Your skeleton is your frame; any sturdy structure needs a healthy frame and the human body is no exception. Strong bones, the components of a strong skeleton, are determined by their density: the higher the bone density, the stronger the skeleton. Weak bones are the result of osteoporosis, a condition where the bones ("osteo" in Latin) become progressively more porous ("poros" in Latin). Osteo + poros = "osteoporosis", much of which is triggered by a poor diet, lack of exercise and lack of exposure to sunlight.
Not only karate experts who smash bricks and cinderblocks with their fists and elbows need high bone density. We all do. Strong bones can mean the difference of weathering a slip on a wet floor or breaking a hip, Heaven forbid. Seniors and expectant mothers are two populations that must especially pay attention to bone health, but with the increase of sugary beverages and junk food, more and more children are coming down with juvenile osteoporosis.
It's our responsibility to ourselves and to our families to do all we can to promote healthy bones and bone density and to prevent osteoporosis. With that in mind, here are some myth-free do's and dont's of healthy bones:
The Five Do's of Healthy Bones:
- Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods - sardines, almonds, leafy greens, yogurt, yellow cheese and chia seeds are great sources.
- Soak your beans before cooking them, then cook them in fresh water. That will rid the beans of the phytates that bleed calcium.
- Eat plenty of protein - I suggest 0.8 gr/kg body weight for people with a non-vigorous lifestyle, and 1.0 gr/kg body weight for athletes and people who perform heavy labor.
- Engage at least three times a week in weight-lifting or other resistance training. The more pressure we put on our bones, the more we build bone density. Kneading dough with your hands is an example of a wonderful exercise for bone density. In bodyweight training, pushups are the king, especially doing pushups on your fists.
- Get plenty of Vitamin D and expose yourself to sunshine frequently; 30 minutes a day is lovely for people with average skin color; those with lighter skin color bust do less, and those with darker skin color will need more.
The Five Dont's of Healthy Bones
- Avoid low-calorie and fad diets. A body starved of calories will bleed out calcium and lose bone density and strength. If you want to lose weight, do it by increasing your exercise and making the right food choices, and not by starving yourself.
- Avoid salt! Sodium is calcium's public enemy #1. That means avoiding salty foods such as manufactured foods, fast & junk food, and restaurant foods.
- Carbonated soft drinks, especially colas, contain phosphoric acid which increase the calcium that's secreted in one's urine. Stick with water and seltzer, both of which will save your calcium and save you loads of calories. Don't forget, the diet colas might have zero calories, but they're horrible for your bones.
- Cut your caffeine/coffee intake way back - you lose about 6 milligrams of calcium for every 100 milligrams of caffeine you ingest. Since an 8-ounce cup of black coffee has about 150 milligrams of caffeine, it'll rob your body of 9 milligrams of calcium. Don't forget that many soft drinks (infamous #3 directly above) also contain high amounts of caffeine.
- Do not buy processed or smoked meats, period! In addition to a load of unhealthy chemicals they contain, manufacturers inject them with loads of calcium-bleeding phosphates.
Follow the above "Ten Commandments" the best you can, and you'll be much stronger. We want you to be able to dance in good health at the weddings of your great-grandchildren. A bottle of cola with a smoked meat sandwich isn't worth losing your bone health over. Swap it for a vigorous workout followed by a green smoothie with almonds and chia seeds. Let's all say a resounding "No to osteoporosis!" Every blessing, LB