Foods That Help Osteoporosis
By Carolyn Suerth Hudson, RDN, LD
September 5, 2017
Osteoporosis, defined as low bone density and fragile bones, is a growing problem and a major health threat for almost 44 million people 50 and older. That’s 55% of all people aged 50 and older!* About half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the hip, wrist or vertebra during their lifetime. A sobering statistic.
In her book Hot Times, Ann Louise Gittleman shared that “More women die each year from a broken bone than from uterine cancer and breast cancer combined.” Another statistic to remind us this is a serious health condition.
Research has found that the following factors put you at greater risk.
- Drinking more than one soda a week
- Smoking cigarettes
- Eating a low fat, low calorie diet
- Taking medications such as seizure meds, acid reflux meds, chemotherapy or many antidepressants
Bones, we know all about them … we think, but it might surprise you to learn that bones are a living tissue. In fact, bone is one of the most active tissues in the body, constantly breaking down and rebuilding in a process called remodeling. However, bones need nourishment for that remodeling to occur in order to stay strong and healthy. If we’re not eating the foods that support our bones, we could be setting ourselves up for painful years ahead.
First up in many minds is calcium, since we’ve all heard that calcium is important for healthy bones, but just as important are vitamin D, vitamin K, minerals, protein and fat.
How do we know this? A recent study published by the National Institute of Public Health researchers at Warsaw University found women suffering from osteoporosis consumed significantly lower amounts of fat, protein, and calcium. But what does vitamin D have to do with it? As we age we have a reduced number of vitamin D receptors, which is crucial because vitamin D acts like a key to open the receptors for bones to absorb calcium. So when we have fewer receptors we absorb less calcium. Dr. Michael Holik, in his book The Vitamin D Solution, recommends 4000-5000 IU of vitamin D daily to prevent chronic diseases like osteoporosis.
Clinically, we find that many women who have osteoporosis or osteopenia have been on a low fat, low calorie diet in hopes of managing their weight. They eat a small breakfast, skip lunch and snacks and usually have a normal dinner with family. But they are still not eating sufficient protein, vegetables and good fat to support bone health. What we find to be helpful for most women with osteoporosis is to eat five times per day with protein, vegetables and healthy fats at each meal and snack.
- Protein – Important to build the collagen rod in the bones, which supports the bone structure. Eating sufficient protein is critical to having strong and healthy bones. We recommend 3-4 ounces at meals and 2-3 ounces at each snack.
- Fat – As mentioned, bone is a living tissue that requires dietary fat to which minerals (such as calcium, magnesium and zinc) attach to build strong, healthy bones. Olive oil, olives, butter, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters are good fat choices.
- Vegetables – Our mothers said that we needed to eat our vegetables, and they were right. We get vitamins and antioxidants from vegetables that prevent free radical damage in our cells, including the cells in our bones. We encourage our clients have a variety of vegetables at least three times a day, cooked or raw. Broccoli, asparagus, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, cucumbers and the list goes on!
Changing your nutrition can be overwhelming, so let’s start with this sample menu for a day of bone-building foods.
What Drinks Keep Bones Healthy?
Finally, let’s not forget one more crucial factor, what you’re drinking. When possible, drink filtered water rather than soda or coffee which just deplete your bones. Another bone-boosting habit is to drink bone broth every day (watch this great video on how to easily make bone broth at home).
If you already have Osteoporosis or Osteopenia and want to start to rebuild and strengthen your bones, we highly recommend adding the bone-building supplement Pro Bono. Clinically we have found that many clients who eat the Weight & Wellness Way (real food!) and take Pro Bono have been successful in rebuilding bone density.
For immediate help, depending on your health history or lifestyle habits, you may benefit from an individual consultation. Subscribe to our newsletter to see the next post in our osteoporosis series – supplements that help with osteoporosis – and in the meantime explore these resources to learn more.
- Keeping Your Bones Healthy After Menopause
- Food to Encourage Bone Growth
- Are You (Unknowingly) Weakening Your Bones?
- Facts and Statistics, International Osteoporosis Association