The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach

The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach

by Annemarie Colbin, Hyman Mark

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It's essential to maintain strong bones to keep an active lifestyle, but aside from taking a daily calcium supplement, is there really anything you can do to improve your bone health? With this complete program for stronger bones created by health educator Annemarie Colbin, you'll learn the best foods to eat to build bone mass and find out which foods actually weaken bones. In The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones, you'll also discover how exercise and finding personal balance can improve your health and prevent fragility fractures, menopause-related bone loss, and osteoporosis.


•What puts you at risk for bone fracture
•Why medication and estrogen therapy may not work for you
•How the nutrients in whole foods build bone mass
•85 easy recipes that maximize the bone-building effects of whole foods

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608825899
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications
Publication date: 02/02/2009
Series: New Harbinger Whole-Body Healing Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 669,766
File size: 643 KB

About the Author

Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., is a health educator and award-winning writer, consultant, and lecturer. She is the founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, which offers a licensed and accredited career program in natural foods cuisine. The associated Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health offers avocational classes in health-supportive cooking and natural healing to the general public. Colbin has also taught at several New York City schools, including the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the New York City Open Center, Touro College, and Empire State College. She is author of several books including Food and Healing and writes a column, “Food and Your Health,” for New York Spirit magazine. Colbin offers private wellness consultations. She lives in New York City with her husband, journalist Bernard Gavzer. You can learn more about the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts at

Foreword author Mark Hyman, MD, is coauthor of The Detox Box and the best-selling Ultraprevention. He is editor-in-chief of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, the most prestigious journal in the field of integrative medicine. Hyman lives in western Massachusetts.

Annemarie Colbin, PhD, is a health educator and award-winning writer, consultant, and lecturer. She is the founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, which offers a licensed and accredited career program in natural foods cuisine. The associated Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health offers avocational classes in health-supportive cooking and natural healing to the general public. Colbin has also taught at several New York City schools, including the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the New York City Open Center, Touro College, and Empire State College. She is author of several books including Food and Healing and writes a column, Food and Your Health, for New York Spirit magazine. Colbin offers private wellness consultations. She lives in New York City with her husband, journalist Bernard Gavzer. You can learn more about the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts at

Read an Excerpt

To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

—Sir Isaac Newton

Before we discuss facts, we need to establish the context. I believe that having a theoretical framework, or mental model, about how things work is essential. This framework helps us understand what’s going on, make predictions about what might happen next, and thereby make decisions.

We all have some sort of mental model of the world. It is cobbled together from our personal experiences, explanations offered by the social system in which we live, and additional information we gather as we grow and learn. I want to share my own viewpoint with you so that you can see where I’m coming from, and so that you can decide what mental model makes sense for you.

My Experience with Bone Health

First, let me share some of my personal observations and experiences about bone health, starting with my mother. She died in 1991, at the age of eighty-six, and was quite healthy for most of her life. Even at an advanced age, she never suffered from any illness except progressive deafness. I believe what harmed her most was a car accident she suffered at the age of eighty-one, where she was thrown from the car she was driving and given up for dead. She recuperated, but the blow to her head appeared to have started a senility process that took her downhill.

Even with the accident and several falls in the street, she never broke a single bone. She also didn’t seem to shrink much as she aged, and she wasn’t stooped over. Her bones may have been thin, but they didn’t fracture, not even with a serious accident! Here are the aspects of her life I find meaningful in this respect:

Another person who influenced my thoughts about bone health is my aunt, who was actually my mother’s cousin and one year younger. She died in 1997, six months before turning ninety. She also never broke a bone as far as I know. What I saw in her was an interesting progression with weight. She was of normal weight all her life until menopause, when she put on about thirty pounds. By the time she turned eighty, she had lost that weight and more and was beginning to look really thin. Her health was quite good, and her only complaint was about her fading eyesight.

Both my mother and my aunt lived in Argentina since the late 1940s, and I returned to visit yearly from 1988. On one visit, when my aunt was about eighty-four, I noticed that she had become very thin and bowlegged, a condition she had never had before; her knees hurt on the outside, as well. She was living alone at the time and eating very little. Like my mother, she used no medications and her diet was semivegetarian, but she ate white bread and many more nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers—more about this later). I arranged for her to live with a caretaker, who fed her abundantly and eventually helped her put on about twenty pounds. I also instructed that her intake of potatoes and tomatoes be curtailed. Within a year, her legs had gotten stronger and the pain in her knees had disappeared.

Neither my mother nor my aunt took hormone replacements, calcium supplements or any other supplements or vitamins, or medications. They shared a disdain for pills, and I have surely inherited it. They did eat some dairy foods, both having been born in Holland, but only cheese or yogurt on occasion. They didn’t drink milk regularly, or eat ice cream except as a rare treat.

More distant family members, cousins, and elderly friends did break bones on occasion. However, nobody I knew in my youth ever broke a hip. Osteoporosis wasn’t a concern, and I don’t recall any older women who had that thin, fragile look that is so common nowadays. However, my mother’s bone strength apparently wasn’t completely passed on to me, as I myself had two minor fracture episodes.

One came about when I was eleven years old and playing leapfrog with some friends at night. One of my leaps went too far, and I crashed to the ground and dislocated my right elbow. A couple of weeks later we found I had a hairline fracture and needed a cast. Fifty years later, at age sixty-one, I was marching down the street one evening in New York City, rushing toward a class I was to teach, and tripped on something in the street. Although it’s usually possible recover with the other foot, in this case the other foot also tripped on the same something (I think it was a metal plate covering a hole in the street), so I went down like a tree with all my weight on my right hand. As I sat up to examine the damage, the hand looked seriously distorted. I tried to pull it straight while it was warm, but to little avail. I didn’t know if the hand was sprained or broken. After some miso soup that helped me recover somewhat from the shock, I went on to teach my class—on how to keep your bones healthy, no less!—with my right hand in a sling. Then I went to the hospital.

It turned out that I had broken my wrist in what is known as a Colles’ fracture, a fairly common type of break. I also had sprained many of the joints in my hand, and it took the young ER doctor about half an hour to set everything straight again. That was fairly painful and resulted in my walking around with purple fingers sticking out of my cast for a few weeks, followed by green and yellow fingers as everything healed. The fracture healed in a little over five weeks, so the cast came off quickly. The sprains took longer.

Of course I was embarrassed, as my first book on bone health had been published and I was teaching people how to keep their bones healthy. On the other hand, because it had been such a heavy and awkward fall, I felt that the fracture was perhaps inevitable and couldn’t be ascribed to fragility. I suppose the entire experience fell under the category “you teach what you need to learn.” Much to my chagrin, I joined the ranks of postmenopausal women who had broken a bone. Why had that happened to me? In the previous month, I think I had eaten sugar much more frequently than is my custom. But it was also the hurried way in which I walked. As Gillian Sanson says in her book The Myth of Osteoporosis (2003), one of the major ways to prevent fractures is to prevent falls! After my incident, I learned to walk slower and keep my weight more centered instead of pitching forward in a rush, which was my usual style. I did, of course, use food extensively to help me heal from this event.

There are trauma fractures, and then there are low-trauma or fragility fractures. This book addresses the latter. I am certain that what we eat can help keep us strong, prevent us from becoming weak and fragile, and thus prevent fragility fractures. But before I go into those details, I’ll establish the basic theoretical framework from which I start. In order to make good decisions and choices, we need more than rules; we need a basic philosophy that directs us and is cohesive enough that our choices have the desired results. Otherwise we are at the mercy of other people telling us what to do based on their philosophy. Once you know where I stand, you can better make your own decisions, whether you agree or disagree with me. Follow me, then, as we take a short detour into a philosophy of life.

The Complexity of Living Systems

Energy moves between opposite poles, and every action has its consequences. Newton integrated these concepts into the pillars of his physical laws, and many systems of thought throughout history concur. Action and reaction, up and down, night and day—these are all sets of opposites, like the two sides of a coin, and just as inseparable. You could visualize that life works like a seesaw or a pendulum. Right and wrong and yin and yang are two of the better known social constructs on this theme. For the past five thousand years, right and wrong has been the basic mode of thought in Western civilization, while yin and yang has been the foundation of Chinese thought.

The main difference between those two viewpoints has to do with judgment. Right versus wrong implies that if one part is good or right, the other automatically has to be bad or wrong, and often that is taken to mean that whatever is “opposite” must be eliminated. Yin and yang, on the other hand, are nonjudgmental descriptions. No superiority of one over the other is implied, and no destruction of one or the other is required. In fact, the two are seen as complementary and integrally interwoven. In the Chinese system, it is assumed that when one of the opposites shows up, the other isn’t far behind.

When we deal with right and wrong, or good and bad, and try to eliminate whatever is considered wrong or bad, it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Trying to eliminate one part of the set of opposites will negatively affect the other part. This is a universal law and cannot be escaped. Here’s an example: In the early 1900s, it was decided that mosquitoes were bad because they carry malaria. It was decided that mosquitoes should be eradicated, and DDT was used liberally to that end. This was action. What was the reaction? Not only did the mosquitoes die, but many birds died as well, poisoned by the pesticide. In fact, the whole earth was poisoned, and most of those toxins remain with us to this day.

Our bodies are extremely complex. John Apsley, DC, in his chapter on biogenic medicine in The Advanced Guide to Longevity Medicine (2001),points out that every cell in the body registers more than a million disturbances or alterations daily, all of which need to be corrected just to maintain the integrity of the system against these stresses. Multiplying that by 75 trillion (the number of cells in the body), that means that every second of every day the body is performing close to 870 trillion corrections! He further states that the ability to manage such a task points to a regenerative technology that can operate at near quantum speeds, that is, unlimited by time and space.

Clearly it isn’t possible to manage such a complex system with linear or reductionistic thinking: one cause, one effect; or one problem, one drug. Many variables need to be addressed and accommodated. This is where a holistic approach comes in, endeavoring to look at the entire picture and attend to consequences way down the line. What does this have to do with bones? It underscores the danger inherent in going single-mindedly after a focused goal; for example, bones contain calcium, so let’s take more calcium to make the bones stronger. With this approach, we may find ourselves stumbling over the law of unintended consequences because we fail to take into account the other aspects of this complex issue. We’ll take a close look at this particular topic in chapter 3.

One aspect of the holistic approach is trust in the life process—trust that the body has its reasons that reason does not understand. The body’s job is to stay alive day in and day out, knowing what to do with air, food, and water and how to go about repairing itself. Our bodies are born with this knowledge. It is part and parcel of each of us. When things go wrong, I believe it is important to work with the body’s knowledge, to listen carefully to what it tells us and provide what’s missing or remove what’s in excess. This is what the natural healing model proposes to do: bring the body back into balance by paying attention to the law of opposites and thereby avoid triggering unexpected consequences.

Most natural healing therapies, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, dietary therapies, and energy medicines, look at the body as a whole system. In contrast, the conventional medical model tends to work in a simple linear fashion (if you have a headache, take a pill to eliminate the pain) rather than looking at what caused the headache to arise in the first place. That’s why so many medicines actually work against the body, as witnessed by the list of “anti medications”: antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, ant(i)acids, and the like. The all-too-common adverse effects of these drugs are often unexpected reactions of the highly complex body to the overly simplistic standard approach.

In my personal experience, the natural healing model is more accurate and has better results in dealing with disorders of function—things that the body isn’t doing “right.” Western medicine does a great job of dealing with structural problems and mechanical issues; in fact, nothing comes close to its ability to save lives in emergencies like car crashes, burns, gunshot wounds, and, of course, broken bones. Pharmacological drugs, on the other hand, are more problematic. All man-made drugs or supplements have unbalancing or adverse effects. They are a double-edged sword with both desired effects and adverse effects. Both are equal. Both count. We cannot have one without the other. When we rely on drugs for our health needs, the adverse effects must be taken into account, and expected, at all times.

No matter what your philosophy is, holistic or conventional, you’ll be right in some cases and wrong in others. C. Sidney Burwell, former dean of the Harvard Medical School, has been quoted as saying, “My students are dismayed when I say to them, ‘Half of what you are taught as medical students will in ten years have been shown to be wrong, and the trouble is, none of your teachers knows which half’” (Pickering 1956, 113).

For bone health in particular, numerous medications, supplements, and drugs are regularly recommended for making bones more dense, and for the fracture prevention benefits that denser bones are expected to provide. Using drugs to prevent something that may or may not happen (at least 50 or 60 percent of postmenopausal women don’t get osteoporotic fractures) could cause adverse effects that may be worse than the problem presumably avoided. The axiom that the benefits of pharmaceutical drugs outweigh the risks mainly holds true in life-threatening situations. If the choice is between suffocating from an asthma attack and losing a little bone mass from the steroids, the choice is fairly clear. But it’s an entirely different situation if the choice is between shrinking a little less and an increased risk of breast cancer associated with hormone replacement therapy. My preference is to use the natural healing model first and as much as possible, including lifestyle modifications, appropriate foods, and complementary therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage, and only consider conventional medicine as a last resort, or in certain situations when it would be most useful.

A Philosophy of Nutrition

The philosophy or theoretical framework underlying classical nutrition is based on biology and chemistry. It looks at nutrient particles and assumes a mechanistic interaction between nutrients and the body. It is reductionistic in that it reduces foods, and humans, to their constituent parts, and then studies those. In nutrition, the reductionistic model supports getting specific nutrient particles that humans are known to need. This fits in with the prevailing mechanistic model of the mainstream view of health.

Another part of the study of food is based on the discipline of thermodynamics (the study of the movement of energy and how energy instills movement). The application of the concepts of thermodynamics to digestion and absorption originated in the second half of the 1800s with the work of Justus von Liebig, a German scientist who was among those who pioneered the study of heat, oxygen, and production of carbon dioxide in humans. His work established the importance of the macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fats—in energy production. After his work was widely disseminated, it became accepted dogma in Germany during the nineteenth century that these macronutrients comprised the major nutritional requirements for humans and animals. As a result, it became widely assumed that the laws of thermodynamics related to human beings and animals, and not just inert substances. This is the model that underlies the concept of calories and energy pathways. In the early 1900s, studies of human basal metabolism were conducted at the Nutrition Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in Boston, Massachusetts, under the direction of Frances G. Benedict. This work yielded equations that, although not error free, are still being used to calculate basal energy expenditure, or the energy required for a body at rest (Frankenfield, Muth, and Rowe 1998).

While a useful model, the reductionistic approach presents only half the picture—the trees, so to speak. It is equally as important to look at the forest, or the human being as a whole system, as well as food as a whole system. This is the holistic approach that I have used for many years. These days it is supported by complexity theory, one of the “new sciences,” which states that the whole is more than the sum of its parts and that we cannot understand the behavior of the whole by studying its separate parts. Complexity science also makes it clear that the behavior of the whole cannot be approximated by adding up the behavior of the parts. For example, the qualities of water, a liquid at room temperature, cannot be inferred or approximated from the qualities of its constituents, hydrogen and oxygen, which are both gases at similar temperatures (Waldrop 1992).

Whole foods, then, contribute to the wholeness of humans because of the full complement of their nutrients, both known and unknown, and their interactions.

In making decisions about how to use foods for general health, as well as for particular conditions, I like to rely on several models. Three theoretical frameworks underlie all the work in this book. They don’t always agree with one another, but I usually find that what one model doesn’t cover, another one does:

Now that you have a sense of the orientation of this book and my philosophy of nutrition, let’s take a look at the basic facts of how problems arise with the bones. The next chapter will take a look at what creates weak and brittle bones, the major causes of osteoporosis, and various risk factors.

Table of Contents

List of Recipes




Part 1: Understanding Your Bones

Chapter 1. Philosophy of Nutrition: Setting Up the Point of View

Chapter 2. Osteoporosis or Fractures? Defining the Problem

Chapter 3. More Than Calcium: What Bones Need to Be Healthy

Chapter 4. What Weakens Our Bones? It’s More Than Menopause

Chapter 5. Standard Suggestions for Strengthening Bones: Some That Work and Some That Don’t

Part 2: Caring for Your Bones

Chapter 6. The Whole Foods Approach: How Diet Can Promote Healthy Bones

Chapter 7. Movement and Exercise: An Important Part of the Program

Chapter 8. The Spiritual Aspect: Strength from Within

Chapter 9. Putting It All Together: It Is Possible to Regain Lost Bone


Recipes for Healthy Bones


Recipes Leafy Greens

Basic Garlic Greens

Pressure-Cooked Southern Collard Greens

Spiced Kale with Carrots and Turnip

Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Shrimp

Broccoli Rabe with Roasted Garlic and Red Bell Pepper

Curried Broccoli Rabe with Parmesan Cheese

Gingered Kale with Miso-Broiled Tofu

Mixed Green Salad

Roots and Squashes

Baked Buttercup Squash

Butternut Squash with Onions and Tarragon

Yam Puree

Gratin of Root Vegetables

Braised Fennel

Other Vegetables

Broccoli with Mushrooms

Asparagus with Slivered Almonds

French Tart with Greens and Leeks

Composed Salad with Beets and Avocado

Fish, Poultry, and Meat

Poached Red Snapper Fillets with Parsley Sauce

Parsley Sauce

Salmon Frittata with Fresh Dill

Simple Roasted Chicken


Portobello Beef Stroganoff


Root Stew with White Beans and Wild Mushrooms

Anasazi Beans with Collards and Shiitake Mushrooms

Mediterranean Herbed Chickpeas

Soy Foods

Tempeh in Coconut Milk Curry

Cold Tofu with Ginger and Scallions

Stock Recipes

Simple Vegetable Stock

Rich Vegetable Stock

Simple Chicken Stock

Gourmet Chicken Stock

The Best and Easiest Chicken Bone Stock

Fish Stock

Shrimp Stock

Beef Stock

Rich Beef Stock

Kombu Stock


Cilantro Egg Drop Soup

Pinto Bean Soup with Dill


Avocado-Cucumber Soup

Cold Cucumber-Coconut Soup with Dill

Cabbage and Celery Soup

Miso Soup with Wild Mushrooms and Garlic

Chicken Soup

Spanish Fish Soup

Hearty Shrimp Bisque

Rock Shrimp Potage

Sunflower Seed Soup with Celeriac

Quick and Easy Consommé with Soba

Flavorful Rice and Barley

Creamy Whole Grain Breakfast Porridge

Plain Kasha

Kasha with Mushrooms

Creamy Polenta

Rice and Millet Pilaf with Almonds and Cilantro

Oat-Dulse Crackers

Pasta with Sardines


Cucumber and Radish Salad with Wakame and Walnut-Lime Dressing

Hijiki Caviar with Tofu and Dried Mushrooms

Toasted Nori

Mineral-Rich Garnishes and Condiments

Shana’s Grain-Free Nutty Granola

Sesame Seaweed Sprinkle

Green Drinks

Green Drink I

Green Drink II

Recipes with Edible Bones

Five-Hour Whole Fish Stew

Crispy Baked Small Fish

Sardine Spread

Whitebait Fritters

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings

Clarified Butter

Dr. Corsello’s Salad Oil Mix

Creamy Lemon-Ginger Dressing

Basil and Cilantro Pesto

Dessert Recipes

Apple, Strawberry, and Pomegranate Mold

Almond Milk Pudding

Poached Pears with Coconut Cream

Coconut Cream

Cashew Cream

Broiled Bananas

Maple-Walnut Loaf

Fresh Fruit Salad with Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Whole Lemon and Coconut Custard

Flax-Apple Shake

What People are Saying About This

Mehmet C. Oz

"The bones of the body renew themselves every seven years. With the wholesome wisdom of this book, you can help your bones provide a firm scaffold for your body."--(Mehmet C. Oz, MD, coauthor of YOU: The Owner's Manual and YOU: Staying Young)

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The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
CynthiaSueLarson More than 1 year ago
The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones provides an outstanding summary of basic principles medical experts now agree on that can tremendously reduce risk of bone fractures and injury. Armed with current information and common sense, it really is possible to greatly improve one's bone health with balanced diet and weight bearing exercise, and this marvelous book shows how this can be done. My interest in the subject of bone health has increased as I enter my midlife years, and hear of so many women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and low bone density. I have felt I was aware of some basics for good nutrition that improve bone strength and resiliency, but The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones points out to me how many ideas I have accepted for years are actually based on out-of-date or inaccurate data... such as 'getting lots of dairy products and/or calcium is one of the best things you can do for your bones.' I was surprised to learn that 75% of people seeking osteoporosis advice are Vitamin D deficient, perhaps due to people spending so much time indoors and using sunblock every time they go outside. Daily lettuce added to one's diet can lead to 45% reduced risk of hip fractures, and some people who eat low calcium diets suffer fewer fractures than their high-calcium diet counterparts, such as people living in the USA and Scandanavia. I am really happy to learn of the advantages of weight-bearing exercise in helping bring the calcium we eat into our bones, as well as the way that we can increase magnesium while reducing calcium intake and actually increase our bone density. While the fully detailed analysis of how we can best ensure good bone health may seem complex, author Annemarie Colbin cuts through the piles of research and cutting-edge medical theories to make it easy to understand what we most need to know about diet and weight-bearing exercise. I love the examples given of how people have successfully turned their bone health around, and the one third of the book dedicated to bone-healthy, tasty recipes. I highly recommend The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones to anyone wishing to enjoy many years of good bone health.
audlester2 More than 1 year ago
DonnerLibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am one of those people who can only digest non-fiction books full of scientific-based information in small doses at a time. Luckily for me, the layout of this book is perfect for this approach. Colbin breaks each chapter into even smaller, more manageable sections. It was easy for me to read a bit, put the book aside for a bit to digest that information, and then pick up the book again without having to reread to regain my bearings in the book. Colbin uses a lot of references and scientific studies to back up the information she presents, which in some cases flies in the face of traditional thinking about bone health. She truly takes a holistic approach to the subject: explaining how the skeletal system functions when healthy, looking at how problems develop with the bones, and demonstrating how healthy eating, exercise, and mental/emotional/spiritual well-being can improve overall bone health.Then there are the recipes. Colbin focuses on leafy greens as a vegetable source of calcium but she also provides many other recipes as well. A few that I would like to try are Broccoli with Mushrooms, Salmon Frittata with Fresh Dill, Avocado-Cucumber Soup, and Hearty Shrimp Bisque. Colbin also provides recipes for many types of stock, which she says are rich in minerals that we need for our bones.Overall, I found Colbin's book to be very informative and easy to follow. As with any book on health, please talk to your doctor or health care professional before self-diagnosing or self-treating any health condition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago