AHHA SELF-HELP ARTICLES COLLECTION
   


Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc. is a health advocate, certified personal trainer/fitness counselor, recipe developer, soy food connoisseur and author of Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook. A vegetarian since 1990, Monique promotes the important role diet plays in a person's strength, vitality and longevity through her book, articles and an online "Ask the Expert" website (geocities.com/healthyadvice/) where she gives advice about health, fitness and vegetarian/vegan diets. You can contact her at monique@chef.net or through her web site at www.MoniqueNGilbert.com.


The American Holistic Health Association has compiled a collection of self-help articles to support your efforts to enhance your own health and well-being.

This article is part of the
article category
ENHANCING YOUR LEVEL OF WELLNESS
and the sub-category
NUTRITION AND SUPPLEMENTATION

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Bones are the body's foundation. Having strong dense bones is essential for good posture, strength and balance. The quality of our skeletal structure has a direct impact on our appearance, vitality and energy level. The better we stand, walk and move around, the more youthful we will look and feel. Building and maintaining strong healthy bones is a lifelong concern because our bones are living tissue in a constant state of renewal. Most people believe thin weak bones are an inevitable part of aging. However, research is showing this may not be the case. Bone loss and osteoporosis can be prevented and possibly reversed with proper diet and lifestyle. Two of the easiest ways to achieve this are eating more soy-based calcium rich foods and including weight-bearing activities in our daily routine.

A vital factor in keeping our bones strong and healthy is the ability to absorb and retain calcium. It doesn't matter how much calcium we take in if our body is not assimilating it properly. Diets high in animal protein leach calcium and other important minerals from the bones. They cause our body's acid loads to increase, which forces our system to pump more water into the kidneys to help flush it out. This diuretic response results in excessive calcium and magnesium excretion, which leads to osteoporosis. Independent studies conducted at various universities in the United States and Hong Kong indicate soy foods can have a protective effect on our bones; that soy protein enhances calcium retention and absorption, resulting in less excretion in the urine. They found soy's protein and isoflavones increase bone mineral content, density, quality and strength. They also noted that soy helps the body's ability to rebuild bone, and may even reverse osteoporosis. Soy foods like tofu; made with calcium sulfate, tempeh and fortified soymilk, provide calcium, magnesium and isoflavones our body can more easily absorb and retain. Soy foods are also a complete high-quality vegetable protein source without the saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal proteins.

While diet can help build strong dense bones; diet, by itself, will not produce the same bone improving effects than when combined with exercise. Each enhances and compliments the other in preventing osteoporosis. Weight bearing and aerobic exercises are necessary to create bone building benefits. Any activity that causes you to lift weight, including your own body weight, is considered a weight bearing exercise. Some examples include stair climbing, squats, pushups, sit-ups, or any movement with some kind of heavy weight (like dumbbells). Even gardening and house cleaning can become weight bearing exercises if we do a squat instead of just bending over to pick things up. Walking, hiking, jogging and dancing are activities that are considered both weight-bearing and aerobic. Among these, walking is the simplest and safest method of building and maintaining healthy bones. No special equipment or training is needed, and it is very easy on the joints. Walking not only strengthens bones and muscles, it also increases stamina and endurance. Begin by walking 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week. Don't think of distance, just try to walk as briskly as possible while maintaining good posture. The pace should be fast enough for a person to get a good workout and, at the same time, be able to hold a conversation.

As our life expectancies increase, preventive measures must be taken to ensure that we keep our bones strong and dense. By eating more soy foods and less animal protein, we will be better able to absorb and retain calcium in our bones and prevent osteoporosis. By walking and increasing our activity levels, we will help our bones gain strength and improve muscle tone. These simple dietary and lifestyle changes will also increase energy levels, enhance mobility and help us stay young at any age.