Research published by Surrey University shows that eating a diet rich in potassium is bone protective and may prevent osteoporosis.

The study published in Osteoporosis International showed that potassium salts reduce bone resorption – the process that causes bone to break down – thereby increasing bone strength.

It was also found that excretion of calcium and acid through the urine was significantly reduced.

Dr Helen Lambert, lead author of the study said “This means that excess acid is neutralised and bone mineral is preserve”.  She went on to say “Excess acid in the body produced as a result of a typical Western diet high in animal and cereal protein, causes bones to weaken and fracture. Our study shows that these salts could prevent osteoporosis, as our results showed a decrease in bone resorption”.

Currently osteoporosis affects nearly 3 million people in the UK with both women and men having increased risk of fracture over the age of 50 because of poor bone strength.

How do we get potassium into our diets?

All vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of potassium which backs up the advice that we really should be eating at the very least the 5 daily portions recommended by health professionals.  Ideally we should be aiming for more like 10 portions daily with the emphasis on vegetables which are lower in sugars than fruit.  Especially good sources include squash, sweet potato, broccoli, butter beans, swiss chard, avocado and bananas.

It is important to point out that we lay down the foundations of good bone health in our childhood and teenage years so this research shows how vital it is to get our kids eating greater quantities of vegetables, salads and fruit to protect them from bone thinning later in life.

“Superfoods” defined

Another piece of research in an associated field caught my eye regarding the importance of getting vegetables and fruit into the diet.  Dr Jennifer di Noia, PhD decided to define the term Powerhouse Fruit and Vegetables (PFV) classifying those with the greatest nutrient density and thus associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.

There are 17 vitamins and minerals that are considered to be important for their protective role in our health, as defined by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Institute of Medicine: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron,  folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.

The study looked at 47 vegetables and fruit and in conclusion all but 6 met the strict criteria for defining a PFV.

Dr Di Noia looked at scientific literature and listed those that provided the greatest health benefits.  A nutrient density score was calculated for each food based upon the energy and nutrient density of the food and the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals.  She classified PFV foods as those having a score greater than 10.

The top 20 looks like this:

Item Nutrient Density Score
Watercress 100.00
Chinese cabbage 91.99
Chard 89.27
Beet green 87.08
Spinach 86.43
Chicory 73.36
Leaf lettuce 70.73
Parsley 65.59
Romaine lettuce 63.48
Collard green 62.49
Turnip green 62.12
Mustard green 61.39
Endive 60.44
Chive 54.80
Kale 49.07
Dandelion green 46.34
Red pepper 41.26
Arugula 37.65
Broccoli 34.89
Pumpkin 33.82

Dr Di Noia wrote that “Expressing the nutrient desirability of foods in terms of the energy they provide may help focus consumers on their daily energy needs and getting the most nutrients from their foods”.

If you would like to read the research paper and see the full list of powerhouse fruit and vegetables then click on this link: