More Vegetables for Healthy Bones?
Osteoporosis is considered a progressive reduction in bone density, which creates brittle and porous bones. About 28 million Americans have osteoporosis, and 80% of them are women. Persons with osteoporosis have an increased risk of fractures, particularly those at the hip and wrist.
Research is still being conducted to determine exactly why fruits and vegetables may affect bone health, but some suggest it may be the alkalizing effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on acid-base balance, as well as the dietary effects of vitamin K, phytoestrogens, and other unidentified dietary components they contain. So aim for at least 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A few journals have cited that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables can play a crucial role in maintaining and/or increasing bone density in adults (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2002, 76, 245-252, and June 2006, 83(6), 1420-1428). Therefore, if you are easily achieving 5 servings, aim for 9 servings a day to receive the most benefits, including prevention of osteoporosis.
Risk factors associated with osteoporosis include, but are not limited to:
- Excessive use of alcohol or cigarette smoking
- Postmenopausal women with a history of diabetes
- Female gender
- Family history
- Slender frame, low muscle mass
- Caucasians, especially women of Northern European extraction, and Asian women
- Advancing aging
- Pre-menopause: amenorrhea, low estrogen in women, and low testosterone in men
- Lifetime diet low in calcium and vitamin D (including low intake of fruits and vegetables)
- Sedentary lifestyle
Dietary recommendations for osteoporosis include an adequate intake of calcium, which is at least 1,000 to 1,200 mg daily. For those in menopause or over age 65, at least 1,500 mg daily is recommended. A quart of milk per day could meet this recommendation. (See the list below for additional ideas on calcium sources.) There is ongoing research on the benefits of an increased intake in soy, as the isoflavens found in soy may be beneficial for bone health, and the current recommendation is 2 to 3 servings of soy daily. Vitamin D is also an important factor when dealing with osteoporosis, with the recommended intake being 200 to 400 International Units (IU) daily. This can be achieved with 4 to 6 cups of milk a day, as each cup contains 100 IU of vitamin D. Additional vitamins and minerals that are important for osteoporosis prevention can be found in fruits and vegetables, such as vitamins C and K, potassium, and magnesium. Another recommendation is to decrease sodium and sugar intake. Some research has indicated that a 50% decrease in sodium may be as effective as an 800 mg increase in daily calcium intake (Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care, 5th Edition, 2002). Foods with added sugar and salt (sodium) should be avoided.
Increasing daily intake of fruits and vegetables is another excellent way to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Research has demonstrated some benefits for bone density from a healthy diet that includes vegetables and fruits. Intake of calcium and vitamin D is important for bone density, as well as intake of magnesium and potassium.
Magnesium: The recommended daily intake is 400 mg, and good sources include soymilk (1 cup = 46 mg), cooked spinach (½ cup = 75 mg), bran cereal (1 cup = 69 mg), black beans (½ cup = 60 mg), avocado (½ cup = 45 mg), and cooked Swiss chard (1 cup = 151 mg).
Potassium: The recommended daily intake is 3,500 mg, and good sources include baked potatoes (medium = 477 mg), lima beans (½ cup cooked = 398 mg), banana (medium = 467 mg), honeydew melon (1 wedge = 434 mg), milk (1 cup = 383 mg), dry roasted soybeans (½ cup = 1173 mg), mashed winter squash (1 cup = 1070 mg), cooked tomatoes (cooked from raw 1 cup = 670 mg), and chopped dates (1 cup = 1160 mg).
Note that processing foods usually reduces the amount of potassium while increasing the sodium content, so read the labels.
The glut of information on recommendations for the prevention of multiple chronic conditions, secondary conditions, diseases, and the reduction of progression and/or complications can obscure the key take-home message: the intake of fruits and vegetables can make a positive impact on our health at many levels and benefit our quality of life.
Food-Based Calcium Sources
Please note that this list is an estimate of actual calcium content. Fruits and vegetables are in bold type.
|Parmesan cheese||1 cup grated||1,376|
|Cheddar natural||1 cup shredded||815|
|Cheddar natural||1 ounce||204|
|Yogurt low-fat plain||8 ounces||415|
|Broccoli, boiled, drained||1 cup chopped||205|
|Oatmeal, instant, fortified, flavored||1 packet||168|
|American natural cheese||1 ounce||174|
|Brick natural cheese||1 ounce||191|
|Edam cheese (natural)||1 ounce||207|
|Gruyere natural cheese||1 ounce||287|
|Ricotta, part skim||½ cup||337|
|Swiss natural cheese||1 ounce||272|
|Cod, dried, salted||3 ounces||189|
|Sardines, canned in oil||3 ounces||371|
|Skim milk||1 cup||302|
|Chocolate milk||1 cup||280|
|Cocoa, homemade||1 cup||298|
|Cocoa, (mix/water)||1 cup||90|
|Eggnog, nonalcoholic||1 cup||330|
|Evaporated milk, skim||1 cup||738|
|Milkshake, vanilla||10 ounces||413|
|Pudding, tapioca||½ cup||131|
|Chocolate pudding, mix||½ cup||146|
|Spinach, frozen, boiled||½ cup||139|
|Spinach soufflé||½ cup||165|
|Turnip greens, boiled, drained||½ cup chopped||99|
|Collard greens||1 cup||335|
|Bok choy||1 cup||250|
|Soy beans||1 cup||180|
|Mustard greens||1 cup||150|
|Acorn squash||1 cup||90|
|Great Northern beans||1 cup||140|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||115|
Additional food choices include fresh fruits, dried and unsweetened fruit (apricots, prunes, and dates), low-fat tomato sauces, tomato salsas, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds, grape juice, red grapes, and pink grapefruit.
For questions about supplements, please discuss options with your physician.
Low-Fat and Healthy Cream of Broccoli SoupIngredients
- 2 cups chopped broccoli
- 3 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1 cup non-fat dry milk
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- Set aside a few broccoli florets to top each bowl of soup.
- Cook broccoli and onion in a sauce pan with chicken broth until soft.
- Puree in blender or food processor.
- Then add skim milk, dry milk, and pepper. Cook about 15 more minutes.
- Thicken with cornstarch dissolved in skim milk. Continue cooking until soup is slightly thickened.
- Top each serving with broccoli florets. Serves 4 to 6.
This recipe is a healthy choice to prevent bone loss because it contains alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium, inositol, chromium, zinc, iron, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin K, and the B vitamins.