I have allergies to many foods such as dairy, nuts etc so having a difficult time getting enough calcium from natural food sources. I have realised that fish bones are a good source of calcium, perhaps even my only alternative to supplements.

I know that it is not a good idea to frequently eat long fish bones as these may get stuck in the digestive system and cause complications. I believe an alternative would be to fry or pressure cook the bones and crunch them down.

Assume frying or pressure cooking is not available to me and instead I boil fish bones in water for 5 minutes, cut them with scissors and swallow them with food, would this be digestible and safe to do frequently?
My concerns are:

- as the bones are cooked with water the bones will not be soft and hence indigestable?

- even though the bones may have been cut small they may still have hard sharp edges, could these edges not cause complications in the digestive system e.g. slice/pinch tissue?

Basically I want to know if it is safe(for digestive system) and beneficial(nutritionally) to eat poached and cut fish bones frequently?

  • 1
    Have your allergies being confirmed by a doctor - an allergologist - and are they true IgE allergies? Do you experience any symptoms after eating those foods?
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:27

2 Answers 2


Medical science doesn't work like that.

Scientists would have to study whether your suggestion is effective and whether it has side effects. Such studies take time and include hundreds of volunteers. Suppose pressure cooking the bones changes the molecular structure of a chemical component and it is likely to produce side effects? Only serious randomized studies can tell you that. There are several safe products you can buy, should you have calcium deficiency. Your doctor can diagnose whether you need calcium supplements or not. Young people rarely get calcium deficiency.

In addition, calcium can be found in many foods, not only in dairy products.

Dairy Foods

  • Yogurt (1 cup) 350 mg
  • Milk (1 cup) 300 mg
  • Cheddar cheese (1 oz.) 204 mg
  • Ricotta cheese, part skim (1/4 cup) 169 mg
  • Cottage cheese (1 cup) 150 mg

Nondairy Foods

  • Whole Grain Total cereal (3/4 cup) 1000 mg
  • Pink salmon with bones, sardines (3 oz., cooked) 181 mg
  • Black beans (1 cup) 103 mg
  • Broccoli (1 cup, cooked) 150 mg
  • Almonds (1 tbsp.) 50 mg

Soy Products

  • Soy yogurt with calcium (3/4 cup) 300 mg
  • Soy milk enriched with calcium (1 cup) 300 mg
  • Tofu, firm or extra firm (1/4 cup) 250 mg
  • Soy nuts, roasted/salted (1/2 cup) 103 mg
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    Hi, believe it or not I am sensitive to all of your food list except things like leafy greens e.g kale and fish. however greens do not have enough calcium to make your recommended intake without eating many bags a day - impractical. i know there are scientific studies which say fish bones have at least as good calcium bioavailability as milk. You did not answer the main component of my question, which was about the safety(to digestive system) of eating fish bones which had been poached and cut down in size. Thanks. Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:46
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    @JamesWilson I'm an MD, I've had a longtime practice and I'm careful about my comments. As I said before, medicine doesn't work like that. The fact that there is a lot of calcium in fish bones doesn't mean they are suitable for oral ingestion. Chalk has a lot of calcium too, and so do many other compounds. In the 21st century, every self-respecting physician practices what we call evidence based medicine. We can only say something about efficacy and safety if there are specific studies about those aspects in humans.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 16:22
  • We can only recommend homemade ground fish bones as a substitute for calcium in the US, if it has been approved by the FDA. I don't know which country you live in but in most countries of the world a doctor can be sued for prescribing something that has not been approved by regulatory agencies. Your health is a serious subject and it's very dangerous to follow instructions offered by the layman. The Internet, and even newspapers and magazines, are often publishing some sensationalistic material about miraculous drugs and foods.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 16:29
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    In my answer I've given you what I think is the best advice: visit your doctor and find out whether you have calcium deficiency. That's the first step. If you do, he will tell you the best food or the best pharmaceutical preparation to bring calcium up to normal levels. This may not be what you wanted to hear, but it's serious professional advice. Don't put your health and your safety at risk.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 16:34

As the doctor in the other answer has clarified, without any study, it's not possible to reliably evaluate the safety of eating bones of large fish. Bones of large fish are not considered edible for humans, so I doubt anyone has done any study about this. Without a study, you can only guess.

A fish bone can get stuck above the epiglottis (case report, ResearchGate) or somewhere else in the throat or esophagus and cause an infection.

Canned sardines, mackerel, salmon and some other small fish often come with (edible) bones.

The safest source of calcium for someone who is allergic to various foods would be hard water. You can search for nutrition facts of various mineral waters and find an appropriate one. One such list is here: Calcium concentration in bottled and mineral waters, PubMed Central.

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