When bone loses consistency and thickness, fractures and injuries may result. But did you know that you can prevent osteoporosis with lifestyle changes? Diet is an extremely important factor in slowing or preventing such deterioration.
Research suggests – and medical professionals agree – that women are more prone to suffering from osteoporosis because their bones are thinner and less dense. Hormonal changes during menopause also play a part in the reduction in bone density.
Keen to know about the optimal diet for osteoporosis prevention? It should contain:
In the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, the most important nutrient is calcium. We know that it’s the mineral that primarily comprises our bones, but it’s also vital for other bodily functions – muscle movement, nerve function and a healthy immune system, for instance.
When your diet is unhealthy and not well-balanced, your body may begin to use your bones as an energy reserve. This only becomes a serious problem if it’s habitual. In other words, the odd day of unhealthy eating won’t pose much risk, provided you return to good habits and stick to them the majority of the time. If you’re occasionally too busy to eat well, you just need to ensure that you take in a bit more calcium in order to compensate for what has been leached from your bones. If your diet is consistently poor, however, you’ll find it difficult to replace all the calcium that your bones require and, as a result, you’re likely to suffer from osteoporosis and its consequences.
By the age of 30, your bones will be peak strength and density. This is why it is so important for children and adults to consume adequate levels of calcium. Once women reach menopause, bone density declines in response to the hormonal changes that occur during this stage. These factors will facilitate osteoporosis and calcium consumption (and absorption) become even more crucial.
Optimally, you should consume between 1000 and 1200 mg of calcium a day. Although there is a wide variety of dietary supplements that provide this amount, it’s much better to get it from natural food. If you are taking a supplement, make sure it doesn’t exceed 2500 mg. Excessive consumption can cause kidney stones and can actually impede absorption of minerals.
Foods rich in calcium include blackstrap molasses, dried figs, oranges, chickpeas, tempeh, carrots, pine nuts, onions and tofu and plant milks enriched with calcium.
Although calcium is necessary, it needs the help of vitamin D in order to fight osteoporosis. Why? Well, vitamin D encourages and aids the distribution of calcium to the parts of the body in need of it – including, of course, your bones. A deficiency of vitamin D in adults means that your body will have to get the calcium it needs from your bones. This is calcium that it can’t replace, which sets the stage for an onset of osteoporosis.
800 IU of vitamin D is the recommended daily amount. To get it from your diet, eat fortified cereals and mushrooms (not necessarily together!) and drink fortified plant milks such as soya, almond, or oat.
Magnesium serves many functions in your body. For one thing, it facilitates the absorption of calcium. Scientific studies have shown that sufficient consumption of magnesium increases bone density and prolongs the onset or reduces the risk of fractures as well as osteoporosis. Generally, dietary supplements will combine calcium and vitamin D with magnesium. Although this ensures that minerals are being absorbed properly, it can lead to stomach problems.
The great thing is that you don’t need to rely on dietary supplements. Add a some magnesium to your diet whilst also adding variety. Choose from the following foods: pumpkin seeds, spinach, amaranth, sunflower seeds, almonds, white potatoes, beans, peanuts, peanut butter, whole wheat bread and sesame seeds. Delicious!
Potassium contributes to bone formation, improves calcium balance, increases mineral density in the bones and prevents the bone reduction associated with metabolic acids. A study conducted on 3000 premenopausal and postmenopausal women showed that, amongst those who were still menstruating, increasing their potassium intake led to an improvement of 8% in bone mineral density.
Although scientists posited that this effect was modified a bit by the natural properties of fruits and vegetables, it remains clear that potassium is an ally in warding off osteoporosis.
Need ideas about how to inject your diet with potassium-rich foods? Try recipes that include white potatoes, non-dairy yoghurt, soya milk, sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, lettuce, spinach, melon, pumpkin, carrots, lentils, peaches, papaya, pistachios, tofu, watermelon, tomatoes, mushrooms, raisins, peanuts, almonds, oranges, broccoli and sunflower seeds. Phew. That should keep you busy!
Osteocalcin is a protein that is found only in bones and vitamin K is essential in its formation. Research has found that those who consume high levels of vitamin K are less prone to fractures and osteoporosis. We don’t need to tell you, therefore, how important it is to have a diet plentiful in vitamin K. However, do see your GP before using any dietary supplements.
In the meantime, do eat more of the following foods – all of which are abundant in vitamin K: spinach, kale, chard, cabbage, endives, mustard, lettuce, broccoli, parsley, Brussel sprouts, watercress and asparagus.
There is a misconception that protein increases the risk of osteoporosis. The thought is that large amounts of dietary protein leads to more calcium being lost through urine. However, clinical studies have shown that excess protein isn’t the problem. It’s the type or source of the protein that causes the trouble.
Of course, there’s no denying that protein is a key to bone strength. It’s present – to some degree – in all foods. The best sources, though, are these amazing plant foods. Get some of these in your diet: lentils, hemp seeds, spirulina, quinoa, almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and all sorts of beans. Limit your intake of foods that are high in fat. By this, we mean things such as cheese, milk and other dairy products.
If done with a bit of care, the diet to prevent osteoporosis shouldn’t be too restrictive – and nor should it differ much to the one that you are used to. We hope that this article has made it pretty clear: a well-balanced diet can give your body the necessary minerals and nutrients to keep your bones healthy.