Week Nine, just in time

This week we were inspired by an article in this month's Nutrition Action newsletter to write about osteoporosis and bone health. We subscribe to this monthly health publication put out by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest and the content is always thought-provoking and informative. It was a great article and we recommend reading it if you can get your hands on a copy. This is the (very) short version of the cover story.

What causes fractures? Weak bones and weak muscles. What causes weak bones and muscles? Too much acid in the bloodstream. How do we get too much acid in our bloodstream? From the foods we eat--mostly from animal products and grains. What makes up the majority of the average Western diet? Animal products and grains. Any questions?

When we eat mainly acid-causing foods, it causes muscle wasting, which then causes our bodies to flush out the acid by leeching calcium from our bones, which makes them weaker. If we consistently eat these kinds of foods, it is a slow, inevitable, painful decline as we age. But wait--there's hope! What kinds of foods actually neutralize and reverse acid load in the bloodstream? Fruits and vegetables? Yes! Why are fruits and vegetables the answer for everything positive and good in the world? They just are.

Many people believe that the key to bone health is just getting a lot of calciumGotta drink lots of milk to get my calcium. Sound familiar? But that's just a marketing campaign. It is more complicated than that. Osteoporosis has more to do with too much acid than not enough calcium. It is more about the balance of foods you are eating and their relative acidity or non-acidity (alkalinity), assuming you get enough calcium, which most people do. 

Some German researchers compiled a lot of data about the "Potential Renal Acid Load" (PRAL) for a wide sample of foods. I have attached their chart showing all the foods which are acid forming (PRAL scores in red) and acid neutralizing (PRAL scores in blue). Go ahead and take a gander. You're probably thinking about having a nice spinach salad with some parsley and raisins right about now, am I right? The bottom line, says the CSPI, is to consume more fruits and vegetables (11 servings a day) and less acid load foods. Meatless Mondays are a great start for this, because it automatically reduces your meat consumption by 15%. Also, get enough calcium and vitamins A and D, eat a balanced diet and get 30 minutes of daily exercise.

In view of all this preambulating, this week's recipe is joyously, bone-strengtheningly free of animal products and grains. Hurray! It is also based on our vegetable of the week, the sweet potato. High in fibre and vitamin C, these fleshy tubers are also full of beta carotene, a great source of vitamin A. The kind you need for healthy bones. Enjoy this soup with a tossed salad with some nuts or seeds for a healthy fat source, which aids vitamin absorption. May all your days be acid neutral and your hips fracture-free.