Bone loss accelerates in women at the time of menopause, leading to increased risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. So if you’re a postmenopausal woman looking to build up your bones via diet, two recent studies offer some guidance:
Eat dried plums
In a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, 100 postmenopausal women ate either 3.5 ounces of dried plums (better known as prunes) or dried apples a day for one year. (That’s about 10 dried plums, admittedly a lot.)
The dried plums not only protected against bone loss, they significantly increased bone density in the spine and forearm, compared to the dried apples.
According to the researchers, dried plums may help suppress bone breakdown—though the study did not look to see if they reduced actual fractures.
All fruits (and vegetables) contain bone-protective nutrients and have a positive effect on acid balance in the body. Dried plums are especially rich in vitamin K as well as phenol antioxidants, which help shield bones from oxidative damage. And they have more boron than most fruits; this mineral plays a key role in bone health.
If you’re not used to eating dried plums, which have a laxative effect, add them gradually to your diet. And keep in mind that 10 prunes have 240 calories.
Don’t count on soy supplements
Compounds in soy called isoflavones—plant hormones that have weak estrogenic effects—are often touted for bone health. Research, however, has yielded inconsistent results.
Most recently, in a well-designed study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 248 women in their first five years of menopause took soy isoflavones (200 milligrams a day, about twice the amount found in a typical high-soy Asian diet) or a placebo. Over two years, there were no differences between the groups in bone density of the spine and hip.
While it’s possible that some women may still benefit, “overall it does not appear that soy supplementation will play an important role in osteoporosis prevention,” the accompanying commentary said.