I recently spent an evening discussing health and answering questions about nutrition with a great group of women. I had prepared a presentation entitled ‘Your First Steps Towards Vibrant Health’ but it was the questions these ladies asked in the Q and A period that told me exactly which health concerns were on their minds.
Calcium, healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis loomed large.
As they approach menopause many women know that they need to make extra efforts with diet to take care of their bone health. The bone protecting hormone oestrogen, present throughout a womans life, begins to tail off during perimenopause leaving a post menopausal woman vulnerable to osteoporosis. For many women the spectre of an unwanted fracture that diminishes quality of life in old age is a frightening out come to envisage. Consequently many of the women I spoke to were actively increasing the amount of dairy in their diet by adding in low fat yoghurt or a glass of skim milk in the mistaken belief that eating dairy was the ticket to bone health.
This belief is not surprising as we have been educated by the Dairy Council and the Government for years that dairy is the food group to turn to for a big dose of calcium and a healthy skeleton. As it turns out, increase calcium from dairy does not necessarily equate to healthy strong bones in old age.
In a review of 136 studies that specifically looked at the role of calcium in preventing osteoporitic bone fractures, two thirds demonstrated that high calcium intake did not prevent bone fractures. 85 percent however demonstrated a positive correlation between bone density and increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
It turns out that calcium is only part of the recipe for excellent bone health and magnesium, vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption, phosphorus and weight bearing exercise all have a role to play.
Great sources of calcium include leafy greens such as collard greens, spinach, beet greens, bok choy and kale which all contain hefty amounts of magnesium and will contribute to an alkaline environment within the body that does not leach calcium from the very bones you are aiming to build. Other great sources include sardines, sesame seeds and organic tofu.
Sounds like the perfect recipe for great bone health is a delicious mid-week supper of organic tofu stir-fried with bok choy and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
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