Women & Bone Health: Supplementation with Calcium, Vitamin D, and other Nutrients is Essential



Vegetarian & Vegan Diets 

Women & Bone Health: Supplementation with Calcium, Vitamin D, and other Nutrients is Essential

A growing body of evidence supports the wide-ranging health benefits of a plant-based diet. Nutrients needed to build strong bones can be found by eating plants without the adverse health risks from consuming milk and dairy products

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss


Bones are associated with life and the support you give and get while living it.

In many cultures, people believe bones are the seat of the vital principleand have mystic powers ranging from cure to birth and rebirth. Bones are what is left of us, so they often represent permanence beyond death.

Bones were meant to give support and stay strong and healthy during your life.


Osteoporosis (porousness) and Osteomyelitis (inflammation) are the two primary bone diseases in our society. As stated, bones represent support – both physically and metaphysically. Lack of support from others and feelings of being of little value may explain why osteoporosis occurs in later years after a lifetime of supporting others.

A poor diet and lack of exercise can cause you to miss out on enjoying the life that lies in front of you. If you are looking to adopt a new way of eating, you might consider vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free lifestyles. In this rocky, fragile world of ours, diet may be the only area where you might find a level of control over what happens.

Protecting your bones is easier than you think. Diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors contribute to healthy bones.

Bones are continuously changing. As new bone is made, old bone is broken down. Developing osteoporosis depends upon how much bone mass is attained by the age of 30 and the amount of bone loss that occurs thereafter.




Simple Rules to Prevent & Slow Bone Loss


  • Get plenty of calcium in your diet
  • Pay attention to your vitamin D levels
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine
  • Avoid substance abuse and don't smoke
  • And avoid alcoholic beverages 


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Life-sustaining Foods are found in Vegan & Vegetarian Diets

Vegan and vegetarian diets have many benefits for your health and your bones. But plant-based eaters tend to have lower bone-mineral density due to the lack of dietary calcium from dairy. However, plant-based diets are linked to a lack of bone strength, increasing the risk of hip fractures over time.

Osteoporosis is a common condition associated with progressive loss of bone mineral density (BMD). Vegetarian & vegan diets have been shown to contain lower amounts of certain nutrients. Calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and protein, all of which have essential roles in maintaining bone health, are needed.



Increased awareness of vegetarian and vegan diets has prompted many new investigations on their effects on women's health. Much is known now about the dietary factors that affect bone remodeling. For example, plant-based diets may alter macronutrient and micronutrient balance. This can cause differences in prebiotic and probiotic effects on gut microbiota. In turn, this may slightly change the inflammatory and immune response. 

Although studies can be prone to puzzling effects, most did not show differences in bone health between vegetarians & vegans and meat-eaters if calcium and vitamin D intake were enough.

Healthy plant-based diets contain several protective nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin K, and Potassium. These diets also include phytonutrients, those important ones that act as antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, there is evidence that vegetarians, and particularly vegans, may be at greater risk of fractures from losing bone-mineral density.


A large-scale study now shows there is no evidence that a plant-based diet, when carefully chosen to maintain adequate calcium and vitamin D levels, has any detrimental effects on bone health.

Another study finds that quality protein is crucial for maintaining bone health when choosing these diets.


A variety of plant foods contain calcium, but many plant-based sources of calcium, like spinach, are not as bioavailable as dairy.

Protein quality is another consideration for women eating a vegan or vegetarian diet and who believe they are consuming adequate amounts. Amino acid ratios in vegan foods do not support resorption and remodeling. In contrast, the amino-acid balance in animal proteins does. Instead, what's needed is protein derived from whole soy, beans, and legumes, as well as nuts and seeds.

Nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables can help build and maintain strong bones. Exercise is also an effective way to build up the number of minerals in women's bones.



These Nutrients help Bones stay Healthy and Strong


600 milligrams of calcium per day is the magic number. You certainly can achieve this on any plant-based diet. Eat cooked broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens - each one is an excellent source of calcium. All types of beans and chickpeas are worthy; a cup of chickpeas offers over 100 milligrams.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. We obtain Vitamin D from the sun, and roughly 15 minutes a day of direct sunlight should give you enough. Fortified cereals, grains, and soy or almond milk are options for providing vitamin D, and vegan supplements also are available.



Vitamin C

Citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C. Your body uses Vitamin C for making collagen, the protein that binds connective tissue in bones.

Vitamin K

Find Vitamin K in the same foods with plenty of calcium, like dark leafy greens, beans, and soy products. Vitamin K stimulates bone formation.


Rich sources of Potassium include oranges, bananas, potatoes, vegetables, and beans. Adequate Potassium intake will reduce the loss of calcium in bones. And Potassium increases the rate of bone-building.




Sports Performance & Female Athletes

Female athletes who follow diets that fail to meet energy and nutrient needs are at risk for musculoskeletal injuries, menstrual disturbances, and poor performance. Common nutritional concerns for the female athlete include low energy availability and inadequate dietary intakes of carbohydrates, protein, essential fatty acids, B-vitamins, calcium, iron, and vitamin D.

Other women at risk for energy and nutrient deficits include athletes following a gluten-free diet (GFD). Careful dietary planning can help an athlete meet her energy and nutrient needs.


We know there are many health benefits to eating a plant-based diet. However, these diets can be even more beneficial to your health with proper planning. So be strategic in planning your diet to ensure adequate intake of these critical nutrients: quality protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and zinc.



Those who lead a vegan lifestyle tend to have lower cholesterol levels and a lower risk for many cancers. Meat-free diets can provide all the nutrients you need. A nutritionally sound diet will include a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and soy.

Weight-bearing exercise, consumption of quality protein, and supplementation with calcium and vitamin D can help plant-based eaters maintain strong, healthy bones.


Footnote1  Vital Principle

Vitalism is a scientific paradigm that starts from the premise that "living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element. Where vitalism explicitly invokes a vital principle, that element is often referred to as the "vital spark," "energy," or "élan vital," which some equate with the soul.



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Further Reading

Your Body Loves the Gut-friendly TomatoDoes the Nightshade Family of Vegetables Really Deserve its Infamous Reputation?




© 2005 - 2022 Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC. All rights reserved. 

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