Simply stated, osteoporosis is a misbalance between bone construction and destruction, where the building activity of bone is greatly diminished resulting in an overall loss of bone density and ultimately, weaker bones. The bone deteriorating disease is preventable, yet over 44 million Americans, most of which are women, currently suffer from the disease making it a common concern among women of all ages, but particularly those over 50.
Prevention factors such as eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of calcium and exercising regularly are heavily preached methods of keeping osteoporosis at bay. The truth is, however, there are a number of other aspects of the diet that should be monitored alongside calcium recommendations. Vitamin D and soy, for instance, offer preventative benefits for those at risk for osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is already heavily advertised as the cornerstone of osteoporosis prevention, due to its role in helping the body utilize calcium. What you may not realize is that while sunlight exposure can ensure that your body has sufficient Vitamin D, it can also be acquired from many types of fish, eggs, beef, and of course fortified milk. So if you are an avid sunscreen user, typically avoid direct sunlight or prefer to not take supplements, there are many other ways to fulfill your daily need of Vitamin D.
A less advocated food that can help prevent osteoporosis is soy. Estrogen encourages bone production, which is why many women, shortly following menopause, may experience a more rapid decrease in bone density. Soy products contain what are known as phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens, which have recently been shown to slow the progression of osteoporosis. Phytoestrogens can help by supplementing the body with estrogen and decreasing the rate of bone loss. Besides soy products, like tofu, plenty of other food options contain decent amounts of plant estrogens including hummus, olive oil, sunflower seeds and many types of beans, making it easy to work a good portion into your daily diet.
Recommendations for other items in the diet include eating more fruits and vegetables, getting plenty of Vitamin K, not over- or under-doing proteins and not drinking too much caffeine. The most important thing to remember is that it is never too late to start eating a more balanced and bone healthy diet. Although the sooner you start the better, post-menopause or following diagnosis slowing of bone loss with the right dietary choices is possible.
1.Ho SC, Woo J, Lam S, Chen Y, Sham A, Lau J. Soy protein consumption and bone mass in early postmenopausal Chinese women. Osteoporos Int. 2003 Oct;14(10):835-42.
2.NIH, Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Updated Sep. 6, 2007. Online at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp
3.National Osteoporosis Foundation. Prevention. 2008 Online at: www.nof.org
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