Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bones are reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton and increased risk of fracture. Bone loss is usually gradual and without warning signs until the disease is advanced. Bone loss in women can begin as early as the age of 25 and new studies have shown the prevalence of osteoporosis in men is higher than previously thought with approximately one in five men affected.
In South Africa, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will possibly develop this disease within their lifetime – which means potentially between 4 and 6 million South Africans suffer from Osteoporosis.
Nutrition of bone-health should start from a young age and continue to our old age. Nutrition plays an important role in building and maintaining strong bones for the whole family. The diet should include foods that are high in calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients such as protein, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, and carotenoids (found in many leafy green vegetables, carrots, peppers, and fruits).
Magnesium: Approximately half of the total body magnesium is stored in the skeleton. Magnesium plays an important role in bone formation. Good sources of magnesium include green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, unrefined grains, fish, and dried fruit (apricots, prunes, raisins)
Vitamin K: Some studies have suggested that diets high in vitamin K are associated with a lower risk of hip fractures in older people. Food sources of vitamin K include leafy green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, kale, liver, dried fruit (e.g., prunes), and fermented foods such as fermented cheeses and natto (fermented soybeans).
Zinc: Zinc is required for bone tissue renewal and mineralization. Sources of zinc include lean red meat, poultry, whole grain cereals, pulses, legumes, and dried fruit.
The first 25 years of life are the most important time to build up bone strength. This is the time of life when both the size and strength of our bones increase significantly and where we achieve our peak bone mass. After 25 our bone mass slowly starts declining and there is a rapid decline in bone mass post-menopause.
Research has shown that consuming 5 prunes a day may benefit bone density.
Prunes support bone health, the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of prunes may help prevent bone loss and aid in maintaining healthy bone density and formation. The higher amounts of vitamin K in prunes also help to improve bone health. Another added benefit of prunes is that they aid in gastrointestinal health by providing good sources of both insoluble and soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps keep your bowel movements regular, while soluble fibre helps to moderate digestion and absorb nutrients from your food. Dried plums also contain sorbitol and chlorogenic acid, which can increase stool frequency. Furthermore, they provide antioxidant protection. Prunes are rich in antioxidants which may help to lower your blood glucose and LDL cholesterol levels.
Top tips to ensure you consume bone health foods:
- Ensure you have calcium-rich foods at home such as yogurt, cheese, milk, and tofu.
- Limit junk food in your pantry- having fewer non-healthy options around will force your children to eat more nutritious snacks instead.
- Ensure optimal protein intake through every phase of life- plant or animal protein.
- Fruits and vegetables contain an array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and alkaline salts – some or all of which can have a beneficial effect on bone.
- Snack smart- rather drink milk-based drinks over sodas and whole foods over processed foods and snacking on yoghurts, nuts, or dried fruits to meet your requirements.
- Limit Alcohol Intake
Written by: The Gutsy Dietitians