How do you keep your bones strong throughout your lifetime? Some of the most popular answers that come to mind are dietary and supplemental calcium with vitamin D, exercise, and avoiding unhealthy habits such as drinking soda and smoking. These responses are correct as far as they go and quite often corroborated in the medical literature. Additionally, there are always new studies that add to our understanding of this vitally important topic. For instance, we now know that many forms of physical activity, including aquatic exercises and Pilates support both balance and skeletal health. This is great news for those who may not be able to engage in conventional forms of resistance training. However, we must always remember that these beneficial lifestyle choices and others should always be considered complementary to a bone healthy diet.
Adjust Your Diet
Bone mineral density (BMD) is significantly influenced by dietary choices. The latest batch of publications offer some basic guidelines for protecting bones from the inside out. According to a recent assessment, those eating a meat-heavy diet can improve BMD by adding more fruits and vegetables to their daily routine. On the other hand, strict vegetarians may support their skeletons by increasing protein intake.
Opting for whole foods that are rich in potassium and low in sodium also tips the scales in favor of your bones. One possible reason for this is a beneficial shift in dietary acidity induced by a greater intake of magnesium and potassium contained in fruits and vegetables.
Not Just Minerals
If you examine most “bone building” supplements, you’ll notice that they emphasize minerals. This is all well and good, but it’s important to realize that certain vitamins have also been shown to maintain a strong frame. Vitamin C tops the list. Consuming foods with high vitamin C content is associated with greater BMD in both men and women. Foods such as green leafy vegetables and nattto (a fermented form of soy) contribute another important nutrient: vitamin K. Human studies reveal that both vitamin K1 and K2 decrease bone loss and promote positive changes in bone turnover. What’s more, some research has found that vitamin K2 reduces arterial stiffness that can result from calcium depositing in arteries rather than bone tissue.
What to Drink
Enjoying a cup or more of black, green or oolong tea is now considered a preventive measure against age-related bone loss. It’s theorized that certain antioxidants in tea, namely flavonoids, may be responsible for this health benefit. It should be noted that large amounts of tea aren’t necessary.
For instance, one study found that women drinking 5 cups of tea daily had lower BMD than those who consumed 2-4 cups a day. Likewise, antioxidants and select phytochemicals may explain why red wine intake is linked to greater BMD. Once again, you don’t need to drink much to derive the desired goal. One glass a day is optimal. What’s more, two glasses daily may actually decrease BDM.
Dried Plums for Dessert
You might know this “old fashioned” snack by the name of prunes. But, make no mistake, dried plums are much more than a natural remedy for constipation. Over the past decade or so, dried plums have emerged as a natural intervention for bone loss in postmenopausal women. About 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of prunes daily is all it takes. As a bonus, these dried super-fruits promote hunger satisfaction or satiety, liver health and may even reduce the risk of colon cancer. And, if you don’t like how they taste, you can now find naturally flavored versions at many health food stores and online.
Putting It All Together
Be proactive! Don’t wait for the characteristic signs of pre-osteoporosis (osteopenia) and clinical osteoporosis - back pain, fractures, height loss and slumping. Examine the way you’re eating and living right now. The changes you make today could very well keep you mobile and out the hospital in your advancing years.
John Paul Fanton, based in Los Angeles, California, is a consultant, researcher and writer with over 20 years of experience in the field of natural medicine. He designs unique nutritional plans, mind-body (meditation, mindfulness, etc.) and vitamin/supplement programs for individual clients who are interested in improving overall health, weight and wellness. You can find his weekly column on the Healthy Fellow.
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