The World's Healthiest Foods

Salads Save Bones

Salads Save Bones

A July 2002 Swiss university study has confirmed earlier research showing that onions, herbs, such as parsley, garlic and dill, and common salad vegetables, such as lettuce, arrugula, cucumber and tomato, improve bone metabolism and reduce bone loss.

In the initial research, rats given common herbs and vegetables, such as onion, parsley and salad greens, were found to have significantly less bone loss compared to rats not on the vegetable-enriched diet. Onion, in particular, was found to not only inhibit bone resorption, but to actually increase bone mass.

Surprisingly, powdered cow's milk, a food often touted as effective in helping to prevent osteoporosis, had no effect on the rate at which the rats' bone was broken down and reabsorbed.

Researchers have speculated that vegetables help prevent bone loss by promoting a more alkalkine pH in the body, but this most recent research suggests that onions and other vegetables and herbs exert beneficial effects on bone that are not limited to their buffering of an acid pH in the body, which is thought to dissolve bone.

Practical Tips

Here are a few of the World's Healthiest Foods quick serving ideas to help you reap the bone-saving benefits of these vegetables and herbs.

To learn more about these bone-saving members of the World's Healthiest Foods, click onions, parsley, garlic, dill, lettuce, cucumber, or tomato.

For a list of the World's Healthiest Foods' recipes containing any of these herbs or vegetables, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the herb or vegetable on the healthy foods list, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all of the World's Healthiest Foods' recipes containing the food chosen will appear immediately below.

Research Summary

In the initial research, rats given common herbs and vegetables, such as onion, parsley and salad greens, were found to have significantly less bone loss compared to rats not on the vegetable-enriched diet.

Small amounts of several vegetables and vegetable mixtures produced a significant drop in the rate of bone loss-just 500 mg daily each of onion and Italian parsley, and 100 mg each of a mixture of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, arrugula, onion, garlic, wild garlic, common parsley, Italian parsley, and dill had protective effects on bone mass. Not only did the rats' consumption of these vegetables and herbs inhibit bone resorption, but onion was actually shown to increase bone mass.

Researchers were surprised to find that powdered cow's milk, which has long been thought to be effective in helping to prevent osteoporosis, had no effect on the rate at which the rats' bone was broken down and reabsorbed.

Researchers have speculated that vegetables help prevent bone loss by promoting a more alkalkine pH in the body, but this most recent research suggests that onions and other vegetables and herbs exert beneficial effects on bone that are not due to their buffering effect on metabolic acid, which is thought to dissolve bone.

In the July 2002 study, Swiss researchers showed that, although the rats' intake of onion was associated with a decrease in urinary acid excretion and a concomitant inhibition of bone resorption, other experiments showed that the two findings were not causally related. In these experiments, onion was shown to increase the inhibition of bone resorption even when it was given in addition to an already aklaline vegetarian diet. And onion and a mixture of vegetables, salads, and herbs were found to increase the inhibition of bone resorption even when metabolic acid was already buffered by potassium citrate. In addition, neither the pH nor the potassium content of the individual vegetables, salads, and herbs reaches a level that would inhibit bone resorption if this effect were due primarily to the production of a more alkaline pH.

Since the research shows that the protective effects on bone produced by vegetables, salads, and herbs are not merely due to their metabolic alkalinity, scientists are now theorizing that the bone-boosting effects are due to pharmacologically active compound(s) in the herbs and vegetables. Future research will undoubtedly uncover the compounds responsible, but fortunately, we don't have to wait to reap the bone-saving benefits. All we need to do is enjoy lots of onions, garlic, parsley, dill, tomatoes, cucumbers and green leafy salads.

References: Muhlbauer RC, Lozano A, Reinli A. Onion and a mixture of vegetables, salads, and herbs affect bone resorption in the rat by a mechanism independent of their base excess. J Bone Miner Res 2002 Jul;17(7):1230-6. Muhlbauer RC, Li F. Effect of vegetables on bone metabolism. Nature 1999 Sep 23;401(6751):343-4.