They may be better known as granny’s staple for “keeping things moving”, but new research suggests prunes are good for osteoporosis as well as constipation.
Scientists have discovered that post-menopausal women can protect themselves against osteoporosis and bone fractures by eating 10 prunes a day.
The research, published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that dried plums were more effective than figs, dates, dried strawberries, dried apples and raisins for improving bone density by suppressing the breakdown of bones, which tends to speed as people age.
Post-menopausal women who are the group at the highest risk of developing osteoporosis, are being encouraged to incorporate the prunes into their daily diet.
Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have,' said Bahram H. Arjmandi, Florida State professor and chairman of the U.S. Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences.
'All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional.'
We asked Simon Fairthorne, physiotherapist at Bupa Barbican Centre of Sports Medicine Excellence to suggest other simple ways we can strengthen our bones and safeguard against osteoporosis. Here are his suggestions:
Take up a weight-bearing exercise
Weight-bearing physical activities such as aerobics, dancing, brisk walking and jogging will usually help strengthen bones and improve fitness at the same time.
Another way to give your bones a boost is weight lifting. The action of the tendons pulling on the bones may help to build up muscle and bone strength.
Redress your balance
If weight lifting and aerobics are a bit too full on for you, activities such as gardening, tai chi and golf can be beneficial too. They usually help to improve your balance, muscle tone and co-ordination, and reduce your chances of falling and fracturing a bone.
Eat a calcium rich diet
A diet rich in calcium is important for maintaining healthy bones. Good sources of calcium include milk, hard cheese, yoghurt, dried apricots, figs and green leafy vegetables such as watercress and curly kale.
Avoid calcium ‘blockers’
Some foods may reduce the absorption of calcium and you should consider reducing your intake of phosphoric acid and caffeine. Phosphoric acid is used to improve the flavour of many fizzy drinks, so you could consider switching to water, fruit juice or a glass of the white stuff - otherwise known as milk!
Get your vitamin D fix
Vitamin D usually helps your body to absorb calcium and is found in foods such as sardines, mackerel and egg yolks. If you're not a fan of oily fish you'll be pleased to know that your body normally makes its own supply of vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
Get out in the sunshine
20 minutes outside every day during the summer could provide you with enough vitamin D for the rest of the year. But don't forget to wear sun protection!
Go easy on the wine
Too much alcohol can make you unsteady on your feet and increase your risk of falling. Some research suggests that the occasional glass of wine may actually be good for your bones, so don't consign your corkscrew to the back of the kitchen drawer just yet.