When talking about bones, most people immediately think about calcium and dairy.
However the countries with the highest intake of dairy foods also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Likewise, those countries who get their calcium from non dairy sources have lower rates of the disease. It seems that the calcium from dairy foods is harder to absorb into the bones, and possibly the countries who eat more dairy have an overall more acidic diet.
Bones are interesting – they are living tissue (one that is constantly remodelling and repairing itself) and relies on a constant supply of a delicate balance of nutrients: calcium, magnesium, Vitamin K and D and boron and zinc. A diet containing a variety of fresh whole foods will provide nutrients to the bones and surrounding tissues to make them stronger, but also to heal faster if they fracture.
Bones are not just lumps of bone, they are connected to a blood supply (which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the bone) and deep inside the bone is the marrow (see more on this below), where our red and white (immune) blood cells are made. Bones have nerves, so they can feel pain and temperature – remember last Winter when you felt ‘cold to the bone’. Some bone is hard, some soft and there are all the joints, ligaments and tendons that are involved in the health of the bone.
There is much more to bone health than calcium. Basically all the foods that you have learnt about for immune and nerve health will also benefit the bone. The best bone building nutrients come from these wholefoods:
# Fruit and vegetables: these have all the nutrients for bone health, they also assist with acid – alkaline balance to which bones are sensitive. A number of studies have indicated that with each extra serving of fruit and vegetables there is a 1% increase in bone mineral density.
# Foods with a balance of magnesium and calcium: almonds, tahini, green leafy vegetables
# Fatty acids: salmon, tuna, sardines, avocado and olive oil improve bone health by reducing inflammation,
# Kefir: has the wonderful ability to extract minerals from bones themselves. When cooking meat or bones in a soup, soak them in the kefir water to extract boron, silica, chondrotin, glucosamine which are all protective to the bones.
# Tumeric and ginger: are extremely anti-inflammatory and promote circulation to the bones and connective tissues.
# Marrow: Bone marrow is turned into traditional dishes in almost every culture. Italians serve it as osso bucco, Vietnamese as Pho soup and it is slow cooked in India, Pakistani and Indonesian cuisines. Marrow is really rich in calcium, iron, protein and fat – but not the type of fat that contributes to heart disease. It helps strengthen the bones, and promote oxygen and is really building and nourishing in times of convalescence.
# Menopause, pregnancy, growth in childhood and endurance exercise all contribute to bone loss. At these times, there is an increased requirements for minerals, and there are taken away from the ones. When you have a higher demand of minerals, the body will steal them from the bones to use on the nervous system, growth, repair, or to support the immune system and so, the bones miss out.
You can also look after your bones by doing the following:
Weight bearing exercises
Sunshine breaks – vitamin D
Eat the following foods regularly.
Reduce sugar to become less acidic and inflamed
Get enough sleep – so your bones can repair.
*Salt, caffeine, coke, sugar and bad fats all contribute to bone loss.