- Eat a variety of vegetables, including dark leafy greens, daily.
- Avoid anything you are sensitive to – inflammation in the gut decreases absorption of nutrients
- Manage stress – digestion is dependent on the parasympathetic (aka “rest & digest”) state of the nervous system. This system is responsible for everything from stomach acid production, to enzyme production in the pancreas, to peristalsis in the small intestine. Thus, chronic high stress can lead to decreased nutrient absorption as the parasympathetic nervous system’s actions are inhibited.
- Be conscious of your acidic food/drink consumption: calcium is used as a buffer in order to keep our blood within its narrow life-sustaining pH range. Drinking acidic sodas or coffee leaches calcium from our bones in order to maintain pH.
- Weight-bearing Exercise: bones develop strength in response to gravity and pressure. Use it or lose it!
- Read this for a quick list of nutrients for strong, healthy bones.
- What about calcium? Here is a list of non-dairy calcium sources.
- Can’t I just drink milk? Read this and decide.
Certain prescription medications can cause bone loss, or decrease calcium absorption. This group includes corticosteroids like prednisone or Flovent (bone loss), and proton pump inhibitors, a class of medications for decreasing stomach acid, like Losec or Nexxium (decreased absorption). If you are taking such a medication, talk to your health care team about how to protect your bones.
Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup: 258 mg
White beans, cooked, 1 cup: 202 mg
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), cooked, 1 cup: 80.4 mg
Salmon, canned with bones, ½ cup: 181 mg
Almonds, ¼ cup: 103 mg
Sesame Seeds, paste (tahini), 1 tbsp: 63.9 mg
Figs, dried, 5 medium: 90 mg
Bok choy, cooked, ½ cup: 84 mg
Collards, cooked, 1 cup: 266 mg
Rapini, boiled, ½ cup: 78 mg
Okra, boiled, ½ cup: 65 mg
Canadian Nutrient Files,
USDA nutrient database for standards records
(via www.nutrititiondata.com and
Nutrition Almanac by John Kirshman & Nutrition Search, Inc. McGraw-Hill, 2007.)
Dr Mahalia Freed ND, nutritional myth-buster
I regularly encounter the myth that we need dairy products for healthy bones. My clients tell me they don’t want to give up dairy, as osteoporosis runs in their family. Or, they tell me, “I don’t want to do that to my kids”.
Let me set the record straight: you don’t need milk products for healthy bones!
Adults don’t need dairy, kids don’t need dairy.
But, don’t I need calcium? Don’t my kids need calcium?
Yup. And many other minerals.
You don’t need milk products to get calcium!
As stated by researchers in a recent (July 2013) editorial in JAMA Paediatrics, “Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to diet.”
But I thought I needed milk products for healthy bones!
“Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fracture in adults, according to a recent meta-analysis” (Ludwig D and Willett W. 2013).
Furthermore, “Milk consumption increases serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1, an anabolic hormone linked to prostate and other cancers” (ibid). Why increase cancer risk? Or the risk of type 1 diabetes, also associated with dairy intake?
Ludwig and Willett conclude: “For those with high quality diets (including green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and adequate protein), the nutritional benefits of high milk consumption may not outweigh the negative consequences.”
Milk, it doesn’t necessarily do your body good. You don’t need it, and neither do your kids.
More info on bones, calcium, and health:
Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a great source of calcium, and an excellent non-dairy base for creamy dips, dressings and sauces. Two simple options are below.
- 1/4 cup Tahini
- 1 clove Garlic, pressed or chopped
- Sea salt to taste
- Juice of 1/2 – 1 Lemon
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar, adding enough water to reach your desired sauce consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste. Mix well. Pour over steamed veggies, grains, beans, salads… For a maximum calcium boost, try tahini sauce over steamed kale & broccoli!
Variation: use tamari (~ 2 tbsp) instead of salt and lemon juice
- 1/4 cup Tahini
- 1/4 cup Miso (light or dark, depending on the taste you want – light is sweeter, dark is stronger)
Combine tahini and miso in a jar, adding enough water to get your desired consistency. Adjust ratio of ingredients to taste. Use less water to make a great dip for raw veggies, or thin to make a sauce for cooked greens, grains, broiled fish, etc.
Sunshine! Blossoms! Longer days! What do our bodies need, as we move gratefully into Spring & Summer and increased outward activity? Part of any naturopathic treatment plan is optimizing nutrition. Just as in a garden you prepare and enrich the soil before you plant, so food choices nourish your body, so that you may flourish and achieve your health goals. Whether your current concern is increasing energy or enhancing fertility, ensuring that your foundational nutrients are as strong as possible is a priority. And, it is something you can do for yourself and for those with whom you share meals.