One reason why the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is so versatile, is that vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores can all successfully save their bones and improve their overall health through the Program’s clinical nutrition plan. While meat is not out-of-bounds, it’s not emphasized either, and meat-free options can be found throughout the Program and on this site.
The Program’s emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables is quite a shift from the meat-heavy, grain-filled diet of the average Westerner. So for some, it may be easy to assume that reducing or eliminating meat will result in nutritional deficiencies, since it’s contrary to mainstream “wisdom.”
But that’s simply not the case. Nutrients that are typically associated with meat, such as zinc, can also be found in non-animal foods. That’s especially good news as we’re in the midst of cold and flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, and zinc is an important immune-booster.
You’ll see what I mean about non-animal sources of zinc in today’s recipe, which is for a zinc-rich dish that’s completely meatless.
So let’s begin with uncovering the healthful properties of zinc, both for your bones and your overall health.
Zinc For Bones?
It’s not likely that your doctor mentioned zinc when you were diagnosed with osteoporosis. But zinc actually plays a very important role in building your bones. It’s a Foundation Supplement on the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, so you know its role in bone health is backed by science.
Now let’s take a look at how zinc helps your bones:
- Zinc is a moiety in the enzyme alkaline phosphatase, which has a pH of 10, making it a very alkaline substance. Preosteoblasts are easy to recognize due to their expression of alkaline phosphatase, which is associated with the maturation and mineralization of the bone matrix. Research strongly suggests that alkaline phosphatase has the ability to increase phosphorus concentrations by removing phosphorus inhibitors.1
- Zinc increases new bone formation by enhancing proliferation of osteoblasts (bone-building cells) and synthesis of collagen,2 and by inhibiting bone resorption by hampering the differentiation of new osteoclasts and stimulating the apoptotic death of mature osteoclasts.3
- Increasing the amount of zinc-rich foods in the diet “causes an increase in bone mass,”3 with zinc ingestion showing a significant “restorative effect on bone loss under various pathophysiologic conditions including aging, …estrogen deficiency, …and fracture healing.”3 In fact, this particular study from 2010 goes on to say that “Zinc compounds may be designed as new supplementation factor in the prevention and therapy of osteoporosis.”3 Clearly, supplementing with zinc for osteoporosis is a must!
- Zinc enhances the bone-building effects of estrogen.4
- Zinc helps transport Vitamin D into bone cells where it can perform its rejuvenating work.
- Along with copper and manganese, zinc forms superoxide dismutase (SOD), a vital antioxidant that your body must have to prevent total devastation via oxidative damage. That’s because superoxide dismutase dismantles the most common and potent free radicals of all: peroxide and superoxide. It does this via dismutation – hence its name. And without zinc, your body can’t synthesize this crucial trio.
- Zinc plays a direct and crucial role in fracture healing. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial of 60 participants with long-bone fractures, zinc supplementation for 60 days stimulated fracture healing. In fact, the zinc group experienced 80% healing of their fractures, while the control group experienced only 50% healing. Interestingly, the researchers concluded that “since there have been no acceptable pharmacological agent for the therapy of bone fracture, zinc compound may play a unique role in this regard.”5
Benefits Beyond Bones: Zinc Boosts Overall Health
Zinc is essential for all kinds of body functions, including the following.
- Your immune system must have zinc to function properly. It’s been shown that zinc ingestion shortens the duration of colds, but how it is able to have such a protective effect is not as well known. Research points to zinc’s ability to influence “multiple aspects of the immune system”4 including the skin’s ability to act as a barrier against pathogens and the development and mediation of immune cells. Additionally, macrophages (pivotal immunologic cells) are significantly compromised in the presence of zinc deficiency.6
- Skin problems, such as acne and canker sores, can be attributed in some cases to a lack of zinc.
- Zinc deficiency has been found in those with anorexia, which ties in to its ability to influence taste and appetite. Severe zinc deficiency can result in a loss of taste and/or appetite.
- Research points to zinc’s role in healing duodenal and gastric ulcers. When zinc was given to rats with induced ulcers, the zinc “had a greater antacid effect than sodium bicarbonate; and moreover, the potency of its anti-peptic action…was higher than those of several other drugs (sodium bicarbonate, sucrose sulfate and aceglutamide aluminum).”7 This is great news, since common antacid drugs do great harm to your bones.
- Good vision depends on the interplay between zinc and Vitamin A. These two nutrients work together to sense light and send nerve impulses to the brain.
- A lack of zinc has a negative effect on male reproductive health, with sperm motility and number adversely affected in cases of a low-zinc diet.
Top Foods Rich In Zinc
Here are the top zinc-rich foods, both animal and plant-based:
- Sesame seeds*
- Shitake mushrooms
- Garbanzo beans* (chickpeas)
- Green peas*
- Pumpkin seeds*
- Beet greens
As you can see, there are a great many foods that contain this vital trace mineral. The following recipe contains several of them. I encourage you to create your own zinc-rich dish using combinations of the above foods!
This recipe makes an excellent side dish or, with the addition of a protein such as quinoa, a main dish.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup raw cashews (soaked for 15 mins if needed) – use ⅓ cup for creamier sauce
- 1 teaspoon curry
- 1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
- ¾ cup chickpeas
- 1 cup chopped kale
- Sea salt to taste
- Parsley and pumpkin seeds for garnish
- Place the onion, garlic cloves, ginger, and bell pepper in a blender with a few tablespoons of water. Blend until vegetables are a smooth puree.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Pour the puree into the skillet and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place the tomatoes and cashews in the blender (no need to wash it first) and blend until smooth.
- Pour the tomato-cashew puree into the hot skillet and add the curry. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the mushrooms and chickpeas; add water as needed (start with ½ cup) and salt to taste.
- Cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are done.
- Stir in the kale, adjust seasonings, and remove from heat.
- Garnish with parsley and pumpkin seeds, and serve over a high-protein grain such as quinoa if you like.
Creative Ways To Get The Bone-Smart Nutrients You Need
The Osteoporosis Reversal Program is based on clinical nutrition, and it revolves around key foods and dishes that, when combined with exercise and other healthful lifestyle factors, help reverse bone loss and rejuvenate your bones.
While the Program includes a Recipe Sampler, many Savers asked for a cookbook over the years. So I created Bone Appétit, a unique collection of bone-healthy recipes that celebrates the variety and versatility of the Program’s many Foundation Foods.
Bone Appétit contains an entire vegetarian section, and for many of the recipes that do contain meat or animal products, it’s simple to use a meat substitute or simply leave the meat out altogether. And of course, if you do like to eat meat and want to continue to do so on the Program, with Bone Appétit you can also enjoy meat dishes without upsetting your bone health goals.
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!
I’d love to hear what you think of today’s recipe! Please feel free to share your experience or discuss any other topic covered in today’s post by leaving a comment below.
Till next time,
1 Clarke, Bart. “Normal Bone Anatomy and Physiology.” Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 3. (2008): S131-S139. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3152283/
2 Seo, Hyun-Ju, et al. “Zinc may increase bone formation through stimulating cell proliferation, alkaline phosphatase activity and collagen synthesis in osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells.” Nutr Res Pract. 4. 5. (2010): 356-361. Web. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2981717/
3 Yamaguchi, M. “Role of nutritional zinc in the prevention of osteoporosis.” Mol Cell Biochem. 338. 1-2. (2010): 241-254. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20035439
4 Costello, Leslie C., et al. “The Important Role of Osteoblasts and Citrate Production in Bone Formation: “Osteoblast Citration” as a New Concept for an Old Relationship.” Open Bone J. (2012). Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3815682/
5 Mahdavi, Roshan M., et al. :Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Fracture Healing of Long bones.” 13. 4. (2008): 307-314. Web. https://pajoohande.sbmu.ac.ir/browse.php?a_id=695&sid=1&slc_lang=en
6 Shankar, A.H. and Prasad, A. S. “Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection.” 68. 2. (1998): 447S-463S. Web. https://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/68/2/447S.abstract
7 Seiki, M., et al. “Studies on anti-ulcer effects of a new compound, zinc L-carnosine (Z-103).” 95. 5. (1990): 257-269. Web. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/2113032