Bad To The Bone Foods

Bad bones. That certainly doesn’t sound good and it is something that I hope to prevent in my body to the best of my ability! Did you know that approximately 25 million people in the United States are effected by osteoporosis? That’s a lot of people and I don’t want to be part of that statistic! 40% of women and 13% of men may sustain a fracture over the age of 50, and over 1.3 million fractures annually are linked to osteoporosis. With that in mind, I thought a good topic for discussion would be ways to strengthen your bones. But beware…this may challenge all that you’ve learned about how to have healthy bones; especially if you grew up during the time that I did (late 60’s/early 70’s)!

Increased calcium consumption, especially from milk products, has been recommended to help prevent osteoporosis risk. However, over the past 50 years the occurrence of hip fractures has risen significantly worldwide. Incidentally, there are more fractures in regions that have a higher consumption of milk products – namely the U.S., U.K., Canada, and mainland Europe – than in those that don’t, such as Africa and China. The Nurses Study at Harvard, which followed 78,000 nurses for more than 12 years, found that those who drink two or more glasses of milk per day have twice the risk of hip fracture than those who drink a glass a week or less1. There are several other large-scale studies that show that high calcium intake doubles the risk of hip fractures2.

Should we question what we were told? Perhaps! Our bones are composed of calcium phosphate salts (65%) for hardness and a collagen matrix (35%) for flexibility. If you remove all the calcium from a bone, leaving just the collagen, it will bend but not break when subjected to stress. If you remove the collagen, all that remains are the calcium salts, which will shatter when subjected to stress. This is why excess calcium may increase the risk of fracture. Our bodies require MANY nutrients working TOGETHER for good bone health: magnesium, phosphorus, boron, copper, manganese, zinc – plus the vitamins C, D, K, B6, and folic acid. In addition, we need protein to build collagen and healthful fats for vitamin D absorption and protection against bone-destroying free radicals. The most easily absorbed source of vitamin D comes from the sun – ideally, we need 30 minutes or more of sunlight, every day.

Here are some tips to help you strengthen your bones:

  1. Eat vegetables, especially leafy greens. Include five to seven portions daily.
  2. Prepare stocks with vegetables and a piece of kombu seaweed, and a tablespoon of vinegar to help release minerals.
  3. Add sunflower and pumpkin seeds for minerals and natural fats.
  4. Choose whole grains in modest amounts for fiber and complex carbohydrates.
  5. Consume beans as a plant-based protein source.
  6. If oils are part of your diet, choose extra virgin olive, flaxseed, and unrefined sesame for essential fatty acids.
  7. Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every other day (or more often).

Here are foods to avoid for optimum bone preservation:

  1. Refined sugars
  2. Honey
  3. White flour, including pasta, white bread, muffins, and baked flour desserts – these all cause an acid condition that leaches minerals from your bones.

Based on the studies mentioned previously, avoiding milk products may also prevent bone fractures.

I know – this is counter to what you probably learned as a kid and what the media tells us. The choice is yours to make!

If you would like to learn more about how to optimize your bone health, then let’s talk! Contact me for a complimentary 50-minute consultation to discuss your health concerns. I’d love to hear from you!


Adapted from Food and Our Bones by Annemarie Colbin, PhD, CHES

1Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study

2Calcium intake and fracture risk: results from the study of osteoporotic fractures

3Vitamin D deficiency: the silent epidemic

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