We all know that eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables a day is an essential part to living optimally. Not only can good food lead to a good mood, fruits and vegetables are a great source of a wide variety of necessary vitamins and minerals – including calcium, vitamin C (boosts the immune system, helps healing and strengthens bones) and dietary fibre (helps to maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation and other digestive issues.) But what’s often not raved about, is the positive effects these natural wonders can have on our bone health.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease in which your bones become more porous and fragile, making you more at risk of fracture, which increases silently and gradually as you age. Osteoporosis affects one of every two women over the age of 50, and although we lose bone density from around the age of 35, this reduction happens to everyone. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Osteoporosis causes and effects
This bone loss or ‘bone thinning’ that we experience is the main reason why osteoporosis and broken bones become more common in old age. While we all lose bone strength as we get older, not everyone will experience broken bones because of osteoporosis – there are other factors that lead to the decrease in bone strength other than ageing. Even so, thinning bones can lead to fractures to the spine, hips and wrists. These, in turn, can lead to chronic pain. (1)
How to build bone density naturally
Interestingly, a new study from the University of Surrey proves that the potassium salts that are plentiful in fruits and vegetables play an important role in improving bone health. The scientists showed that these potassium salts (bicarbonate and citrate) reduce bone resorption – the process by which bone is broken down – thereby increasing their strength.
In healthy adults, bone resorption and bone formation occur naturally, allowing bones to grow, heal and adapt. But for those dealing with osteoporosis, the balance is shifted so that more bone is broken down than is built up, leading to fragility and fractures.
The University’s own Dr. Helen Lambert explained that a high intake of potassium salts was found to significantly reduce the excretion of calcium and acid in urine. As a result, excess acid is neutralised and bone mineral is preserved. (2) They also found that markers of bone resorption were reduced.
Foods for bone health
If you have osteoporosis, it’s important that a balanced diet contains calcium and vitamin D. Although not proven, some supplements such as potassium salts may reduce calcium loss. The list of foods that can help keep bones healthy and strong include:
• Bok choi
• Chinese cabbage
• Beans, lentils and seeds
• Tinned salmon and sardines
• Dried fruit
Foods to avoid for osteoporosis
Make sure that you limit or try to cut out certain food groups that may increase the speed of degeneration of bones, including foods containing oxalates such as spinach. Consider vitamin D supplements if eating a vegan diet.
Stock up on delicious, fresh ingredients that not only taste good but can help you gain back strength in your bones and keep you feeling healthier for longer.