Bone health is much more than just adding calcium to the diet.
It's an intricate combination of balancing hormones, managing stress, supplying optimal levels of bone nutrients, eating an alkaline diet, reducing inflammation and limiting environmental toxins.
It's a tall order to ask dairy to do that. And it doesn't.
Here are six ways you can optimize your bone density:
1. Eat foods rich in bone nutrients.
Crucial bone nutrients are vitamin D, vitamin C, boron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, folate, silica and calcium. Foods rich in these nutrients include kale, spinach, celery, peppers, carrots, beets, wild salmon, shrimp, sardines, quinoa, chickpeas, almonds, raspberries, chia seeds and coconut water. For a practical plan, be inspired by the bone-building menu at the end of this post.
2. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods.
Gluten and sugar are the main offenders. Ditch the cereal, granola, crackers, pasta, pizza and bread. No cheese and crackers, no mac 'n' cheese and no cereal with milk.
3. Eat an alkaline diet.
Sixty-five percent of our diet should come from plants (alkaline) with the remainder from protein, seeds, nuts, legumes and grains (acidic). An alkaline diet will keep the blood pH at 7.365 without removing minerals from the bone to buffer acidity.
4. Reinterpret your stress.
When we're stressed, we produce cortisol to cope with our stressors. Cortisol increases calcium excretion and inhibits the renewal of the bone-building cells. While we can’t eradicate our emotional stressors, we can change how we perceive them. Instead of asking, “Why does this happen to me?” ask, “What is my lesson here? How can I see the grace in this?” Take a weekly yoga class, get grounded and connect with more balanced and harmonious people.
5. Limit your exposure to environmental toxins.
Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum and fluoride are bone nutrient mimickers. If bone nutrients are replaced with heavy metals, the risk of fracture increases. Have tuna, swordfish and Chilean seabass no more than once per month. Have mercury fillings removed by a biological dentist. Drink filtered versus tap water. Buy lead-free lipstick. Switch to a non-fluoride toothpaste like Tom's, Spry or Burt’s Bees.
6. Balance your sex hormones.
Estrogen helps maintain bone density by inhibiting an enzyme that kills the osteoblasts, the bone cells responsible for growth and development of new bone. Check your hormone levels and use a bio-identical hormone if necessary.
A 58-year-old client of mine has been dairy-free for 3 years and has followed the above protocol. Her DEXA scan showed a BMD of a 22-year-old woman. Needless to say, she was very happy.
Bone Building Menu
Breakfast: Green vegetable juice (cucumber, kale, celery and lime) and chia seed pudding
Snack: Raw coconut water such as Harmless Harvest
Lunch: Chickpea and quinoa salad tossed with tomatoes, cucumber, almonds and mint served with wild salmon
Snack: Kale chips
Dinner: Raw shredded carrot and beet salad with almonds served with cajun shrimp and Moroccan quinoa
Snack: Fresh raspberries tossed in fresh orange juice