A recent study has us worried that getting too much calcium from supplements increases our risk for heart attacks. That’s why many of us are cutting back on calcium supplements to protect our hearts…and, hopefully, boosting our consumption of calcium-rich foods (which are not linked to cardiovascular problems), such as dairy products and dark green leafy vegetables, to protect our bones.

But: This makes it more important than ever to guard against osteoporosis. An excellent strategy, according to Mao Shing Ni, PhD, DOM, LAc, author of Second Spring: Dr. Mao’s Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age, is to be sure to get enough of four other essential, yet less familiar, minerals that our bones need to stay strong. These minerals are especially vital for women given that we are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis.

The ideal way to get these minerals is through food because foods contain complementary components that enhance nutrient absorption, Dr. Mao said. For a mineral-rich, bone-building diet, follow the guidelines below. For serving sizes, see “Amounts that constitute one serving of…” at the end of this article.

Boron helps the body use calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients vital to bone formation.

Be sure to eat: At least three servings per day of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts) or nut butters…or fruits (apples, avocados, bananas, grapes, oranges, pears, tangelos). Added boost: Dried fruits are especially rich in boron—but don’t overdo it on these, as they also are high in sugar. Onions are another good source.

Manganese is essential for the proper formation and maintenance of bone, cartilage and connective tissue.

Be sure to eat: Two or more daily servings of legumes (chickpeas, lentils, lima beans)…nuts (chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts)…or whole grains (barley, brown rice, bulgur, couscous, oats). Added boost: For extra manganese, have some pineapple, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries.

Silicon assists calcium with bone growth and increases collagen, the protein component of bones. A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research showed that silicon was particularly helpful for premenopausal women.

Be sure to eat: Four or more servings per week of whole grains (barley, brown rice, oats)…or fruits (apples, bananas, cherries, grapes, mangoes, pineapples, plums). Added boost: Silicon also is found in cabbage, celery, cucumbers, green beans and tofu.

Zinc produces enzymes that recycle worn-out portions of bone protein and help heal injured bones.

Be sure to eat: Two servings a week of shellfish (crabs, lobster, oysters)…lean meat (beef, lamb, pork, veal)…poultry (chicken, duck, turkey)…legumes (black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, navy beans)…or seeds (pumpkin, sesame, squash, sunflower). Added boost: Other good sources include barley, bulgur, cashews, pine nuts, ricotta cheese and yogurt.

Amounts that constitute one serving of…

  • Fish, meat, poultry or a soy product: Three to four ounces.
  • Cooked grains or whole-grain cereal: One-half cup…or one slice of whole-grain bread.
  • Chopped raw or cooked vegetables or legumes: One-half cup.
  • Fruit: One whole small fruit…one-half cup of berries or diced fruit…or one-quarter cup of dried fruit.
  • Nuts or seeds: Two ounces…or one tablespoon of peanut butter or other nut butter.