The last couple months, getting enough exercise wasn’t a challenge for many of us as we were clearing and cutting fallen trees from the recent storms. Best nutrition for your bones is good hard labor or exercise. Some people like using the treadmill. Others enjoy walking, swimming, dance or yoga. To live healthy and have strong bones into your eighties, I think exercise is more important than the food we eat.
It’s sometimes useful to think of bones as a brick wall, where the bricks are made of calcium and the other key nutrients make up the mortar. Without mortar, the wall is unstable. Bricks may fall out, making the wall even weaker.
Your body absorbs more calcium from food than it can from supplements, but for many people, especially women, supplements are a suggested addition to the diet. While calcium is clearly important, there are at least 19 other key nutrients that each play a vital role in the structural integrity and overall health of our bones — magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin C and sunlight or vitamin D as well as hard work or a good workout.
Without vitamin D your body can only absorb 10–15% of dietary calcium — so even if calcium is present, the body can’t use it! When vitamin D is added, the absorption of dietary calcium increases to 30–40%. So, both calcium and vitamin D are necessary to prevent osteoporosis. Some foods, such as orange juice, have vitamin D supplemented in them. As we get older it’s harder to get the vitamin D through the sun so supplements are often recommended.
Milk and other dairy products contain easily absorbable amounts of calcium and other minerals. The myth that these foods are the only source is annoyingly misleading. Calcium from food absorbs best along with the other nutrients in a wide variety of mustard and collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cremini mushrooms and all kinds of beans. Don’t forget other sources like salmon, sardines, tofu, oranges, almonds, blackstrap molasses, sea vegetables and tahini.
Studies show that even though people who take calcium supplements have a higher average daily intake, those who get most of their calcium from food have stronger bones. On top of the better absorption rates, calcium from food comes with other beneficial nutrients that help do its job.
It’s great to see how hummus has become such a standard snack food in our culture. Originally from the Middle East, hummus is made with garbanzo beans and tahini. It’s a good source of protein, low in fat, and an even better source of Calcium (for those of us over 30 who need to be concerned about strong bones).
As food prices continue to soar, I am turning more to making this from scratch. It takes minutes in a food processor. Most people use it as a dip for crackers or pita bread, but cucumber sticks or slices of green pepper work well also.
The only real secret to making smooth hummus is that the garbanzo beans need to be well cooked, even a little soft. It is more economical to cook your own beans which can also be used in salads. A can works great too. I find that the organic canned beans are softer and less tinny tasting than other commercial beans. They also seem to be cooked longer.
Tahini, the other major ingredient of hummus, contains a rich source of calcium as well as many other minerals. If you haven’t bought any lately, it is similar to a peanut butter made out of sesame seeds — found in the international section of the supermarket or in natural food stores. Those nutrient dense sesame seeds are a little hard to digest until they are pureed into tahini. It’s a little expensive but a powerful nutritional investment.
I also use tahini for a simple salad dressing made in the blender — tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, maybe two cloves garlic, a few sprigs of parsley, and salt; blended to your own liking.
Hummus could be made in a blender but I think the food processor works much better. This is a basic starting off recipe. Everyone’s preferences are different. Add to it what your family appreciates.
One can garbanzo beans, well rinsed, or about one and a half
About a half cup of tahini
Three to four cloves garlic
Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Three quarters teaspoon salt (or to taste)
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Add all the ingredients to a food processor; blend until smooth. A small amount of additional water seems essential to keep processor working effectively but not make the hummus too liquidy. Garnish with parsley if desired and serve with crackers, pita breads or better yet, raw vegetables.
Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley. Contact her with questions or suggestions at email@example.com