Healthy bones have a high bone density, or bone mass, which enables them to support the body's weight and properly protect the inner organs from external damage. People with lower bone density are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, which leaves bones more prone to breaking following a minor impact or a fall.
Strong bones need two key nutrients to grow: calcium (for teeth and bone structure) and Vitamin D (for actual bone growth and calcium absorption). The recommended daily intake for adults up to 50 years old is 1,000mg of calcium and 200 international units (IUs) of Vitamin D.
Bone density naturally decreases with age - particularly in women, as they tend to have smaller bones. But, with a healthy diet you can help to keep them stronger for longer, lowering the risk of brittle bones in later life.
Make sure your bones stay in good shape by including these nutrient-rich foods into your daily diet:
Milk: The food product most commonly linked to the growth of bones and teeth, and accurately so. Just one 250ml glass of milk provides 30% of an adult's recommended daily intake of calcium.
Yoghurt: Natural yoghurt contains a double whammy of nutrients for your bones, with a single low-fat pot containing as much as 30% calcium and 20% of your daily dose of Vitamin D.
Sardines: Despite their tiny size, sardines contain a very high level of both Vitamin D and calcium. Try grilling them or adding to a tomato-based pasta for a delicious savoury complement to your meal.
Free-range eggs: Great for topping up your Vitamin D reserves, eggs contain about 6% of your daily intake in their yolk and can easily be whipped up for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Spinach: Great if you're vegetarian or intolerant to dairy, spinach will give you roughly 25% of your daily calcium intake from just one cup. It's also packed with iron and fibre for healthy red blood cells.
Orange juice: Yes really! Although fresh orange juice doesn't naturally contain calcium or Vitamin D, it contains ascorbic acid which is thought to assist the body's natural absorption of calcium from other sources.
Exercising regularly has also been proven to help increase bone density, especially activities that require you to support your own body weight. Try mixing up your existing fitness routine by including jogging, weight-lifting, step aerobics or dancing - your bones will thank you for it!