Your Secret Weapon for Healthy Bones

Happy World Osteoporosis Day!  Happy in that it’s raising awareness, and that’s a good thing.  Worldwide, Osteoporosis affects one in three women and one in five men over the age of fifty, but it’s not exclusive to the over 50s.  Known as a ‘silent disease’, oftentimes people are unaware of their bone density loss until they suffer a fracture. 

Throughout childhood dem bones dem bones really do need calcium as well as vitamin D to help us absorb it, enabling us to reach peak bone density by the age of 25 – 30. These micronutrients are essential for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis as is weight-bearing exercise. From the macronutrient family, protein is an important body cell reparation and builder.  Other bone friendly nutrients include vitamin K, manganese and potassium all of which are contained with within prunes.

Let's shine the spotlight on prunes...When I think of prunes I think of that big bowl in the hotel buffet, which people under the age of not-caring avoid like the plague as helping yourself to a bowl of them would be the equivalent of standing on a chair and shouting ‘I have an announcement to make – I am constipated!’.

Digestive system benefits aside, prunes are becoming known for their bone building benefits. For the last twenty years, Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi has been at the forefront of research into prunes or ‘dried plums’ as he calls them (I see where you’re going here doc - nice try).  Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University, his studies show that in conjunction with sufficient calcium and vitamin D, may help prevent and even reverse bone loss.

He claims that during his career he has tested numerous fruits and none of them have come close to having the positive effect on bone density that prunes have.  In 2011, over a twelve month period two groups of osteopenic (precursor to osteoporosis) women were studied. Along with calcium and vitamin D supplements, one group consumed 100g of prunes per day while the other consumed 75g of dried apple a day. The prune ladies after a year had ‘significantly’ higher bone mineral density compared to the dried apple ladies.

While the original the recommendation was to consume 10 – 12 prunes a day, following a further study, this has been revised down to the more achievable 5 – 6 prunes.  Channel 4’s ‘Superfoods: The Real Story’ recently included a feature on prunes and an interview with Dr. Arjmandi. They also revealed that prunes are highly recommended for astronauts who suffer bone loss due to floating around space stations for six or so months at a time.  Now that’s a bit more sexy.

Where do you find all these bone friendly nutrients?

Calcium – milk, cheese, yogurt, spinach, kale, collards, soya beans, whitebeans, tinned salmon, sardines, figs, whey protein, fortified cereals.

Vitamin D – sunshine! Tuna, mackerel, salmon, fortified foods and drinks, egg yolks. In countries that get a little less sunshine a Vitamin D supplement is recommended.

Protein – eggs, fish, chicken, beef (ideally go for lean), turkey, dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, quinoa, soya, spinach.

Vitamin K – spinach, cabbage, brussel sprouts,cauliflower, kale, liver, asparagus, broccoli, beans, soya beans, eggs, strawberries, prunes.

Manganese – beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, unrefined grains, prunes.

Weight-bearing exercise can include walking, hiking, running, body weight exercises, weight training, training with dynabands and general muscle strengthening exercises including Pilates. If you do have osteoporosis however and are attending a fitness class or a gym, it’s important to let the instructor know so they can offer you advice on modifications.