In osteoporosis prevention, diet plays a crucial role. When you were younger, you probably didn’t think too much about eating foods that could prevent osteoporosis. Sure, you enjoyed dairy products, but you’d be the first to agree, it had more to do with taste than with promoting bone health. Now that you’re older, your doctor might have expressed some concerns about your bones.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle and fragile because of bone loss. Even minor injuries are harder to recover from when you’re suffering from osteoporosis. Preventing the condition is key to avoiding injury and disability and continuing to live an active life.
Causes of Osteoporosis
We know osteoporosis is a result of bone loss, but why are we losing bone?
Just like many other functions in the body, your bones undergo constant renewal. In this process, old bone gets broken down and new bone is built. But as we age, new bone growth slows dramatically, leaving much more old bone. If you developed a lot of bone mass during your younger days by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, your risk of osteoporosis is lower.
Although osteoporosis can affect both men and women, it is most commonly found in women. That is because as women age, hormonal changes in the body can result in bone loss, which in turn can lead to osteoporosis.
If you’re concerned that you didn’t create enough bone mass growing up, don’t fret; there are foods you can start enjoying today that will help.
Bones require two essential nutrients to keep them strong: calcium and vitamin D. These are both elements that can be found in the foods we eat. If we plan accordingly, we can enjoy an osteoporosis nutrition plan that will meet the supply our bones need to stay strong.
Bone density refers to the amount of calcium and other minerals within your bones, and this can decrease over time. Calcium also aids in the function of muscles, nerves, and cells.
The recommended daily calcium intake is about 1,200 milligrams. Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, are good dietary sources. Getting enough calcium might be problematic for some who have allergies to dairy, but there are many other foods that can help:
- Collard greens
- Bok choy
- Turnip greens
- Beans, especially white beans
As you can see, there are many options, from which you can build an effective osteoporosis diet plan.
One word of caution about supplements: A 2016 study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine states that “excess calcium in the form of supplements may harm the heart and vascular system.” By contrast, a diet high in calcium-rich foods was found to be protective.
So remember, if you want to strengthen your bones, it’s best to use natural, dietary sources of calcium.
Vitamin D works hand in hand with calcium to ensure your bones stay healthy and strong by aiding in the absorption of calcium. Even if you’re getting enough of the mineral, without vitamin D you may not be getting all of its benefits, and you may even experience bone loss.
Currently, adults over 50 should get 800 to 1,000 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D. This number may vary depending on the individual, but it should not exceed 4,000 IU, according to the Institute of Medicine.
At Feinstein’s/54 Below, chef Lynn Bound sources ingredients such as King Ora salmon and farm-raised Amish chicken. (Jeremy Daniel)
You’ve likely heard that sunlight can provide us with vitamin D, but unless you live near the equator, it’s hard to get enough exposure during winter months. Here are foods you can eat to boost your vitamin D:
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil (use sparingly)
Your Osteoporosis Diet Plan
Now that you are aware of the role of calcium and vitamin D in bone health, and the foods rich in them, it’s time to put together your osteoporosis diet plan.
Below are three recipes that can help kick-start your plan, from breakfast to dinner.
Breakfast: Avocado Toast
- 1/2 avocado
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Salt, to taste
- 2 slices sprouted grain bread
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Mash together the avocado, lemon juice, paprika, and salt and set aside. Toast the bread. Spread the avocado mixture on the toast, and top each with feta.
Lunch: Black Bean, Spinach, and Mushroom Burrito
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 pound vitamin D-rich mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 ounces baby spinach
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
- 6 extra-large whole wheat tortillas
Garnishes: Guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft and add the mushrooms. Cook until tender, and add the black beans until heated through. Add spinach to cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
- Assemble by layering the brown rice and the bean-vegetable mixture over each tortilla. Add guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese as desired, and roll the tortillas to form the burritos.
Dinner: Healthy, Gluten-Free Minestrone Soup
- 1 cup white beans
- 1 cup kidney beans
- 1 cup pinto beans
- 4 ripe tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 2 cups carrots, diced
- 2 zucchinis, diced
- 1 cup green beans, ends removed and chopped
- 1 cup broccoli florets and stems, chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon parsley
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
- 1/4 cup tamari
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 handful of freshly washed spinach leaves
- 1 cup pasta shells
- Shredded Parmesan cheese, for topping
- If you are using dried beans, soak them overnight, rinse them, and cook them in simmering water for 90 minutes. If using canned beans, drain them, rinse them very well and set them aside.
- Pour one cup of water into a soup pot and boil on high heat. Roughly chop the tomatoes and place them in the pot. Stir them in the boiling water, allowing the tomatoes to soften and allowing the water to reduce, about 3 minutes. Lower to simmer, add in 2 tbsp. of olive oil and 3 pinches of sea salt, and stir together, mashing the tomatoes down with the back of the spoon.
- In the soup pot, sauté the diced onion, garlic, celery, and carrots. Then add the chopped zucchini, green beans, and broccoli.
- Add the parsley, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder into the soup pot. Fill the pot with water to just over three quarters full, and allow the soup to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Dump in the cooked beans, and then turn the heat to low. Using a fork, mash some of the softened carrots and tomato chunks against the sides of the pot, and then stir them into the water. Stir in the tamari, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- While the soup is still hot, throw in the fresh spinach leaves. Stir them in, allowing them to wilt.
- In a separate pot, cook the pasta shells according to package instructions, until just tender. Rinse and drain them, and add them into soup bowls just before serving (otherwise, if left in the soup pot, they will become mushy). Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of each soup bowl.
Foods to Avoid in Our Osteoporosis Diet Plan
Of course, when enjoying your osteoporosis diet plan, there are some foods you should avoid as they can increase bone loss:
- Soft drinks
- High-sodium foods
- Sugary snacks
Strong bones mean a strong body and it’s not too late to start enjoying foods that help osteoporosis. It’s a delicious way to help ensure you can live a more active life for longer.