Osteoporosis is a state that occurs when a person’s bones become weak and brittle, placing them at risk of breaking easily. Once the condition develops, there is no cure to completely reverse its effects. Nevertheless, there are several ways of preventing further damage to the bones, one of which is by changing your diet.
According to research, adopting a Mediterranean diet is one way of doing so. To understand how this is so, we ought to look at how the diet helps in maintaining bone health and then show how anyone with osteoporosis can adopt this diet.
How a Mediterranean diet aids those with osteoporosis
Osteoporosis arises when a person’s bone mass reduces, causing the bones to be porous and weak. With the weakness, a person is at a higher risk of fractures or breaks through minor impact or even activities like bending over. Bone mass increases through childhood and reaches a peak at the age of 25 on average. Thereafter, it begins to diminish with age because bone reabsorption happens faster than new bone formation. Because it develops gradually, a person may not realize they have osteoporosis until it is too late.
In one study, more than 1,000 people participated and were observed over a whole year. One group was placed on a strictly Mediterranean diet while the other group was not. At the end of the study, those who were on the Mediterranean diet and already had osteoporosis showed an increase in bone density, indicating that osteoporosis had stopped the deterioration of bone mass.
Therefore, it may be advisable for anyone with osteoporosis to adopt this same diet as it can help decrease the loss of bone mass. This was because a Mediterranean diet encouraged the formation of new bone faster, thus maintaining and even increasing bone mass in those affected by osteoporosis.
What does a Mediterranean diet entail?
As its name suggests, the Mediterranean diet is copied from communities that live in the countries along the Mediterranean Sea such as Spain, Greece, Italy, and France. This diet may vary from one region to another, but it generally focuses on five main principles:
This means avoiding processed foods and sticking to natural foods from plants. For their starch, Mediterranean countries acquire this from cereals and grains. This could be in the form of rice, bread, and pasta. This is unlike other unhealthy foods that gain starch from products like corn starch, etc. The key here is to ensure that the grains are whole, meaning that the covering is left on. By sticking to whole grains and cereals, you can avoid unhealthy trans-fats that are bad for both your heart and bones.
Potatoes are also an excellent source of starch while also being healthy. For the protein, this can be acquired from nuts and legumes such as beans and other pulses. Just like with the whole grains, these protein sources also have very little trans fats while still having a high amount of protein. Beyond the above, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients.
Because these foods are so healthy, it is possible to have several portions throughout the day, with as much as 10 servings of fruits and vegetables. By doing so, you can keep your body nourished all through the day without compromising on your health. If you have to have some foods that have high amounts of fat, limit the amount you take and try to avoid taking them often through the week.
Avoid red meat as much as possible
Countries around the Mediterranean rarely take red meat but instead focus on white meat such as poultry and fish. When it comes to fish, make sure it is oily fish as these have high levels of healthy cholesterol that is good for your body. Poultry such as chicken, turkey, etc. also has little LDL that could be unhealthy for your body.
Use healthy fats
Many cooking fats have a high amount of cholesterol, but there are some oils that do not. These include olive and canola oils as well as those derived from nuts. These contain a high level of omega-3 fatty acids that lower blood pressure while still delivering healthy cholesterol. The same goes for spreads, where margarine should be avoided and instead stick to butter.
Dairy products also have a lot of fat, but there are alternatives like soya drinks that don’t. Always prefer the latter whenever you can, although a bit of dairy could help provide additional nutrients.
Avoid using salt
Instead of using salt to add taste to food, choose spices, which can have a similar effect or even better. These spices not only add taste but also contain added nutrients that are beneficial.
Beyond just food, a bit of wine is also recommended as this can help regulate blood pressure. However, this is optional as too much of it can have the opposite effect, which is why it is not directly recommended unless you can control yourself. Keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day is also essential by taking the recommended amount of water – 6 to 8 glasses a day.
Exercising is also important because it improves your muscles. This way, your bones are supported and don’t have to bear all the weight thus keeping them away from damage due to osteoporosis.
As all the above recommendations show, the key to controlling osteoporosis through a Mediterranean diet is twofold. First, it involves maintaining a healthy diet that provides all the nutrients without increasing bad cholesterol. By keeping yourself healthy, you get to improve the regeneration of bone mass, thus preventing further degradation of your bones.
Remember, bone regeneration does not stop completely simply because of aging, but rather just slows. Therefore, by keeping a healthy diet, you can increase this regeneration and prevent osteoporosis development.
Second, it’s all about maintaining the health of the bones and the muscles surrounding them. As we saw earlier, osteoporosis puts someone at risk of fractures even from the slightest strain on the bones. However, by keeping yourself fit, your bones and muscles can handle more stress and thereby protect you from unnecessary fractures and hip pain. This is why a Mediterranean diet is recommended for anyone with osteoporosis, and what the study above showed.
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