You might think that drinking more milk is going to build strong bones. But Americans drink a tremendous amount of milk as a whole, and osteoporosis is still a significant problem. On the other hand, Asian and vegan women who rarely or never consume dairy products have lower incidents of osteoporosis. What’s going on?
For one thing, Western women tend to eat a lot of meat in addition to consuming dairy products. Protein inhibits calcium absorption. In fact, some of the calcium meat-eating women consume from dairy products goes right down the toilet! The urinary output of calcium is much greater in meat-and-dairy-eating women.
Dairy products themselves have a significant amount of protein that may prevent the calcium in them from being absorbed. In other words, the calcium in dairy products may not do much good no matter how much you consume. A study at Harvard University shows that, of the 78,000 women who participated, incidents of bone breakage were much higher among the women who got their calcium from dairy products.
So what should you eat to build strong bones? Bring on the plant foods! Here are some foods that help build stronger bones.
- Cabbage – Cabbage contains boron. This mineral, which is also sold in supplement form, helps the body absorb magnesium. It also increases estrogen levels in the body, and more estrogen means greater bone preservation.
- Dandelion greens – Instead of pulling them out by the roots or pouring pesticides on them, harvest young dandelion greens and boil them as you would spinach. This pretty but pesky little vegetable is packed with boron and calcium – 1/2 cup of the young leaves contains 1 milligram of boron and 200 milligrams of calcium (boron is needed in small amounts; 1 milligram is significant).
- Avocado – Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. Avocados are a tasty source of this vitamin.
- Beans and soybeans – The consumption of beans, particularly soybeans, may be the vegan and Asian secret. Although beans are a good source of protein, calcium in bean-consumers is not excreted in the urine like it is among meat-eaters. Also, soybeans contain a phytoestrogen called genistein that acts like estrogen in the body. As noted above, increased estrogen (or phytoestrogens that act as estrogen) helps preserve bone.
- Beans also contain potassium, which helps decrease calcium loss from bones.
- Kale – This winter vegetable is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K.
- Parsley – Be liberal with this green leafy food that is usually used as a condiment. Not only does it have boron, it also contains fluorine. Fluorine is a bone strengthener.
- Broccoli – Like kale, broccoli is a good source of calcium.
- Citrus Fruits – Vitamin C is important in the building of the connective tissue collagen. Minerals “cling” to collagen when forming bone.
- Bell Peppers – These are another rich source of vitamin C.
Some Foods to Avoid or Decrease
- Sugar depletes the body of magnesium (the body uses magnesium to synthesize sugar).
- Limit or avoid high-acid foods or foods that produce an acidic state in the body, such as red meats, coffee and colas. When the body is acidic, minerals will be leeched from the bones to balance and alkalize the body.