Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bones are too porous and thin, making them weak, brittle and easier to fracture. According to the national Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis. Another 34 million people are at risk for the condition. Osteoporosis will cause about one half of all women over age 50 to break a bone at some point in their lifetime. One-third of those who suffer hip fractures will require nursing home care, and one-fifth will die in the first year after the fracture. Men — don’t stop reading! Although not as large a problem for you, you too are at risk, just a slightly lower risk.
Your bones need a healthy mix of nutrients to prevent osteoporosis. The good news is this may be as simple as swapping out a few things you are eating too much of and switching to some other things. Osteoporosis and the associated fractures have been shown to be preventable with the proper diet and weight bearing exercise. Muscle loss and balance also become worse as we age, so we have a greater risk of falls.
Your first line of defense against osteoporosis is adequate calcium and Vitamin D intake. However, the story does not stop there. The acid base balance of your diet is a very important factor as well. Acid in the bloodstream causes the breakdown and loss of not only bone, but muscle too. Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, do not cause the problem. It is the acidity resulting from the metabolic breakdown of certain foods. The foods that turn your bloodstream more acidic are grains, like bread, cereals, rice, pasta, crackers, tortillas, cookies, doughnuts, cupcakes and similar foods. When these foods are metabolized, they release sulfuric and other acids into the bloodstream. These grains are also contributing to the increasing overweight and obesity issues of so many Americans.
In contrast, fruits and vegetables get broken down into bicarbonate when they are metabolized, so they add alkali to the body, and this helps neutralize acid. So when your diet is relatively low in fruits and vegetables compared to grains, it is a net acid-producing diet. Protein from animal sources also produces more acidity than does protein from plant sources such as beans and legumes.
Most of you have heard you need calcium for strong bones. Again this is only part of the story. Getting enough calcium is not sufficient, you also need adequate amounts of Vitamin D, which is essential for the absorption of calcium and improves not only bone strength, but muscle strength in our legs as well, lowering the risk of falls and lowering the risk of a fracture if you do fall. Most people, especially in northern climates, get too little Vitamin D. The most important source of Vitamin D is sun exposure, which increases the body’s production of the vitamin. There is very little Vitamin D in the foods we eat, so this is one area where a supplement may be needed. Sources of Vitamin D can be found in salmon and other fatty fish, fortified milk and other fortified food products.
There’s been some confusion about the best strategy for getting enough calcium, and many experts have had second thoughts about the rush to calcium supplements (see related story page 17). As with all vitamins and minerals, you should try to get most of your calcium through your diet. Over the past few years, some controversy has surfaced regarding issues and risks with consuming dairy, however there is one thing for sure, dairy is high in calcium. Other good sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, sardines, soybeans and black-eyed peas.
Weight Bearing Exercise
Weight bearing exercise is critical for improving and preventing osteoporosis. Walking is a perfect activity. Your body weight will help stimulate bone growth. If you are working out at a gym, choose a machine such an elliptical or treadmill preferably to a bicycle, where you will be sitting. Salt is also an enemy because it causes calcium leaching and bone loss. For optimum bone health, you should also get adequate amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and Vitamin K.
As I have said many times, there is no better strategy for overall good health, as well as strong bones, than eating a wide and varied selection of fruits and vegetables. These should amount to at least 50 percent of the calories you consume. Osteoporosis is another reason to cut back on all of those unhealthy, overweight-producing grains.
Here is a super healthy recipe with all the “right stuff.” Kale is the shining star here.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Kale & Apple Salad
Four 5-ounce center-cut salmon fillets (about 1-inch thick)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch kale, ribs removed, leaves very thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1/4 cup dates
1 honey crisp apple or apple of your choice
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino
3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring the salmon to room temperature 10 minutes before cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the kale, toss to coat and let stand 10 minutes.
While the kale stands, cut the dates into thin slivers and the apple into matchsticks. Add the dates, apples, cheese and almonds to the kale. Season with pepper, toss well and set aside.
Sprinkle the salmon all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Raise the heat to medium-high. Place the salmon, skin-side up in the pan. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish over with a spatula, and cook until it feels firm to the touch, about 3 minutes more.
Divide the salmon and salad evenly among four plates.
This article was contributed by by Dr. Stuart Offer.