer a deficiency. Including cheese, egg yolks, orange juice, and cereals fortified with Vitamin D in your diet should do.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Look for dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D if you follow a vegan diet.

Foods To Avoid

Image: Shutterstock

When I made my osteopenia diet chart, I made it a point to exclude foods that interfered with the absorption of calcium. Phytatesi  XA substance found in plants, especially in cereal grains that can reduce the absorption of nutrients like iron and zinc by the body. and oxalatesi  XA naturally occurring compound capable of forming insoluble salt with calcium, affecting the absorption of nutrients by the body. have the potential to do this, so I ensured that I did not mix such food items with calcium-rich food. For instance, I usually eat only cheese and never with beans or spinach, as it is an oxalate.

Spinach, sweet potatoes, and beans have oxalates, while whole wheat bran, nuts, and beans are high in phytates (7), (8), (9). I also stopped having coffee and sodas as they contain caffeine that impedes calcium absorption. Drink coffee outside of mealtimes by 1 hr. For example, eat breakfast, wait for an hour and then drink coffee.

protip_icon Trivia
Plants contain phytates and oxalates, which bind to calcium molecules. Calcium can, therefore, not be absorbed by the intestine in its bound state.

Osteopenia Diet Recipe

Grilled Sardines With Veggies

Image: Shutterstock
What You Need
  • 2 sardines, washed, scaled, and gutted
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 4 tomato wedges
  • 4 asparagus tips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
How To Cook
  1. Slice the red onions and asparagus tips.
  2. Add salt, pepper, and a little olive oil to the sardines and let them marinate for 10 minutes.
  3. Fire the grill and grill the fish for about a minute on each side.
  4. Add about half tablespoon olive oil to the veggies and rosemary sprig, season well and grill for about 1-2 minutes (except the garlic cloves).
  5. Chop the garlic cloves finely and fry.
  6. Plate the veggies first, then add the sardines and lastly place the rosemary sprig on top.
  7. Sprinkle chili flakes, fried garlic, and squeeze the juice on one lemon wedge on top. Keep the other lemon wedge on the side.
  8. Serve hot.

Role Of Exercise

Image: IStock

Osteopenia leads to decreased bone mass, which may cause osteoporosis if a proper diet and exercise routine is not followed. If you are diagnosed with osteopenia, consult a fitness expert to know how to train your bones to build bone mass without getting injured. The best exercises to increase bone mass and strengthen your bones are running, walking, running up the stairs, weight-bearing exercises, biking, squats with weight, push-ups, and yoga.

For people with osteopenia, resistance training can help enhance bone density and muscle strength, which is particularly crucial for preventing inflammation, fractures, and other injuries.


Image: IStock

Stay Active

Staying active is the key to keeping ill health at bay. Working out regularly can up your metabolism ratei  XThe amount of energy required and expended by an organism at a given period that is crucial for its body functioning. , which in turn keeps a check on your overall health. This way, you can avoid heart disease, weak muscles, and bones, eye problems, skin disorders, digestion problems, etc.

Eat Healthy

You make your body happy when you eat healthily and provide it with an adequate amount of vitamins, minerals, carbs, proteins, and fats. The body responds likewise and makes you feel more energetic. Concentration improves, you will lose extra fat and also develop good immunity. Follow the whole foods diet and eat green leafy vegetables and protein and limit your intake of processed foods.

Avoid Stress

Stress leads to the formation of harmful oxygen radicalsi  XAn unstable molecule that contains oxygen and reacts easily with the other molecules in a cell causing cell damage. . Oxygen radicals cause damage to proteins, fats, and the DNA. Therefore stress may trigger a host of health problems that will make you weak. Avoid stressful situations. Listen to your favorite song, join a hobby class and get some me time — these small changes can go a long way in helping you de-stress.

Get Good Sleep

After all the workouts for your bone strength, your body deserves some rest. Get at least 7 hours of sleep to keep your body going.

Benefits Of Osteopenia Diet

  • Helps to build bone mass and strengthen bones.
  • Improves immunity.

Dos & Don’ts

Eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.Do not eat processed foods.
Exercise regularly.Do not become a victim of a sedentary lifestyle.
Get sun exposure every day for at least 10 minutes in the mornings.Don’t stay awake till late at night.
Consult your doctor before following this diet plan.Do not over-strain yourself.

Infographic: Who Are At A Higher Risk Of Osteopenia?

While there are no symptoms of osteopenia, and it may be hard to diagnose early, there are few groups who seem to be more susceptible to low bone density. Check out the infographic below to understand who could be more at risk and what precautions can help you prevent this condition from worsening.

who are at a higher risk of osteopenia (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

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Download Infographic in PDF version

Osteopenia, characterized by low bone mineral density, can progress to osteoporosis if handled poorly. Following a balanced osteopenia diet that is rich in calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K and exercising regularly are the most fundamental things you should do. Vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb calcium, so getting some sun exposure every day can be helpful. Otherwise, you can opt for vitamin D-rich foods like cheese and orange juice. Also, foods like beans, spinach, whole white bran, and sweet potatoes tend to tinker with calcium absorption, so avoid them. Most importantly, a glass of milk every day before going to bed can do wonders for your bones.


Frequently Asked Questions

How much calcium and vitamin D should someone with osteopenia aim to consume each day?

Osteopenia patients should consume 800 to 1000 IU (international units) of vitamin D and 1200 mg of calcium per day (3).

Are there any dietary supplements that can help manage or prevent osteopenia?

Yes, calcium supplements like calcium carbonate and calcium citrate can help manage or prevent osteopenia along with the intake of calcium-rich foods like milk and cheese (3).

How can I ensure that I am getting enough calcium in my diet, and what are some non-dairy sources of this mineral?

Make sure to consume 1000 mg of calcium daily to get an adequate amount of calcium in your diet. One can consume non-dairy products such as fortified oat milk, tofu, kale, almonds, beans, and broccoli to meet their daily calcium intake.

What is the best calcium to take for osteopenia?

Taking calcium citrate and calcium carbonate can help manage the symptoms of osteopenia and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Consult your doctor on the dosage of these supplements before you start.

Key Takeaways

  • Osteopenia is a low bone density condition, which takes place just before osteoporosis sets in.
  • Osteopenia diet may help build bone mass and strengthen bones and enhance immunity.
  • Eat foods that are loaded with calcium, Vitamin D.
  • Perform weight-bearing exercises to strengthen the muscles and bones.
  • Avoid foods that can prevent calcium absorption in your body.

Learn how to fight osteoporosis with foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Watch this video to discover the best foods for you to stay strong and healthy.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Physical activity and lifestyle effects on bone mineral density among young adults: sociodemographic and biochemical analysis
  2. An overview and management of osteoporosis
  3. The use of calcium and vitamin D in the management of osteoporosis
  4. The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients
  5. Nutrients and Dietary Patterns Related to Osteoporosis
  6. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin
  7. Is There Such a Thing as “Anti-Nutrients”? A Narrative Review of Perceived Problematic Plant Compounds
  8. The phytate and mineral content of some cereals cereal products legumes legume products snack bars and nuts available in New Zealand
  9. Dietary fibre and phytate; a balancing act. Results from 3 time points in a British Birth Cohort
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