The Better Bones Blog

by Dr. Susan Brown, PhD.

prunes for bones

How many prunes do you need to eat to start building bone?

Six is officially the new magic number when it comes to how many prunes a day provide bone-building benefit. The recently published clinical trial confirms the preliminary results I reported earlier — and makes getting enough prunes in our daily diet a real possibility!

Here is more about the study findings along with two great Thanksgiving side dish recipes that include prunes:

Clear findings: prunes are good for bones

Researchers ran a 6-month trial comprising 48 women in their late 60s/early 70s who were identified as having osteopenia, in which 16 participants ate 50 g, or roughly 6 prunes, 16 others ate 100 g, or 9-10 prunes, and the remaining 16 was a control group and ate dried apples instead. (Watch an interview I conducted with researcher Dr. Shirin Hooshmand while the study was ongoing.)

The researchers measured the participants’ bone mineral density in the hip, lumbar spine, and ulna (forearm) and examined specific bone health indicators in the blood at the start of the study and again 3 months and 6 months later. They also analyzed participants’ nutrient intake to account for all other potential factors affecting bone health, like vitamin D status, calcium intake, exercise, and overall nutrition.

In the apple-eating control group, BMD stayed unchanged or decreased. But in both groups of women who ate prunes, spine bone density increased, while forearm and hip BMD remained the same. Those who ate 100 g of prunes had a slightly greater increase in vertebral BMD than the 50-g group, but the difference between the two groups wasn’t significant — and in both groups (but not the control), a specific marker of bone resorption called tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP-5b) was significantly lower at both 3 months and 6 months into the study, indicating that eating either amount of prunes had a positive, long-lasting impact on bone turnover.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that the lower prune intake — 50 g or 6 prunes — was adequate for most women to get the benefits.

Two hearty prune recipes to be thankful for

If you’re losing bone and want a simple way to improve your bone health, the message here is quite simple: aim to include 2 prunes at each meal.
There are many interesting recipes out there that incorporate prunes alongside alkalizing vegetables. Here are two of my favorites — and both just happen to be perfect additions to your Thanksgiving menu. You can even share with your guests that besides being tasty, these side dishes are also helping them build stronger bones!

Shredded butternut squash with prunes and pistachios

Ingredients
1 medium butternut squash (1 ½ pounds)
2 medium shallots, finally chopped
1/3 cup shelled natural pistachios, coarsely chopped
3 large prunes, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp preferred cooking oil
2 tsp mint (finely shredded fresh or dried)
1 to 1 ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher/coarse salt
Cayenne pepper

Preparation
Peel and chop butternut squash (sized to fit in tube of food processor). Using the food processor shredding disc, shred squash (about 3 ½ cups). Heat cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add shredded squash, turn up the heat to medium high, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until the squash is tender, like a purée. Stir in the pistachios, prunes, mint, and lemon juice. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Serves 6.

– Recipe created by Sara Moulton, author, Home Cooking 101 via sunsweet.com.

Savory prune stuffing

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 1/4 cups chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 ounces pitted prunes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sherry or vermouth (or warm water to avoid alcohol)
6 cups (1/2-inch) white bread cubes (soft Italian or French bread)
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 tsp crumbled dried sage
1 tsp chopped thyme
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Large pinch ground cloves
Large pinch grated nutmeg
1 cup (+/-) either beef, chicken or vegetable stock
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation
Toast bread cubes at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (or just leave out uncovered overnight to dry). Soak prunes overnight (or at least 2 hours) in sherry (or vermouth). Sauté leeks and celery until softened (approx. 10 minutes). Add garlic, saute for 2 more minutes. Add apples and continue to cook until softened (approx. 10 more minutes). Add prunes and the soaking liquid to the mixture
In large bowl combine eggs, sage, thyme, parsley, cloves and nutmeg, whisk until evenly combined. Add egg mixture to the leek and prune mixture, gently combine with the toasted bread cubes. Use broth to moisten the mixture if needed. Place the stuffing mixture into a large baking dish and bake in oven for approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Stuffing variations:
To make a heartier stuffing cook off ¾ pound of either ground pork or sweet Italian sausage (casings removed) and add it  to the stuffing mixture before the final baking.

Roasted chestnuts also make a great addition to this recipe (whether you roast your own or use prepared ones). I would suggest using approximately 10 oz and either halve or quarter the nuts.

Substituting corn bread for the bread cubes will give an interesting texture and depth to this recipe.

Gluten free is easy enough with the substitution of gluten free bread cubes.

Reference:
Hooshmand S, Kern M, Metti D, et al. The effect of two doses of dried plum on bone density and bone biomarkers in osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial. Osteoporos Int 2016;27:2271–2279.

Share these recipes with a friend! 

99 ways to eat more fruits and vegetables

99 ways to get 9 daily servings of alkalizing vegetables, fruits and spices

There is an ever-growing body of scientific studies showing that the more colorful vegetable, fruits, nuts and seeds you eat, the healthier you are!  Your risks for needless fracture, heart disease, cancer, stroke, autoimmune disease, depression, inflammation, and many other disorders are dramatically reduced for those consuming abundant vegetable foods.

Given this evidence, we recommend aiming for 9 to 13 servings a day of life-supporting vegetables, fruits nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. While tweaking our diet a bit may sound daunting, it is really within our reach. Here are our favorite 99 ways to consume more alkalizing, wholesome vegetable foods — feel free to add your own to the list!

1. Fermented veggies (think sauerkraut or kimchi) are the BEST — not only do you get the veggies but you get additional probiotics, and they last for a LONG time!

2. Prunes are where its at! Two prunes after dinner can curb your sweet tooth or make them into a jam with warming spices.  (And prunes help build bone!)

3. Try baking apples with a dusting of cinnamon as a tasty dessert.

4. Make a trail mix for a snack using dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.

5. Leave the skin on your fruits & vegetables, as they often are the most nutrient-dense portion of the food.

6. Bake your fruits and vegetables into healthy bread alternatives — recipes for zucchini bread and banana bread abound online.

7. Add lemon, lime, cucumbers, or other tasty fruits to seltzer or plain water for additional flavor —and then eat them once they’ve infused into the liquid.

8. Bake kale or other greens into tasty chips for snacking.

9. Try freezing bananas and using a blender/emulsifier to make homemade frozen “milkshake” treats.

10. Start your meal with fruits and vegetables first before you eat things like bread and other carbs—you’ll eat more of the veggies and less of the carbs.

11. Dice a mixture of assorted vegetables into your breakfast omelet.

12. Eat fresh fruit as your dessert instead of unhealthy dessert options.

13. Power up your lunch wrap or sandwich by doubling the amount of veggies to proteins/meats.

14. Steam up enough of your favorite veggies for 2-3 days and keep them in a container in the fridge so that you can grab and go.

15. Set out a bowl of fruit so that during the day as you walk by you might be more likely to grab a piece of fruit.

16. Load up one meal with 5–6 serving of veggies using this veggie Buddha Bowl recipe

17. Try making homemade veggie packed soups and stews. These are great warming foods for the winter and your digestion. Plus they can last all week and are easy to grab when time is limited!

18. Make one night a week a meatless meal. This will encourage you to see what new recipes you can try that are more plant-based!

19. Follow a few plant-based cooking pages on social media like Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. These pages are constantly sharing new recipe ideas that can help you get out of the same old cooking slump!

20. Farmers’ markets are your friend! See if your area has a farmers’ market and make it a point to go there before the grocery store. You will leave with more fruits and vegetables that are a better quality and more nutrient dense!

21. Add a salad to any meal for an instant 2–3 servings of veggies

22. Always add some sort of vegetable to your sandwich, such as dark leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, or slivers of jalapeño pepper for a little kick.

23. Bring pre-cut vegetables to work to snack on throughout the day.

24. Try baking pears with peaches with a pinch of cinnamon for a healthy dessert!

25. Make a cauliflower crust pizza with fresh tomato sauce, basil leaves, and a healthy cheese!

26. Try juicing! Carrot juice is delicious and easy to incorporate into daily life.

27. Spiralizers for thin-slicing veggies are widely available at grocery stores now. These veggies act as a great substitute for pastas and are very filling. So instead of pasta, make “zoodles” out of zucchini and serve with tomato sauce or pesto (and drop in a few mixed veggies for still more servings!)

28. Olive oil counts! 1 Tablespoon of olive oil counts as a serving and also packs additional bone building benefits! Put some in a jar with herbs like garlic, oregano, rosemary, and thyme to add flavor to spiralized veggie pasta.

29. Add blueberries or fruit to your morning yogurt.

30. Blend vegetables and fruit into a smoothie.

31. Using lettuce or greens instead of bread can help alkalize your meal as well get you additional servings of veggies!

32. Warming peppermint, ginger, or spiced teas are great for your bones, and the aromatic qualities aid in the digestion of your food which help with absorption of your vitamins and minerals.

33. Bok choy is a great filler and leafy green it has little flavor so you can add it to almost anything as a way to pump up your serving count

34. Add true pickles as a flavorful snack or addition to any sandwich or wrap.

35. Buy local veggies in season and freeze. Locally sourced organics veggies are the best; however, they have a short window. Buy in bulk and freeze your veggies for use all year long if canning is not an option. Most veggeis freeze well; if you’re not sure whether you should freeze a certain type of veggies, here is a quick guide.

36. Purge your fridge of store-bought salad dressings. Making your own homemade dressing is simple and effective for getting more fresh herbs and spices in your diet. Plus you’re going to need something to put that new lovely dressing on!

37. Skip the dips and be the person who brings the veggie dish to the next party. You will be looked on as an innovator as many people look for the healthful options at the party yet always get the same old appetizers!

38. Plant-based chili is a filling, warming dish and a great opportunity to add more veggies and fresh spices in! If you have a slow-cooker, it’s super easy and you can freeze half of it for later.

39. Don’t forget the sweet potatoes on your grocery list! An alkalizing root crop sweet potatoes are not just for Thanksgiving. Kids love them too!

40. Ever see a veggie you don’t recognize at the store? Buy one and challenge yourself to find a recipe for it for the weekend.

41. Don’t ever see anything you’re unfamiliar with at your store? Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) Boxes are great ways to try new veggies! Ask around at the farmers’ market for local CSA opportunities.

42. Add avocado to toast with a slice of tomato.

43. Make apple chips in the oven for a great snack

44. Swap your white rice for cauliflower rice. The recipe is easy and it actually tastes better and is better for you too!

45. Cauliflower can also act as a bread substitute! Swap bread for cauliflower in your grilled cheese or pizza crusts

46. Don’t forget veggies from the sea! Spread chopped avocado and grated carrot on a sheet of nori seaweed. Roll up and slice for an easy veggie “sushi” roll.

47. Make veggie shots—a quick and dirty way to get the veggies in!

48. Swap the fries for the veggie of the day when out at restaurants.

49. Start a veggie garden—even a planter with a small collection of vegetables or herbs will inspire you to eat more veggies. And if you worry about vegetable plants taking over your tiny window ledge, keep in mind the dwarf varieties have been developed specifically for people like you who have limited space.

50. Keep bone broth handy in the pantry, it is a great bone builder and you can add any type of veggie for an instant warming soup.

51. Don’t skip the pizza — just add lots of veggies! Also, lots of new gluten-free crusts are available and are very tasty!

52. Eating out? Explore your taste buds and order a veggie entree.

53. Prep is key if you want to ensure success! Plan your meals for the week, buy what is needed, and pre-prep anything that might take time.

54. Avocado deviled eggs are a great mix of proteins and good fats!

55. If you crave fries, try making you own with sweet potatoes or zucchini. Air fryers are a more heathful alternative to regular deep frying.

56. Have the right tools for the job! Sharp knives, dicers, and graters can take the “labor” out of chopping & prepping veggies!

57. Invest in your kitchen! It will save you money in the long run and boost your health. Crockpots, food processors, steamers, pressure cookers, and spiralizers are all kitchen must haves that will make your meals easier to manifest.

58. It is easier to stay motivated when you have support! Find like-minded family & friends to go on this plant-based journey with.

59. Snack on veggies as you cook.

60. Find a great motivational food blog and subscribe. This will give you a weekly or daily dash of inspiration.

61. Measure your pH first thing in the morning. Based on the results, reflect on what you ate the previous day — and plan the alkalizing veggies you can eat today. Stay motivated by using the Alkaline for Life Diet Starter Kit.

62. Try this easy recipe for veggie breakfast hash.

63. Make a frittata for breakfast!  A frittata mixes eggs with lots of veggies!

64. Mix minced broccoli or cauliflower into scrambled eggs; they don’t change the texture.

65. Make avocado-based pudding.

66. Use veggie-based salad dressings.

67. Add carrot or sweet potato puree to cookie dough — it doesn’t really change the taste.

68. Add olives to all salads and as a side dish.

69. Add raw sunchoke to salads for great alkalizing prebiotic. Grate or thinly slice for an easy topping.

70. Add 1 Tbsp chia seeds and 1 Tbsp pine nuts to cooking oatmeal for texture.

71. For a healthy snack, cover canned chickpeas in a little olive oil and sprinkle with Adobo seasoning, then roast them.

72. Make spicy hot lemon water with a bit of cayenne and maple syrup.

73. Put fresh lemon juice in your hot cider (great for sweet cravings).

74. Slow-cook odds and ends of veggies with veggie broth for a great soup.

75. Explore different flavors and spices with this easy recipe for Thai veggie curry.

76. Add pumpkin or butternut squash to smoothies, pancakes, or soup

77. Dehydrate veggies and make a great snack or trail mix.

78. Plant an indoor herb garden on your kitchen counter.

79. Add cucumbers and mint to water.

80. Instead of mayo, add avocado to your tuna fish.

81. Try making sweet potato brownies

82. Baking a cake? Substitute a cup of cooked, mashed butternut squash for the oil. The cake will be amazingly moist and no one will know the difference (and if the squash is particularly sweet, you can cut back on the refined sugar by 1/3 while you’re at it!)

83. Eat more turmeric root to harness its anti-inflammatory superpowers — like this easy recipe for soothing golden milk.

84. Try butternut squash ravioli!

85. Instead of potato chips, try sliced bell peppers with hummus to achieve the same crunch!

86. Used chopped parsley as a final touch in many dishes.

87. Remember that a serving is only 1/2 a cup — so you can get 2 or 3 or more servings by loading up your plate with one vegetable

88. Change it up this holiday season and make pumpkin pie — without the crust! Or take it one step further by subbing in sweet potato.

89. Slice a cucumber lengthwise and hollow out. Load with sandwich fixings and enjoy this bread-free treat.

90. Try this recipe for a easy alkalizing & filling lunch or dinner

91. Instead of nut butter and crackers, revisit that childhood favorite of “bumps on a log”: half a stalk of celery slathered with peanut butter, with a few raisins sprinkled on top. Crunchy and filling!

92. Save time by chopping and peeling all your veggies for the week on Sunday evenings (or a day of the week when you have time). Wrap and store in the fridge crisper until ready to use.

93. Easy roasted garlic! Cut the very top off a head of garlic and bake in a small separate baking dish the next time you make a casserole. Roasted garlic is soft, creamy and flavorful.

94. Add pureed carrots or finely chopped broccoli to mac and cheese for a healthier spin on this hearty favorite.

95. Instead of fries, chop fresh veggies and serve with a creamy dressing for easy dipping.

96. Remember stuffed peppers? For a change from taco night, mix browned and drained ground beef with onion, garlic and stewed diced tomatoes and rice, stuff peppers and top with cheese.

97. Herbs! Sprinkle fresh cut herbs over omelets and casseroles for an instant flavor pop.

98. Challenge yourself to double the vegetables in any recipe. Making quiche? In addition to broccoli and onions, add some chopped peppers or carrots!

99. Substitute pureed broccoli or cauliflower for cream in soup recipes. Steam veggies, then blend with an infusion blender until smooth. Thin with broth as needed. Easy!

What’s your favorite way to work in more servings of fruits and veggies? 

Check out these great reader submitted tips! Add yours above.

100.  Don’t just spiralize zucchini! Daikon, fat carrots, turnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and the neck part of butternut squash work great, too! Toss with a little olive oil and spread out on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 or higher. Toss once or twice while baking. Bake until al dente. Wonderful pasta substitute! Check out inspiralized.com for some great recipe ideas! – Deborah

101. Add extra onions and grate a carrot into your pasta sauce. an extra grated garlic clove is always good. – Diane Reich

102.  I add fruit and nuts to my hot cereal: Blueberries and walnuts to oatmeal; apples, raisins, and walnuts, plus cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric to steel cut oats; cut up pears and blueberries with walnuts and nutmeg and ginger to brown rice farina/amaranth cereal; and perhaps my favorite, unsweetened shredded coconut, cut up date, walnuts, and half a banana, plus some coconut oil with brown rice farina/amaranth cereal. – Janet

 

What else do your bones do?

6 Secret Wonders of Your Skeleton

Our skeletons are composed of hard tissue that provide us with a sound infrastructure allowing for upright posture, complex movements and amazing dexterity. While many people look upon their skeletons as little more than scaffolding — hard structures that hold us up and give shape to our bodies — many don’t realize that this is but one of the many ways our skeletons serve us.

For a fun analogy to help illustrate this point, consider this: our skeletons are not like a small store selling one kind of widget — they are more like a mini-mall offering us multiple goods and services. Your amazing skeleton offers:

  • “Parking” in the form of support for softer tissues and attachment points for skeletal muscle to assist in movement.
  • “Security” in the form of mechanical protection of internal organs.
  • A “supermarket” where the body can shop for “groceries” such as key minerals that play essential roles in cardiovascular function and overall health. This includes calcium (97.9% of which is in the skeleton), magnesium (50%), sodium (35%), and phosphorus (85%), as well as “specialty foods” — alkalizing compounds like citrate and carbonate, which attach to the minerals in bone and provide for the essential maintenance of minute-to-minute blood pH balance.
  • A “hardware store” in the form of bone marrow that offers blood cells (for moving nutrients and oxygen), platelets (for fixing leaks and patching holes), and “batteries” (reserve energy in the form of fatty acids).
  • A “locker room” for toxic metals, keeping these hazardous substances out of circulation.
  • And there’s even a “courier service” in the form of hormones that send messages to the tissues about glucose control, energy metabolism, body mineral balance, and body fat (Martin 2017).

 

6 functions of the skeleton

Our skeletons are a wonder, and with so much to offer, it’s no surprise most of us are satisfied customers!

Secrets of Your Skeleton

 

References

Martin C. Bones make hormones that communicate with the brain and other organs. Science News 2017;191(13):12.


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