The quality of life diet - Sydney Morning Herald

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Bone-ified winner ... sage and ricotta tart.

Bone-ified winner ... the sage and ricotta tart.

A few key steps to keep you sprightly and lively.

Osteoporosis is a disease characterised by porous and fragile bones. It occurs when bones lose their density, making them extremely susceptible to fractures. It also affects life expectancy and quality of life.

A study published in The Medical Journal of Australia reveals osteoporosis affects about 1.2 million Australians and there are an additional 5.4 million who have a low bone density (known as osteopaenia - a potential precursor to osteoporosis). Department of Health statistics show that the total health expenditure for osteoporosis in 2004-05 was $304 million.

Professor Peter Ebeling, the medical director of Osteoporosis Australia and the head of endocrinology at Western Health, Melbourne, says there is a lot of room for improvement and prevention is the key.

Sunshine breakfast smoothie

Sunshine breakfast smoothie

I'm a strong believer in preventive medicine and I try to ensure reasonable measures are taken to protect my well-being and prevent long-term health consequences. Nutritionally, there are a few key steps we can take to help improve bone health and prevent bone destruction as we age. Bone density is influenced by calcium intake, calcium absorption, physical activity, lifestyle, hormones, heredity and gender. The levels of vitamin D, magnesium and other micronutrients also play an important role.

Strengthening your frame

Eat a calcium-rich diet

Calcium is a micronutrient that contributes to the growth, strength and density of bones. Good food sources are: skim milk (or other calcium-fortified milks); fish with bones (for example, sardines), herring and tinned wild salmon; natural yoghurt with live cultures; green vegetables such as broccoli, bok choi, brussels sprouts and watercress; tofu; tempeh; nuts; seeds; oysters; and seaweed.

A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests calcium through food sources is absorbed better than from supplements and has a significant impact in developing bone mass. The daily recommended intake for calcium is 1000 milligrams a day.

Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which helps grow denser, stronger bones. Food sources to aid in the production of vitamin D are fortified milk, eggs, oily fish such as sardines, herring and salmon and their oils. Sunlight is also a great source of vitamin D.

Eat quality protein

Protein stimulates the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone responsible for bone and muscle strength, which decreases as we age. The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.75 grams for women and 0.84 grams for men per kilo of body weight. The best sources to aid bone strength are fish, lean pasture-raised meats, poultry, beans, seeds, low-fat dairy, eggs and soy.

Get regular exercise

Weight-bearing exercises contribute to strong, healthy bones. About 30 minutes of this type of exercise each day is optimal to help stimulate your bones to keep on rebuilding.

Poor absorption of calcium

Factors contributing to low absorption of calcium could be a lack of vitamin D and increased phytates and oxalates contained in whole grains and some plant-based foods with oxalates, such as rhubarb, spinach and coffee.

Risk factors

Age: women over 65, men over 70

Bone fractures can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, eating disorders, early menopause, oestrogen deficiency, testosterone deficiency in men, inadequate diet of calcium and vitamin D, history of prostate or breast cancer, smoking, alcohol, family history of osteoporosis, a low BMI or a sedentary lifestyle.


1kg ricotta

200g watercress or kale

1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves

6 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped parsley

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 medium sweet potato

Olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 160C. Prepare a 25-centimetre baking tin with paper and line all sides and the base. Combine ricotta, watercress, sage, eggs, salt, parsley and nutmeg in a food processor and process for a few seconds until combined and the watercress is cut up. Pour the mixture into the cake tin. Peel the sweet potato into very thin slices (with the skin on) using a potato peeler. This will look like a lot but it will collapse into the tart. Toss the potato with one teaspoon of olive oil and season with a little sea salt. Lay sweet potato over the tart. Bake for one hour 15 minutes until set to touch. Cool before removing from the tin. Serve with leafy greens or steamed greens such as asparagus, kale, bok choy or broccolini.

Makes one tart (serves 10)

Protein, 19.8 grams; fat, 15 grams; carbs, 5.1 grams; kilojoules, 993; calcium, 357 milligrams. Gluten-free, low GI, high protein.


1 orange, peeled

½ green apple

50g fresh pineapple

1 tsp ground linseed (flaxseed)

200g natural low-fat yoghurt

½ banana

Pinch of cinnamon

Ice to blend

Combine ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Serves 1

Protein, 15.4 grams; fat, 2.4 grams; carbs 39 grams; kilojoules, 1010; fibre, 7.6 grams. Gluten free, low GI.

17 Oct, 2011

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