Healthy bodies need healthy bones. Bones support our weight, protect our internal organs and provide a platform for our muscles to work. Unfortunately, we don’t always treat our bones right. There are many common behaviors or attributes that weaken the skeletal structure, including:
- Drinking alcohol in excess
- Lack of exercise / sedentary lifestyle
- Too much exercise
- Diets low in protein and high in salt
While bad habits aren’t good for anyone’s bones, they are particularly concerning for people with osteoporosis or those who are at higher risk for the condition. Osteoporosis is a general weakening of bone structure that leaves a person at a much higher risk of fracture. It’s typically associated with postmenopausal women; however, osteoporosis can affect men as well. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports 24.5% of women 65 and older have the disease, the same is true for 5.1% of men in that age bracket. Essentially, everyone reaches peak bone development around age 30, and bone mass slowly declines as you age.
“Healthy bones come from the right exercise and diet,” says Leslie Bonci, registered dietitian and consultant for the California Prune Board. “The good news is, the ‘right’ exercise can be fun, and a bone-friendly diet is loaded with delicious things to eat!”
Here are three simple strategies for keeping bones strong.
1. Moderate exercise
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a moderate regimen of weight-bearing exercise to support your bones. While the emphasis is on moderation, overdoing your exercise can lead to injuries that leave your bones in worse condition. Popular weight-bearing exercises include walking, hiking, jogging, stair climbing and dancing.
The NIH also recommends resistance exercises, or more often referred to as strength training. Every time you lift a weight, a small amount of stress is placed on your bones by your muscles. This stress essentially encourages bone-forming cells to hurry up and get to work.
2. Modify your diet
Even with the right exercise a bone-supporting diet is important. Calcium and Vitamin D are the most familiar essential nutrients, and they are certainly a powerful combination, but, other nutrients are also needed to effectively build bone density.
For starters, you need between 0.4 and 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. You also need plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in bone-forming minerals like boron, manganese, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It is important to focus on getting these minerals from veggies and fruits, as mineral supplements are generally less beneficial.
One fruit particularly rich in bone-building minerals is California Prunes. Not only do prunes provide boron and manganese, they’re also rich in Vitamin K — another nutrient fundamental for bone mineralization. In fact, California Prunes have been of interest to bone health researchers for several years.
“We’re seeing an exciting ‘prune effect’ on bones,” reports Dr. Bernard Halloran, bone health researcher and Professor Emeritus at the University of California San Francisco. “In a variety of unique research scenarios, California Prunes are consistently associated with a favorable bone response.”
Bonci agrees, explaining that prunes are a whole food approach to healthy eating, as well as being readily available, economical, safe and – by all indications – effective in supporting healthy bones. They’re also an easy-to-carry snack, and a versatile ingredient perfect for both sweet and savory recipes.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Keeping your weight at a healthy level is particularly important for bone health. A low body mass index score (BMI) is considered a significant risk factor for bone loss, particularly in older people. This is because when a person is underweight, their body has fewer available resources for repairing bone.
Conversely, a high BMI due to excess body fat has also been shown to be detrimental to your bones. The risks with high BMI are potential strain and fracture due to an over-taxed skeletal structure. To best determine what a healthy weight is for you, talk to your doctor.
Anyone’s bones can weaken over time, but, through healthy habits you can limit your risks of potential bone damage. So, the next time you go for a pleasant walk through your neighborhood or enjoy some sweet California Prunes, be proud of yourself. You’re on the right track for keeping your bones strong.