Here we are, June already! Can you believe we are getting to the halfway mark of 2017? I certainly can't.
In terms of the Journey to Healthy Eating Challenge, this year has brought us goals of eating more vegetables (January), vegetarian meals (February), and fiber (April), as well as, decreasing sodium intake (March) and giving our guts a little love by focusing on a healthy microbiome (May). Together these are just a few elements that make a healthy diet. It’s important to remember that a healthy diet will contain a number of components. This is why working towards a healthy diet in a step-wise manner can be a good strategy for most of us. What’s more is that a healthy diet is one that is sustainable. My aim with this challenge to make a healthy way of eating attainable and sustainable.
The month of May, as mentioned above, focused on the foods which help our gut microbiome. These foods either contain probiotics (good bacteria and microbes) or prebiotics (foods which feed the probiotics). The gut microbiome is a particularly interesting topic and, to be honest, there is still very much to learn about it. If you were following along in the previous month’s challenges, you were probably already doing a great job of feeding those good little bacteria that populate our gut. Fiber rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and vegetarian proteins provide nourishment for your microbiome. For me, probiotic yogurt is a usual part of my diet but I did get a chance to try kefir, which boasts a greater number of probiotic strains than most yogurts. It was also a chance for me to include things like tempeh, sauerkraut and miso into my diet more regularly. Focusing on this nutrition challenge really helped me include those foods more regularly.
Now onto June’s Challenge...
June Challenge: Eat for Strong Bones
Originally, I was going to just focus on calcium intake this month but after giving it some reflection, I thought I’d broaden my scope and focus on nutrition for bone health. While it’s true that the main component of our bones is calcium, our bones and bone health depend on so much more than just calcium.
Considering that osteoporosis affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men over the age of 50, focusing on building and maintaining strong bones is very important. Osteoporosis, or the loss of significant amounts of bone density, can lead to disfigurement, loss of mobility, and hip fractures later in life.
While it is part of normal human physiology for our bone density to decrease as we age (most people reach peak bone mass between the ages of 25-30 years), we absolutely want to make sure that we preserve the integrity of our bones as best as we can. And for those at increased risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis, such as those with celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and those taking corticosteroids, it is ever so important to lead a lifestyle (which includes diet) that promotes bone health. Sometimes it is easy to overlook something that won’t affect us right away, however, our older selves will thank us for taking care of our bones and keeping them strong so that we can live fuller lives into our elder years.
How do we ensure healthy bones? By including some bone building elements into your diet, of course!
Eat calcium rich foods:
- Dairy foods (the calcium in dairy abundant and easy for our bodies to absorb)
- Dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, collard greens and Chinese cabbage
- Tofu (made with calcium - check the ingredients)
- Canned sardines and salmon (with bones)
- Legumes such as chickpeas, great northern beans, black turtle beans, and navy beans
- Dried figs
Eat vitamin D rich foods:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines
- Vitamin D fortified dairy products and milk alternatives
- Egg yolks
Eat Vitamin K rich foods:
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, parsley and watercress
- Brussels Sprouts
Eat magnesium rich foods:
- Leafy greens such as spinach, chard and kale
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits
- Bell peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
Eat less sodium:
- Read the nutrition facts label! The lower sodium content the better
- Aim for less than 5% DV (daily value) of sodium per serving
- Avoid amounts greater than 15% DV of sodium per serving
- Cut down on restaurant meals
- Cut down on packaged and processed foods
- Flavour food with spices and herbs instead of salt. Put down that salt shaker!
And last but not least....
Limit intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol (yes, these are important to do, too!)
After taking a read through the food listed above, did you notice any similarities? I sure did! The dietary elements that promote strong bone density will be abundant in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (including lots of dark green veggies), as well as nuts, vegetable proteins (legumes) and dairy products. Diets rich in plant foods (fruits, veggies, nuts and legumes) are encouraged for various reasons including to decrease risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Who knew they were also good for your bones? (hint: us Registered Dietitians knew that!)
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Stay tuned for next month’s Challenge!
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