Tag Archive | boron

A new reputation for prunes

I was 10 years old when I first encountered prunes. It was breakfast time at Girl Guide camp, and no one could leave the table without a mandatory serving of the sweet stewed fruit. Why were the girls groaning and giggling? With a food this delicious, why did there have to be a rule?  It seems I’d come from a family where bowels moved on schedule without drama, so I hadn’t yet heard about the laxative effect of prunes.

Now prunes are becoming known for a new superpower: Reversing osteoporosis. Here’s what one study found:

In a clinical study of 58 women, eating 100 grams of dried plums per day improved bone formation markers after only three months, compared to a control group served 75g of dried apples.

via Reverse Osteoporosis with Prunes.

It seems the first benefit to bones is from the high boron content of prunes. This stimulates the bone-building cells, the osteoblasts, and increases calcium absorption so less is lost in urine. It also helps convert vitamin D into the active form that helps direct the calcium into the bones. Then the polyphenols in prunes have an anti-inflammatory effect, inhibiting the osteoclasts, which are the clean-up cells that can be overactive in osteoporosis. More bone building and less bone removal? Higher density.

So the study I referenced above found that 100 grams of prunes per day would have a major impact on bone density. From what I learned at camp, that level of consumption would not be wise for someone like me, and on that point I won’t elaborate. However, it isn’t hard to fit a few prunes into my diet. These days I use them as a reward to cover the nasty taste of my daily silicon drops.

One concern about prunes is that they are slightly acid-forming in the body, and too much acid has a negative impact on bone density. As part of a diet balanced by alkaline foods, though, a few prunes can really encourage bone health.

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You must meet Boron.

Never heard of boron? Then your bones may thank you for reading this.

Boron is a trace mineral that affects many of our metabolic processes. Of particular interest to me at the moment is that it plays key roles in our calcium status and bone density. It turns out that boron is a vital cofactor in the body’s use of Vitamin D and magnesium, helping us to metabolize them. Too little boron? That seems to demineralize bones, flushing precious calcium and magnesium into our urine, just as if we were nutritionally deficient.

The good news is that we can get boron from lots of foods: almonds, walnuts, avocados, broccoli, potatoes, pears, prunes, honey, oranges, onions, chick peas, carrots, beans, bananas, red grapes, red apples and raisins are some of the best sources. The bad news? The actual boron content of those foods depends on the soil in which they’re grown.

In these days of factory farming and well-traveled foods it’s not possible to keep track of how much boron we’re actually getting. Still, if you eat a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds you may well average the recommended 3 mg per day. Estimates of the typical American diet – emphasizing milk, meat, grains and junk – fall far short of that.

It would be easy to recommend that we each take a boron supplement for bone insurance. But isn’t the higher road a balanced diet? It has infinitely more benefits, too.