2017 Dirty Dozen Clean Fifteen

Check the 2017 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen from the Environmental Working Group

With farmer’s market season upon us, it’s a good time to remember to be careful when choosing your fresh fruits and vegetables. I recommend seeking out organic produce for one simple reason: chemical pesticides and herbicides are toxic.  While the amounts you eat may be tiny, their effects are likely cumulative. Science is just now starting to find ways to identify how trace effects change the body (Curl et al., 2015). But I say it’s better to limit exposures to harmful chemicals, no matter how tiny, than play Russian roulette and hope for the best.

But I’m realistic!  I know buying all-organic may be out of reach of many people’s budgets. So it pays to be savvy about what you buy from organic farmers, and what you get from conventional sources.

Several years ago, I wrote about the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their popular list they call the Dirty Dozen, which identifies foods found to be high in pesticides even after washing or peeling.

2017 Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen

2017 Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen

 

The Dirty Dozen list keeps changing

I like to remind you about the Dirty Dozen because it’s not something to check once in a while — you should review it every year, because the rankings change on a regular basis.

For instance, apples had the highest level of chemical residues in 2012 — and stayed at the top of the list for three more years until strawberries took over. This year, strawberries are still the #1 most contaminated food, but apples have slipped to #4. Meanwhile, spinach — ranked #8 in 2016 — is now #2 on the list.

And there are new entries as well: pears, ranked at #22 in 2015, have climbed all the way up to #6 as of 2017 because EWG found that the amount of residue and the number of pesticides and fungicides more than doubled in those two years.

In our global economy, your fruits and vegetables could come from down the road or the other side of the planet. You can’t assume your grocery store is sourcing its produce from the same places all the time, or even that the farms’ pest-control practices are the same from year to year.  If you have the ability grow your own fruits and vegetables, perhaps the EWG Dirty Dozen list can offer guidance on what to plant — but if you can’t, let it help you determine which foods you should select from organically grown offerings in your supermarket.

By the way, another annual list from the EWG is the Clean 15 list describing the 15 plant foods least likely to contain even trace amounts of chemicals. These are foods you can buy from conventional growers without much concern — though you should still make sure they’re fresh and wash them before eating!

 

References

Environmental Working Group. EWG’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Available at https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php (Accessed June 6, 2017).

Curl C.L., Beresford S.A.A., Fenske R.A., et al. Estimating pesticide exposure from dietary intake and organic food choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Environmental Health Perspectives 2015;123(5):475-483. doi:10.1289/ehp.1408197.

 

How To Start An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet for healthy bones

Inflammation is one of Mother Nature’s powerful double-edged swords: We need it to clear way damaged tissue, but excessive and uncontrolled inflammation brings unwanted destruction.  Ongoing inflammation lies at the root of osteopenia and osteoporosis.  It’s been known for years that individuals with higher inflammatory markers (like C-reactive protein) exhibit lower bone density and fracture more often. Enter the anti-inflammatory diet!

New research looking at an anti-inflammatory diet and its components has found the adage that “food is medicine” is true when it comes to protecting bone from the ravages of inflammation. Ohio State University researchers recently reviewed data from over 160,000 women, mean age of 63, collected over 6 years. They found that:

  • Women whose diet ranked highest in anti-inflammatory food components lost significantly less bone density as they aged than those with high intake of pro-inflammatory foods  (even if they had lower bone density at baseline).
  • Higher intake of anti-inflammatory food groups was associated with an almost 50% reduction in hip fracture risk among the subset of Caucasian women younger than 63.

How do I change my eating habits to get the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet?

I know what your next question will be: How do I change my eating habits to get these benefits? The simplest way to start is to look for anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet (see below), and think about ways to eliminate pro-inflammatory foods (below) from your regular diet. My Alkaline for Life diet is helpful in this regard, since most of the foods it recommends are on the  anti-inflammatory diet.

 

 

5 questions about calcium supplements

Answers to your top 5 questions about calcium supplements

Calcium is the nutrient people think about when it comes to bone strength. Every day I’m asked, “How much calcium should I take, and when? What’s the best form? Can I take too much?”

Perhaps you have one of these questions yourself, so here’s a brief “Calcium 101”:

#1. How much calcium should I take?

The current recommended calcium intake for adult women is 1200 mg a day between diet and supplements.You may need more calcium if you don’t absorb it as well as most people. Nocturnal leg cramps, for instance, may indicate a higher need for calcium.

#2. When should I take my calcium supplement?

It’s best to take calcium supplements with food so they absorb better — ideally, spread them out over two meals for best absorption. Blood calcium can dip at night, so it helps to take some of your supplemental calcium with dinner.

#3. What is the best form of calcium?

I suggest a mix of different calcium salts, including calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium ascorbate, calcium glycinate and calcium malate. All of these forms of calcium are well absorbed and highly alkalizing, which is a top priority here at the Center For Better Bones.

#4. Why is the calcium in Better Bones Basics and Better Bones Builder so good for bone?

In my products, I use a mix of alkalizing calcium forms, including calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium ascorbate. These forms are concentrated – so that you can get the optimal dose with the fewest pills possible. Calcium carbonate is the same form of calcium as found in marine algae calcium pills and it is highly absorbable if taken with food

But what makes the calcium even more highly effective in Better Bones Basics and Better Bones Builder is that it paired with other nutrients it needs to do its job — magnesium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. For example, calcium absorption depends on vitamin D. A person with inadequate vitamin D absorbs 65% less calcium than someone who has adequate vitamin D (or 32ng/ml).

#5. Can you take too much calcium?

Yes. Although we need calcium in relatively large quantities, you can take too much. For those looking to maximize bone health generally, supplement with calcium in the range of 600 and 700 mg/day. I don’t recommend using over 1000 mg supplemental calcium, as doctors tended to prescribe in the past.

 

References:

NIH. Office of Dietary Supplements. Calcium, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/. Nov. 17, 2016.

Heaney, RP et al. Absorption of calcium as the carbonate and citrate salts, with some observations on method. Osteoporosis International, 1999;9(1):19-23.

blackstrap molasses recipes

Recipes to help you get the benefits of blackstrap molasses

Dr. Bown with molasses cookiesI fondly recall my grandmother’s homemade blackstrap molasses cookies and her molasses sweetened, old fashioned, baked beans. If you feel like indulging your sweet tooth, you can skip the refined sugar, sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup and fructose.

A better way to add a little sweetness — along with the big nutrient benefits — is to use blackstrap molasses. See some of my favorite ideas below.

What is blackstrap molasses?

Blackstrap molasses is the thick dark syrup — full of alkalizing, bone-building trace minerals — left after the third boiling in the sugar refining process.

Nutrients in blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses is rich in many key bone nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and even the hard to get trace mineral manganese. Some reports suggest you only need two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses to get 18% of the recommended daily value for manganese.

Manganese plays a special role in bone cartilage and bone collagen formation and is required for bone mineralization. In one study, women with osteoporosis were found to have ¼ the manganese levels of the women who didn’t have osteoporosis.

Compare the nutrients in blackstrap molasses to table sugar

Nutrient Content per 1 Tablespoon
NutrientBlackstrap Molasses (organic unsulfured)Table Sugar
Calcium200 mg0
Magnesium100 mg0
Potassium450 mg0
Iron2.70-0.73 mg0
Sodium30 mg0
Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, ChromiumTrace amountsnone

Table Reference: U.S. Dept of Agriculture, USDA Branded Food Products Database, Jan. 2017

Molasses spice cookie recipe

From The Amazing Acid Alkaline Cookbook by Bonnie Ross

(Makes 24 cookies)

Ingredients

3 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

2 C light spelt flour (or gluten-free baking mix)

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp sea salt

2/3 C Sucanat sugar

½ C clarified butter

¼ C blackstrap molasses (originally regular molasses in the recipe)

Sucanat sugar for coating

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat two 9-x-13-inch baking sheets with clarified butter, or line them with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and flaxseed. Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flaxseed mixture, sugar, butter, and the blackstrap molasses. Mix well with a spoon until blended.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well with a spoon until blended.
  6. Lightly coat a plate or pan with sugar. Using your hands, shape the dough into 1½-inch balls and roll each ball over the sugared surface. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the balls to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are set but the middle of the cookie is still soft. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.

More ways to use blackstrap molasses

Molasses apple cider tea

This warming drink involves two of my alkalizing favorites.  I simply put 1 Tbsp of blackstrap molasses and 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar in a cup of hot water and enjoy.

Wholesome alternative sweetener

As a simple sweetener, I like the flavor of blackstrap in yogurt, oatmeal, homemade granola, and even tea.  It also works to replace some of the honey or maple syrup in your recipes with blackstrap.

Barbecue sauce or veggie glaze

If you prepare homemade barbecue sauce try mixing a bit of blackstrap to secret BBQ sauce. Or, if you like to spice up things by glazing your root crops, try mixing a bit of blackstrap with butter for a flavorful glaze.

Source for nutrition information: Whole Foods

Are you getting enough chromium?

Chromium: A hidden nutrient for bone and energy metabolism

 

Chromium is an old friend of mine! I first used it to help women tame their sweet tooth in my days as a nutritionist. And now, chromium is one of the key essential nutrients I recommend to women for their bone health.  I’m also excited to see that researchers are learning more about how chromium plays a role in the truly amazing way the skeleton helps regulate energy metabolism.

Key benefits of chromium

  • Preserves bone mineral by reducing the loss of calcium in the urine, promoting collagen production, increasing adrenal DHEA levels and improving insulin regulation.
  • Stabilizes blood sugar
  • Reduces craving for sweets
  • Helps the skeleton regulate energy metabolism — the complicated process includes osteocalcin (a hormone secreted by the bone-building osteoblast cells) acting on the pancreas to enhance insulin production and in peripheral tissues to increase glucose utilization, as well as to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce visceral fat (like abdominal fat accumulation).

Are you getting enough chromium?

Unfortunately, probably not.

That’s because not many foods have chromium.  Plus, chromium is a nutrient easily lost in food processing and soil mineral depletion.  But — as you’ll see below in the list of chromium-rich foods — there is some good news.  Red wine can have a fair amount of chromium!

How to get enough chromium (red wine is on the list!)

Most everyone in this country could benefit from chromium supplementation.  While there is no RDA established for chromium, I recommend 200 mcg per day. Here’s a great list of foods with chromium from the National Institutes of Health. As you’ll see, getting a daily dose of 200 mcg from food alone is difficult!

What foods have chromium?

FoodChromium (mcg)
Broccoli, ½ cup11
Grape juice, 1 cup8
English muffin, whole wheat, 14
Potatoes, mashed, 1 cup3
Garlic, dried, 1 teaspoon3
Basil, dried, 1 tablespoon2
Beef cubes, 3 ounces2
Orange juice, 1 cup2
Turkey breast, 3 ounces2
Whole wheat bread, 2 slices2
Red wine, 5 ounces1–13
Apple, unpeeled, 1 medium1
Banana, 1 medium1
Green beans, ½ cup1

Source: National Institutes of Health

Adding to the difficulty of getting enough chromium is that our levels also tend to diminish with age. Stress, a high sugar diet, an infection or vigorous exercise can diminish chromium levels in the blood.

You can help your body absorb chromium by getting enough with vitamin C and the B vitamins through foods and/or supplementation.

To get the most beneficial effects of chromium, I suggest you supplement with a chelated form of chromium such as chromium picolinate or chromium polynicotinate. My Better Bones Builder includes 300 mcg of chromium (as chromium polynicotinate) so you can be sure you’re getting the optimal amount of chromium.

 

References:

Clemens, TL, and G Karsenty. 2011. The osteoblast: An insulin target cell controlling glucose homeostasis. J Bone Miner Res 26(4):677–680.

Evans, GW et al. 1995. Chromium picolinate decreases calcium excretion and increases dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in postmenopausal women. FASEB J 9:A449.

National Institutes of Health. 2013. Chromium. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/

 

 

Benefits of Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2: A Valentine’s message for heart and bones

 

This Valentine’s Day, when you’re thinking about what’s closest to your heart, keep your bones in mind too!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you already know how important vitamin K is to bone health — but you may not realize its importance in cardiovascular health. It’s a key nutrient in blood coagulation, of course, but that’s far from its only role.

Why your heart and bones love vitamin K

Vitamin K has a special relationship to both heart and bone health through its contribution to the metabolism of calcium. Here’s a closer look why:

  • Vitamin K has the unique capacity to activate proteins that help to keep calcium in the bone and out of the arteries (which prevents arterial calcification), and to regulate inflammation.
  • Its importance is underscored by several studies that show that people who took a form of vitamin K2 called menaquinone (MK-7) had a reduced risk of coronary calcification and heart disease.
  • Even in patients with kidney disease, who are at risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease, small doses of MK-7 and vitamin D helped slow the progression of the disease.

Source: NattoPharma, “Calcium Perfected”, n.d.

Researchers have known there’s a link between osteoporosis and heart disease for a while now. It’s so significant that some researchers think that if patients are diagnosed with heart disease, they should be evaluated for osteoporosis — and vice versa.

Top foods for getting vitamin K

You can eat good quality, lean meats, organic eggs, and hard or soft cheeses knowing they can supply you with some of the vitamin K2 your bones need. But before you rush out to buy kale and leafy greens, you should know that vitamin K2, unlike vitamin K1, is not found in vegetables.

Natto is fermented soybeans and an excellent source of the MK-7 form of vitamin K2. Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and seaweed are also pretty good sources of vitamin K2. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan way of eating, consider supplementing with vitamin K2 to ensure that your heart and bones have this important nutrient.

 

References:
Beulens JW, Bots ML,  et al. High dietary menaquinone intake is associated with reduced coronary calcification. Atherosclerosis. 2009 Apr;203(2):489–493.

Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C,  et al. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: The Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004;134(11):3100-3105.

Harshman SG, and Shea MK. The role of vitamin K in chronic aging diseases: Inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and osteoarthritis. Curr Nutr Rep. 2016;5(2):90-98.

Kurnatowska I, Grzelak P, et al. Effect of vitamin K2 on progression of atherosclerosis and vascular calcification in nondialyzed patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3-5. Pol Arch Med Wewn. 2015;125(9):631-640.

Shea MK, and Holden RM. Vitamin K status and vascular calcification: Evidence from observational and clinical studies. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(2):158-165. doi: 10.3945/an.111.001644.

Vegetables make you happy . . . yes, really!

 

You’ve heard the old saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

But would it surprise you to know that an apple — or a carrot — also discourages the blues and makes you more engaged in life? That’s what research has found — repeatedly! — in recent years.

Research shows fruits and vegetables boost emotional well being

  • A 2016 study that focused on the food diaries of more than 12,000 Australian adults found significant increases in emotional well-being of individuals who increased their intake of plant foods. This occurred within a relatively short (2-year) time span and could not be explained by other life changes.
  • A 2014 study that looked at emotional health in 100 volunteers, half of whom snacked on fruit and the other half on chocolate or chips in mid-afternoon, found that those who ate fruit scored lower on measures of anxiety, depression, and emotional distress than those who ate junk food.
  • And a 2015 study in 405 British young adults found not only improved emotional well-being, but increased creativity and curiosity as well, were reported by the subjects — not only in general, but in particular, on the specific days the study subjects reported eating more fruits and vegetables.

Changes can happen almost immediately

We’re all well aware of the long-term physical health benefits of a diet loaded with plant foods. Now these studies indicate that benefits to our emotional well-being occur in the short term once we start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our daily food intake. The British study suggests that such changes may happen almost immediately!

Keep this in mind, the next time you reach for a snack like this delicious Green Agua Fresca.

 

Green Agua Fresca

Combine a fruit and vegetable in this snack!

3 cups fresh watermelon

2 cups fresh spinach or other mild green

Mix in blender until smooth. Your drink will be bright green and taste entirely of sweet watermelon.

 

References:

Conner, TS, et al. 2015. On carrots and curiosity: Eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life. Br J Health Psychol 20(2):413-427. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12113.

Mujcic, R, and AJ Oswald. 2016. Evolution of well-being and happiness after increases in consumption of fruit and vegetables. Am J Public Health 106(8):1504–1510.

Smith, AP, and R Rogers. 2014. Positive effects of a healthy snack (fruit) versus an unhealthy snack (chocolate/crisps) on subjective reports of mental and physical health: A preliminary intervention study. Front Nutr 1:10. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2014.00010.

 

 

Fall superfood for bones: Ginger

 

I’m naming ginger one of my fall superfoods. While I highly recommend hot ginger tea as my choice for a cold weather drink, there are so many other ways ginger can be used to add zing to your recipes while enhancing your overall health – and bone health – on many fronts.

One of the main benefits of ginger is its exceptional antioxidant properties – surpassed only by pomegranate and some berries. Unmet antioxidant needs are a major cause of osteoporosis.

Increase ginger’s antioxidant power

As we move into the winter months, you can significantly boost the antioxidant capacity of ginger by choosing certain warming and comforting cooking methods. Simmering, stewing and making soup all increase ginger’s antioxidant power, while grilling and stir frying decrease it.

Here’s one of my favorite holiday recipes with a healthy amount of ginger.

Gluten-free ginger snap cookies

Ingredients:

2½ cups blanched almond flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 to 5 teaspoons fresh ground ginger
½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom (or to taste)
1 egg
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoons honey

Directions:

  • Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl
  • Beat together honey and butter, add egg and mix until combined
  • Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until dough comes together (if the dough is not coming together add some cold water – a tablespoon at a time)
  • Refrigerate dough for at least an hour (at this point you can roll the dough into a log, about 1½ to 2 inches in diameter, then instead of rolling the chilled dough into balls in the next step you can simply slice off as many cookies as you need.
  • Roll dough into 1 to 2 tablespoon sized balls and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes

5 extra reasons to add ginger root to your recipes

In addition to its antioxidant properties, extensive scientific research shows the bioactive components of ginger root, particularly gingerol and shogaols, have the following benefits:

  1. Highly anti-inflammatory and can reduce pain, swelling and tissue damage. Unwanted inflammatory cytokines weaken bone and contributes to arthritis.
  2. Enhances digestion, warms the body, “expels cold” and cures nausea. Strong digestion and assimilation is key to optimum bone health.
  3. Aids in detoxification. Toxic build-up of any amount interferes with the functioning of all our cells.  Ginger helps us detoxify through its alkalizing actions and by its contribution to the production of glutathione, our most important inner-cellular antioxidant.
  4. Enhance immunity. Our immune system is our “circulating intelligence” intimately linked to skeletal functioning. Boosting immunity serves bone.
  5. Cardio-protective. This is important news given the now established link between osteoporosis and heart disease.

It’s no wonder ginger has been used for over 5,000 years to improve health!  What’s your favorite way to use ginger?

 

References:

The Amazing And Mighty Ginger, Chapter 7, in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.

Curcumin: Getting Back to the Roots Shishodia, Shishir et al., Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences Nov., 2005:206-217.

Chohan, M. et al., Plant Foods Hum Nutr (2008) 63: 47. doi:10.1007/s11130-007-0068-2

Onions — a fall favorite and bone superfood

When I was a kid, my family had a root cellar that was loaded up each fall with apples, squashes, potatoes and onions to draw upon all winter long. While I loved having fresh apples in February, my mother always wanted onions on hand for a welcome flavor boost.  Little did she know her recipes were helping us protect our bones too.

How onions protect bone

Onions are rich in highly anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, that protect us from free-radical damage to bone. They also inhibit the development and differentiation of bone breakdown cells (osteoclasts), which prevents some of the osteoclasts from maturing and starting to break down bone. As a result, bone mass is preserved and even built.

And if this isn’t enough, onions are also high in bio-available sulfur compounds that the body needs to produce glutathione, our major intracellular antioxidant, and prevent excessive homocysteine accumulation, which damages collagen in the bone and arteries.

New study shows benefits

A recent Chinese study asked postmenopausal women to consume 3.4 ounces of onion juice a day for 8 weeks. The control group was onion juice-free. Women drinking the onion juice showed a significant decline in free radical levels and actually gained a bit of bone mass in only 8 weeks.

I know not everyone is ready to chug down half a cup of onion juice. (I’ve tried it straight-up, and it’s tough on the taste buds and stomach!) But most of us can add more onions to our diet, and not just as a seasoning. For example, I love roasted onions and indulge in French onion soup once in a while. The truly brave could try adding ½ cup raw onion juice to their finished soup or other dish.

Try this roasted root vegetable recipe with onions

From the Amazing Acid-Alkaline Cookbook by Bonnie Ross

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
6 large cloves garlic, whole
5 medium-sized parsnips, diced into 1-inch cubes
4 medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, sliced lengthwise
1 medium-sized butternut squash, diced into 1-inch cubes
½ cup light olive coil
1 tsp sea salt

Directions
1.    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Light coat two 9-x13-inch baking dishes with vegetables oil and set aside.
2.    In a large bowl, combine the garlic, parsnips, potatoes, onions, squash and oil. Toss well.
3.    Add the sea salt to the vegetables and toss again.
4.    Transfer the vegetables to the prepared baking dishes, spreading them out in a single layer.
5.    Roast the vegetables for 35 minutes or until lightly-browned and fork tender, and serve.

Reference:
Law YY et al., Consumption of onion juice modulates oxidative stress and attenuates the risk of bone disorders in middle-aged and post-menopausal healthy subjects. Food Funct. 2016 Feb;7(2):902-12. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01251a.

3 ways pumpkin can help build bone

Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds: fall bone superstars

You know autumn is here when everyone start offering “pumpkin spice” products. Pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice doughnuts, pumpkin spice beer. (Someone, sooner or later, is going to start selling pumpkin spice pumpkins!)

I wonder if the cultural craving for pumpkin and the associated spices (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice) is really a desire for hardy, warming foods to stave off the cold. If so, I strongly recommend people ignore the pumpkin-flavored beverages and go for the real thing.

Pumpkins, squashes and their seeds are among the fall bone-building superstars! Here’s why I value the simple pumpkin — along with some of my favorite recipes.

3 ways pumpkin and pumpkin seeds help build bone

  1. Pumpkins are mineral rich and alkalizing. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, alkalizing our body chemistry helps to build and maintain bone — and pumpkin and its seeds are great alkalizers. What’s more, the flesh of pumpkin itself is very nutrient-dense, containing substantial amounts of important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and copper.
  2. Pumpkins are abundant in antioxidants. A major cause of force behind osteoporosis is oxidative damage, but both the seeds and the flesh of a pumpkin offer significant antioxidants. The orange color of pumpkin comes from carotenoids (it has beta-carotene in abundance), while the antioxidants zinc, selenium, and vitamin E are also tucked away into the pumpkin.
  3. Pumpkins supply needed healthy fats that reduce inflammation and help maintain bone strength. Pumpkin seed is high in plant-based omega-3 fat (alpha linolenic acid), which the body converts into the more essential omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA.  These omega-3 fats are highly anti-inflammatory and women with higher blood levels of these precious fats have been shown to have lower rates of hip fracture.

I could go on for a while, but wouldn’t it be better for you to just sit down and enjoy some pumpkin instead?

Pumpkin soup recipe

Ingredients
•    1 cooking pumpkin or large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
•    16–32 oz chicken, turkey or vegetable broth
•    1–2 Tbsp fresh ginger (to taste) minced (or 1 Tbsp ground dried ginger)
•    1 medium to large yellow onion, diced
•    1-2 Tbsp olive oil
•    2-4 cloves garlic
•    1/2 tsp turmeric
•    1/2 tsp cumin
•    chopped scallion for garnish
•    salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Boil pumpkin chunks in water or 16 oz of broth until soft (use water if you prefer a milder, more pumpkin-y and less broth-y flavor).

Mash the pumpkin and add 8 oz of broth (reserve the remaining 8 oz). Place over low heat and add the ginger, stirring occasionally.

In a separate skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil. When onions are soft, add turmeric, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 1 minute and add to pumpkin and ginger mix.

Slowly add the remaining broth, stirring constantly, until the soup is your preferred consistency (if you add all the broth and it’s still thicker than you like, add water).

Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with scallion if desired.

Easy options for more flavors
• For a spicier soup, include 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
• For a sweeter soup, add 1 cup grated carrot to the pumpkin when boiling it initially, and/or add diced red or orange bell pepper in the sauté until soft before including in the soup.
• Add a bit of Caribbean to it by substituting coconut milk and a tablespoon of fresh lime juice in place of some of the broth, and use cilantro in place of scallion for garnish

Pumpkin seed granola recipe

Ingredients
•    2 to 3 cups of gluten free rolled oats
•    ½ cup pumpkin seeds (roasted)
•    1 cup almonds (shredded or chopped preferred)
•    ¼ cup of maple syrup
•    2 tablespoons of raw, brown sugar (for a sweeter granola)
•    ¼ cup of olive or coconut oil
•    1/3 cup of pumpkin puree
•    ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
•    ½ teaspoon ground ginger
•    ¼ teaspoon allspice
•    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
•    dash of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.

Mix dry ingredients together (oats, nuts, seeds, spices, salt, and sugar).

In a small sauce pan over low to medium heat, combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and oil. Whisk ingredients until warm.

Pour contents of saucepan over dry ingredients. Mix vigorously with wooden spoon.

Spread mixture on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Stir the contents of the baking sheet half way through to ensure even cooking.

Granola should be a golden brown when done. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Transfer to storage container once cooled.

PS: in case you’re wondering, other members of the squash family have similar properties. Butternut squash, acorn squash — they’re all good for your bones!