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The ocean is a reservoir of minerals, so it’s useful to include foods from the sea in the diet regularly. Sea salt, fish and seafood as well as sea vegetables provide an incredible diversity of minerals. It is important to choose fish and seafood from sustainable fisheries and seek species low in contaminants from a clean environment.
New Zealand is surrounded by some of the coldest and cleanest waters in the world, so we are fortunate with our seafood. Stewart Island salmon is rich in omegas and we don’t need a big portion to reach our recommended intake. One fillet can be enough in the likes of a quiche to feed a small family.
Nori is the sea vegetable which wraps around sushi. Nori snacks are available in a foil packet in supermarkets and can be a good lunch box addition to provide a salty, healthy alternative to chips. You can also buy nori sheets in sushi-making kits and can cut these up with scissors to add to soups and stir-fries for a nutritional boost.
Some cultures, such as the Japanese, have always consumed a lot of seafood and sea vegetables and, interestingly, many of these cultures have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
When we have a mineral-rich diet, our bones tend to be stronger. When we look at the countries with the highest prevalence of osteoporosis, it is the Western countries that consume a lot of processed foods. Processed foods such as breads, pastries, chips and biscuits deplete minerals from our bodies, including our bones, so take away from our nutrient stores rather than nourishing.
Calcium is one of the minerals important for bones, but it is not the only one and please keep in mind, the dairy industry had to have very clever marketing in the 1980s when low-fat diets were popular and so they have trained people believe that dairy is required for calcium for bones. Dairy products do offer a source of calcium, but we didn’t traditionally consume it — some cultures still don’t and yet are very healthy, without osteoporosis, and live long lives. Healthy bones require adequate caloric intake to maintain oestrogen, weight-bearing exercise such as daily walks, minerals including boron, magnesium, silica and phosphorus and vitamins D and K, which we can get from a varied wholefood diet and time outdoors.
Dee Copland is a Dunedin naturopath and nutritionist. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.