I’ve written before about advice issued by the U.S. Surgeon General to use nutrition as a first line approach for improving bone health. There is so much encouraging research to back up this wise guidance, including this recent study from New Zealand.
The scoop? Women with osteopenia may be able to reduce their bone breakdown by consuming a daily amount of 9 or more servings of vegetables and fruits. But not just any vegetables and fruits. Researchers highlighted seven bone superfoods that can make the biggest difference. This is helpful information for anyone trying to fill their plates with foods that have benefits for our bones.
Here’s what these researchers found when they tested the effects of known bone super foods on women’s ability to build bone.
How the study tested bone superfoods
The study group of 142 postmenopausal women (mean age 60 years) was divided into three groups: a control group, which had no change to their existing diets, and two intervention groups of 50 women each, both of which were instructed to increase their consumption of vegetables and fruits to 9 or more servings (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw) each day and to add some aromatic culinary herbs to each meal. Participants in one group chose from foods that emphasized specific vegetables/herbs/fruit known to reduce bone breakdown (aka bone superfoods). The other group was left to choose their 9 servings per day, but could not consume any of the bone superfoods.
Most of the women in the intervention groups (52%) had osteopenia; the rest mainly had normal bone density, although a few had osteoporosis.
No surprise: More plant foods lead to better bone health
The study found that:
- Both intervention groups consuming the 9 servings of vegetables experienced significantly reduced loss of calcium and a rise in urinary pH compared to the control group.
- Women in the group that ate the bone superfoods were the only ones to reach the daily internationally recommended level of 4700 mg of the key bone nutrient, potassium.
- A significant reduction in bone breakdown was seen in women with osteopenia whose 9 or more servings of vegetables and fruits included the bone superfoods. This is a very positive marker, as excessive bone breakdown leads to further osteopenia and even osteoporosis.
Are you eating these superfoods?
Here are the foods that are so effective at building bone. Some of them may surprise you!
- Green, leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy or red cabbage
- Citrus fruits
- Green beans
Here at the Center for Better Bones, we’ve long championed our Alkaline for Life Diet® — high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses and spices — as the ideal bone-enhancing eating program. Our helpful graphic shows you what a bone-superfood Alkaline Diet looks like. How close is your current diet to this ideal?
Gunn CA, Weber JL, McGill A-T, Kruger MC. Increased intake of selected vegetables, herbs and fruit may reduce bone turnover in post-menopausal women. Nutrients 2015; 7(4): 2499–2517.