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Osteoporosis Health Center

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Building Stronger Bones

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Osteoporosis continued...

Annemarie Colbin, PhD, author of Food and Our Bones: The Natural Way to Prevent Osteoporosis, urges us to look at the animals with the largest bones -- cows, elephants. "What do they eat?" she asks. "Leafy plants."

The biggest component of a bone-healthy diet is leafy greens, both cooked and raw, according to Colbin. "Greens give you not only calcium, but vitamin K, potassium, and other minerals and nutrients you need to lay down bone. My first three recommendations are vegetables, vegetables, vegetables," she says with a laugh.

Vitamin D is also important for strong bones, and a good source is, believe it or not, the sun. Colbin recommends being out 20 minutes a day with no sunblock, but Cosman vehemently disputes the wisdom of ever going out without sunblock and recommends a multivitamin or vitamin D supplement.

Another building block of strong bones is protein (remember that collagen?). Colbin says mix it up -- beans, fish, chicken. "You can't eat the same boring diet every day." Again, she urges you to select good-quality, properly raised, antibiotic-free protein sources. She also recommends making your own stock from animal bones -- add a tablespoon of vinegar to 8 cups of water to pull the calcium out of the bones. Throw in a carrots, onions, pepper -- and all you need is some garlic bread! If that isn't enough richness, Colbin recommends adding kombu or canten, mineral-loaded, flavorless seaweeds found in health food stores.

Whole grain bread or pasta is helpful, too. "This gives you magnesium," Colbin says. Magnesium helps maintain strong bones.

What About Milk or Supplements?

It's almost a mantra -- drink milk for strong bones. Colbin is low-key on milk. "You see the most fractures in countries that drink a lot of milk," she says. "I am not too keen on dairy."

Cosman is also not enthused. "A lot of people drink milk, but I am not big on that," she says. "Maybe low-fat milk or yogurt. Those calcium-enriched juices are good."

Not so good are sugar (increasing secretion of calcium and trace elements), caffeine (ditto), stress, and habitual dieting, which can "starve" your bones.

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