We all want strong bones and teeth. As we age, we tend to grow more wary of developing osteoporosis. Exercise, especially weight and resistance training, certainly helps strengthen our bones. Our diet can be a boon to bone health as well. Certain FoodTrients—such as isoflavones and potassium—can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Eating foods rich in these FoodTrients and in calcium and protein can go a long way toward developing a beautiful skeleton.
Calcium promotes bone growth, proper nerve signaling, helps our blood to clot, and regulates blood pressure. It can be found in abundance in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, salmon, sardines, tofu, dried beans, nuts, figs, and apricots. My Fig Salad recipe in my cookbook FoodTrients: Age-defying Recipes for a Sustainable Body layers fresh fig quarters over smooth ricotta cheese. The figs are then drizzled with balsamic syrup and dotted with mint leaves. This salad is elegant, delicious, and a real bone-builder.
Isoflavones, sometimes called phytoestrogens, are known to increase bone density while fighting symptoms of menopause. Soybeans, tofu, miso paste, tempeh, and soy milk are isoflavone-rich foods. Snacking on edamame just before dinner or between meals is a good way to maintain strong bones. My fun appetizer recipe, Soy Custard Cups, (new on the website) is a playful way to get more isoflavones into your bones using silken tofu. It’s similar to Chinese steamed custards typically served with dim sum. I start with small ramekins filled halfway with a myriad of stuffings, such as minced shrimp with chives or shiitake mushrooms. Then, I process tofu in the blender until it’s very smooth, spoon it over the different fillings, and steam the ramekins for 15–20 minutes, or until the tofu is set. You can serve the custards with a variety of garnishments, including soy sauce, scallions, slivered radishes, black sesame seeds, and ponzu sauce.
Potassium is also integral to skeletal health. It enhances nerve and muscle function while reducing the risk of osteoporosis, stroke, and kidney stones. This FoodTrient also keeps blood pressure low and maintains hydration. It can be found in significant amounts in bananas, figs, bitter melon, kiwi fruit, prunes, lima beans, acorn squash, moringa leaves, potatoes, and spinach. My simple Moringa Dip combines moringa leaves, olive oil mayonnaise, and sweet pickle relish. For an extra potassium punch, add steamed spinach. You can also make a potassium-rich vegetable soup with lima beans, acorn squash, and potatoes starting with a veggie stock. After cooking, throw in some moringa leaves and stir.
Protein is important for building bones and muscles. It is in abundant supply in meats and dairy products, such as yogurt and cream. Seafood also has plenty of protein per square inch. Seafood chowder with cream and potatoes is very good for bone health. Beans are an excellent vegetarian source of protein. A lentil and kale salad is a significant source of both protein and calcium. You can even combine all of the above nutrients into a bone-building recipe or two. Try making a seafood gumbo with beans, collard greens, and miso paste. Or create a fruit salad of kiwi fruit, figs, apricots, and bananas to spoon over yogurt. Enjoy it with a glass of soy milk and say a toast to your healthy snack. Be sure not to drink too much cola, however (more than two drinks per week), because the phosphoric acid in them might leach calcium from your bones.