Thanksgiving: Be Grateful for Bone-Healthy Foods

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Everyone loves Thanksgiving, right? Football, friendship, family gathered ’round the table… Thankfully, when you’re thinking about bone health, the classic Thanksgiving feast offers quite a few opportunities to “do the right thing.” Here are 10 tips for maximizing the value of what you eat on Turkey Day.

     

    1) Start the day right with a breakfast high in calcium. Many orange juices and breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium; Total® cereal, in fact, offers 1000mg calcium per serving, which is 100% of the typical person’s DRV. If you’re worried about bone strength, your calcium target might be closer to 1500mg; and if that’s the case, adding a glass of fortified orange juice, with 350mg calcium, gets you most of the way there.   

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    2) You’ll probably be sipping a beverage while peeling potatoes and basting the turkey. And, considering the big feast to come, that beverage may be a diet soda. Unfortunately, the phosphoric acid present in most sodas (not just diet sodas) leads to excessive calcium excretion; the caffeine in cola-type and other caffeinated soft drinks causes the same reaction. And, since your body maintains the calcium level in your bloodstream at all costs, your bones shed some of their calcium to bring the level in your blood back up – leading to thinner bones. 

     

    Thirsty? Ice water is your best bet; grab a flavored no-calorie water, if you just don’t enjoy plain.

     

    3) Oh, those Turkey Day appetizers! Chips and dip, popcorn, and other nutrition-poor nibbles are the typical accompaniment to football on TV. A better choice? Nuts. Two ounces of almonds or cashews covers half your DRV of magnesium, which helps prevent bone fractures. Almonds are also high in calcium, offering 72mg per ounce. Go nuts!

     

    4) Dinner’s almost ready; sit down and relax – with a glass of wine. Post-menopausal women who drink moderately (a daily 5-ounce glass of wine) show an increase in bone mineral density (BMD) of 5% to 8% over non-drinkers. 

     

    5) At last – dinner’s ready, everyone’s gathered around, and it’s time to make some smart choices from the abundance on the table. Let’s start with the breadbasket. Whole-grain dinner rolls are a good choice; whole grains are a source of magnesium, as well as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Another smart choice would be a simple buttermilk biscuit; a 4” biscuit offers 237mg calcium.  

     

    6) We all know vegetables are good for us; which are best for bone health? Brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli are all high in vitamin K, which blocks the formation of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. A diet sufficient in vitamin K is shown to help prevent fractures, particularly in post-menopausal women. Other good vitamin K sources – kale, chard, green beans, asparagus, peas, carrots, and Romaine lettuce. 

     

    7) Potatoes are a given – which are best, sweet or white? Both are good sources of potassium, which your body uses to regulate the acid level in your blood; too much acid in the bloodstream leaches calcium from bones. They’re also high in magnesium. So take a small helping of mashed potatoes and another of that sweet potato casserole; both are bone-friendly choices.

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    8) And what about the star of the feast – turkey? Protein is a key element in bone remodeling, the constant cycle of bone breakdown and rebuilding. Your body requires about 1/2g protein per pound of body weight daily. That means a 150-pound woman needs to consume about 75g protein every day. A 6-ounce serving of turkey breast checks in at 50g protein – fully two-thirds of the daily requirement. 

     

    9) Ah, dessert – who can resist? Pie is usually the star of the show; and both pumpkin and sweet potato pies are great choices. Sweet potatoes, as mentioned above, are a good source of magnesium and potassium. And pumpkin is an even better source of magnesium than sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

     

    10) Not into pie? Cheesecake, with its cream cheese base, is high in both calcium and vitamin D. The best dairy source of calcium, though, is ricotta cheese. Have you ever had ricotta pie? A lighter-textured version of cheesecake, it’s just as tasty – and better for your bones. Enjoy this ricotta pie recipe.

     

    Planning your Thanksgiving menu? Remember your bones; a few simple choices can help keep them healthy. 

Published On: October 31, 2013