We are in an epidemic of osteoporosis. There can be no doubt about that.Ten million Americans have it, and one in three older women will get it. We urgently need public health strategies to maintain bone health throughout the life cycle and to prevent osteoporosis in later life.
Might fruits and vegetables be the unexpected natural answer to the question of osteoporosis prevention?
Evidence from a variety of studies strongly points to a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and indexes of bone health, such as bone mineral density, and the size of the effect in the older women is impressive: doubling the fruit intake is associated with a 5 percent higher spine mineralization. The same relationship exists with young women, too. And, eating lots of fruit in childhood may protect bones throughout life—something that was not found for milk intake.
Bone health isn’t just about calcium. There are several key nutrients found in vegetables, fruits, and beans that are associated with better bone mineral density, but does that translate into lower hip fracture risk? The Singapore Chinese Health Study found that a “diet rich in plant-based foods, namely vegetables, fruit, and legumes such as soy, may reduce the risk of hip fracture.” But,why?
“The underlying mechanism in postmenopausal osteoporosis (PO) is an imbalance between bone resorption [disappearance] and formation,” and oxidative stress may play a role in this balance.
There are two types of bone cells: “the bone-forming osteoblasts and the bone-dismantling osteoclasts.” Osteoblasts are continually laying down new bone, while osteoclasts chisel away old bone, using free radicals as the molecular chisel to chip away our bone. Too many free radicals in our system, though, may lead to excessive bone breakdown. Antioxidant defenses appear “markedly decreased in osteoporotic women,” and “elderly osteoporotic women had consistently lower levels of all natural antioxidants tested than controls.”
“Because excessive [free radicals] may contribute to bone loss, it is important to elucidate the potential role antioxidant-rich fruits play in mitigating bone loss that leads to the development of osteoporosis.” The thought is that fruits up-regulate the bone building cells, and down-regulate the bone-eating cells, tipping the balance towards greater bone mass. So, let’s put a fruit to the test.
Which one do we pick? Dried plums were chosen because they have among the highest antioxidant ranking among commonly consumed fruits and vegetables—and because the researchers received a grant from the California Dried Plum Board!
When you think of prunes, you think of bowels the classic constipation buster, not bones, but, over a decade ago, researchers at Oklahoma State tried giving a dozen prunes a day to a group of postmenopausal women, using a dozen dried apple rings as a control. After three months, only the subjects who consumed the prunes had significant elevations in an enzyme marker of bone formation, although prunes didn’t seem to affect markers of bone breakdown.
So, prunes may help more with building bones than preventing bone loss. However, the reverse was found with almonds, so maybe a little prune-and-almond trail mix is in order.
With this bump in bone formation indices, one might expect that if they did a longer study, we would actually see an impact on bone mineral density. And nine years later, just such a study was done: 12 months on dried plums versus apples. Both dried fruit regimens appeared to have “bone-protective effects,” though the prunes seemed to work better in the arm bone and spine.
So, the dried plum marketing board wants everyone to know that dried plums are “the most effective fruit in both preventing and reversing bone loss,” but only two fruits have ever been tested: plums and apples. If this pans out for other plants, though, “a ‘fruit and vegetables’ approach may provide a very sensible (and natural) alternative therapy for osteoporosis treatment, one that is likely to have numerous additional health-related benefits.”
All we have to do is convince people to actually do it !
Most of us are very busy people and we don’t always have time to prepare very complicated and fancy foods.
Here are some healthy snacks which are quick, simple and easy to prepare yourself, but before I do, I also want to tell you the benefits of these snacks so that you know the “why” you are eating them and how they’ll impact your body.
What's the best snack you can get?
Let’s get started. One of the best snacks that you can get is a combination of nuts and seeds and dried fruits.
These are absolutely great. They’re little powerhouses of energy and nutrition.
Walnuts look like little brains are wonderful for brain function. They contain omega-3 which are also great for your hair and your skin.
Brazil nuts are great for general repair, they are really good for your hormones, and they’re great for your skin. These are your anti-aging nuts, if you like.
Almonds are higher in protein, they also have vitamin E which is great for your skin. Almonds are also high in calcium and magnesium, so they’re going to be really good for your teeth, bones, nail and hair.
Hazelnuts are full of fiber. These are really good for you if your bowels are a little bit sluggish and for your hair and skin as well.
We’ve got pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds which are full of good oils that are going to help your joints, going to help brain function, and they’re also full of magnesium, calcium and zinc. Zinc is especially beneficial to your immune system keeping you healthy.
We’ve got dried fruit, just a little bit of dried fruit. Don’t have too much, because these are full of sugar. This is a great little handful. What you can do is you can put it in a little container and take it to work or carry it around in your handbag.
I am sure a lot of you are thinking about the calorie content 'oh nuts and seeds they’re really high in calories', but there will be less calories in this little handful than there will in a jam doughnut or a couple of chocolate biscuits. You’re not actually getting good nutrition from those junk foods – yet this handful of trail mix is going to be so nutritious with just about everything you need to keep you going until your next meal.
A savoury choice
If you fancy something a little bit more savoury, what you can do is roast them. Put them in a bowl, add a tiny drop of olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt or soy sauce and spread them on a baking tray.
Have your oven reasonably hot. Spread the nuts and the seeds on the tray. Roast them in the oven maybe for about 15 to 20 minutes until they’re dry and crispy. You can then cool them. These will keep in the fridge for a good number of days. Again, this is something if you fancy more of a savoury snack rather than something sweet.
What about vegetables?
We’ve got raw vegetables. We call them crudités. Use a nice little jar, which is easy to carry. Add in the humus on the bottom and then chop things like celery, cucumbers and carrots. Put them in the jar standing upright where the bottom part is in the dip. It’s an absolutely fabulous snack, and the hummus has lovely oils and fats which will keep your blood sugars stable.
Nut butters are a favourite quick afternoon or morning snack. Have one or two teaspoons of peanut butter. You can also use other nut butters such as almond butter or cashew nut butter as well. Again, you can just take them off the spoon. Don’t have too many. You can actually go a little bit overboard so try and keep to a couple of teaspoons full.
If you’re going for things like peanut butter, make sure there’s no sugar and hydrogenated fats in it and low salt. You can also use these on oat cakes. Just spread a little bit and stick them together. Have a little bit of a peanut butter sandwich, if you like.
At this particular point, I wouldn’t recommend rice cakes purely because they are very high carbohydrate. They will break down very quickly, and they’ll give you a bit of a sugar hit, which is not what you want. Oat cakes are great because they release energy really, really slowly.
This is a fabulous snack to take with you. It’s full of protein, will help to keep you going. I usually hard boil mine. You can either slice the eggs , place them in a little container with some sliced tomato and a little bit of salt and pepper, or you can mash it up with a little bit of organic mayonnaise, a sprinkle of curry powder and just eat it off the spoon. This is quite a filling snack and can be quite handy especially when you have a long time to wait before your next meal.
Having snacks at night before you go to bed is really important especially if you are not sleeping well and if you’re waking up in the middle of the night maybe with a little bit of palpitations. This is very often due to the fact that your blood sugar levels are so low that your body is waking up in a panic.
They are best to eat about one hour before you go to sleep.
Full fat Greek yoghurt or sheep’s/goat’s yogurt (strained) together with some cocoa powder. Don’t use a low fat version because you need the full fat to help keep your blood sugars level for as long as possible. Cocoa powder has only 25 calories per teaspoon so this is a great indulgent snack.
All you need is 2 tablespoons of the yoghurt and a heaped teaspoon of the cocoa powder. This will taste like chocolate mousse. It’s an ideal snack if you’re getting the sweet munchies at night, maybe if you’re watching TV or reading and you just feel like a little bit of chocolaty something. The other good thing about this snack is that cocoa powder is high in magnesium which will actually help you sleep.
2 tablespoons full fat Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoon cocoa or cacao powder
½ teaspoon honey
How to make:
1. Add Greek yoghurt and cocoa/cacao to bowl.
2. Stir slowly.
3. Ready to serve.
Little energy balls
They’re great to carry with you. They’re great for that mid-afternoon slump.
Cinnamon and Chia Seed Energy Balls
250g pitted Medjool dates
4 – 6 tblsp of water
2 handfuls of sunflower seeds
2 tblsp of chia seeds
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of vanilla extract
How to make:
1. Simmer dates in a saucepan with water on a low heat for 5 minutes.
2. Whizz all other ingredients, in a food processor for a couple of seconds, until they’ve almost formed a flour-like consistency.
3. Drain and add dates to the food processor – making sure no water from the saucepan goes in.
4. Blend until a sticky paste is formed.
5. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture, and roll into balls with your hands.
6. Store refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.
Don’t go overboard with these. They are, as I say, little energy balls. They’re powerhouses of nutrition. One or two would be more than enough to actually see you through the break until your next meal.
Whether you flaunt your every move on the dance floor or sway to your favorite songs in the car, dance is an activity that everybody enjoys, in one way or another. Luckily, dancing is something that will not only bring a smile to your face, but can also help improve your physical and mental health. It is great exercise that gets your mind and muscles working no matter who you are.
When you move to certain rhythms, your body becomes synchronised with them, which is great for releasing all kinds of neurochemicals, some of which can help to inhibit all those things that make you feel stressed.
With so many different ways to dance from jumping around with the kids to some good music, shaking it out at a party or dance lessons, you’ll be gaining all these great benefits with every step that you take.
# 1: Increase Strength and Overall Health – Dancing is exercise so, naturally, it will assist in strengthening your bones and muscles. As your strength increases, you will have more energy to continue dancing. Your increased level of physical activity and exercise can help prevent illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease and reduce the risk of osteoporosis as your bones become stronger.
#2: Boost Memory – When you exercise, the levels of chemicals in your brain which encourage nerve cells to grow are increased and since dancing requires you to remember various steps and sequences, your brain power is boosted which helps to improve your memory. Dancing incorporates several brain functions at once- kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional. Utilizing all of these at the same time can further increase your neural activity, helping to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
#3: Improve Flexibility – Stretching before and after dancing is very important to getting the most out of your movements and avoiding injury. As you continue dancing you will be stretching more consistently and will notice how each stretch will become easier to complete. As the stretches become easier, you will be able to go farther into each stretch, creating longer lines as you permanently lengthen your muscles and become more and more flexible. With this increased flexibility you will notice you have a wider range of motion and your dancing will become much easier.
#4: Increase Balance – In order to execute each move and sequence correctly, you will need to be able to maintain a strong center of gravity. As you learn each movement and begin to gain increased flexibility and strength, your posture, balance and spatial awareness will naturally begin to improve, making each step easier for you to complete.
#5: Healthy Heart and Lungs – Dancing is great cardiovascular exercise. As you continue to dance and notice your strength and grace improving, you will witness an increase in your stamina.
#6: Reduce Stress – When you are dancing, your body is fully in that moment, focused on the music and your surroundings. Being around friends or that someone special to enjoy dancing to your favorite music can help you focus on strictly the moment you are in and aid in reducing the amount of cortisol your brain produces (the hormone that is associated with stress), lowering your stress and tension levels.
#7: Diminish Depression – You appear to get a much bigger release of endorphins when you dance than during other forms of exercise; it also connects with the emotional centres in the brain. For many people, dancing prompts an emotional release – often that’s uncomplicated happiness, while for some it can make them cry. It’s cathartic – a letting go of pent-up emotions.
# 8: Lose Weight – The consistent movement that dancing provides utilizes multiple muscle groups at the same time, helping to tone your entire body. A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise program of aerobic dance training is just as effective as jogging or cycling in order to improve body composition and aerobic strength. You may even notice a natural shift in your eating habits as you begin to feel healthier from your dancing, which also will aid in weight management.
# 9: Increase Social Improvement & Confidence – Everybody enjoys meeting new people. Dancing provides a fun environment to meet people who have the same interest as you. ! This type of environment is perfect to either utilize your social skills if you are outgoing or to help strengthen your social skills if you have a quiet personality. Dancing is a great way to meet new friends and improves your social outlook while in an atmosphere where you can feel safe and comfortable.
So put on your dancing shoes, put on your favourite dance music and dance away with some smiles and laughs ! You deserve to have some fun !
We deprive ourselves of things we love for fear of bingeing, then we over-exercise so as not to feel guilty about slip-ups. What happened to the fine art of moderation ?
From the woman who won’t have a biscuit in case she ends up eating the whole packet, to the running fanatic who won’t stop until she’s done her allotted distance, I see many people trapped in cycles of excess and deprivation.
Some of us, it seems don’t know how to achieve consistent moderation in our lives.
Any kind of extreme or obsessive behavior is unhealthy for your body, mind and soul.
We certainly know that eating nothing but sweets and refined carbs is unhealthy, but we fail to recognise that too much unhealthy behavior can do damage too.
Too much of a good thing- For example, while regular exercise is, of course, good for us, over exercising is not. While normal exercise gives most people a boost, excessive exercise can lead to obsessive and solitary behavior, leading to exclusion from family and friends. It almost equates to addiction.
Treat yourself - A little of what we fancy appears to do us good, even if the benefit of a piece of cake or a glass of wine is simply the feel-good effect of a treat.
If you are going to indulge in something, you should do so joyfully and not guiltily. Constantly depriving ourselves of little indulgences is a fast track to feeling awful.
And cutting out certain foods because you don’t trust yourself to have just one will often trigger binge-eating, the thing you tried so hard to resist. Stretches of deprivation followed by excess also causes our health to suffer, especially our immune system, not to mention the psychological impact of veering between extremes.
There are plenty of things that you can enjoy – dark chocolate, red wine, a nice steak – that are good for you as well. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so fixed in definitions of what is good and bad for us. Exercise, fruit and green tea (good). Carbs, saturated fat and chocolate (bad). We tend to label things in very black and white terms, yet all we need is to start seeing things in shades of grey.
Balancing act-We don’t need to resign ourselves to a lifetime of all or nothing – learning the fine art of moderation is possible…
Flex Your Self-Control – learning to exercise self-control is crucial. Practice small acts of self-control regularly and you become better at self-control in the long run. Practising self-control in one area of your life can have a positive spill-over effect into other domains. If you can be more moderate with your emotions, your family, your working life, you will take a more moderate approach to your health and wellbeing, too.
Control your impulses – recognise that our drive to indulge isn’t a moral failing. It’s not your fault, it’s how our brains are designed. You need to take responsibility by recognizing that. Professor Paul Gilbert suggests treating impulsiveness by creating a space between first noticing the impulse and then indulging in it. If your problem is overeating, put a note on your fridge saying ,“Do you really need to eat me?” Give yourself 10 seconds where you can knock out the impulsive tendency and give the thinking brain a chance to kick in. Your emotional brain’s reaction is instant, your rational brain needs slightly longer.
Develop a compassionate attitude towards yourself - create a friendly understanding voice in your head which can forgive you and strengthen your determination instead of making you feel terrible.. Use language which empowers rather than critical talk. As Louise Hay would say, “Love Yourself !”.
Change your language – The terms good or bad aren’t helpful. A woman will say she has been good when she’s eaten just 500 calories in a day or done excessive exercise, but that’s extremely bad for you. It’s important to educate yourself before applying definitions.
Use your senses – The key to being satisfied with just one glass or portion is to be mindful of what and how we eat and drink. Savour every mouthful and enjoy every last taste and smell and feel.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !