Non-Dairy Foods for Bone Health

Bone Nutrition isn’t just about calcium.  Crucial to bone nutrients are vitamin D, vitamin C, and magnesium. Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and vitamin C is a crucial part of collagen building, which makes up a big part of the bone matrix. More than half of the magnesium in your body are in your bones.

Other key nutrients include potassium, manganese and folate. A diet that promotes bone health has 2 aspects: helping your body absorb the essential nutrients, (like calcium and magnesium) and preventing bone resorption (process of bones breaking down and releasing minerals into blood).

Foods rich in these key nutrients (such as calcium and magnesium) include:

  1. Dark leafy greens, such as kale, bok choy, and spinach
  2. Vegetables such as celery, peppers, carrots, beets,
  3. Fish such as wild salmon, shrimp, sardines,
  4. Nuts and beans such as quinoa, chickpeas, almonds, and chia seeds

Food that increases bone resorption (aka bone breakdown) :

  1. Excess salt- too much salt increases calcium loss
  2. Alcohol- alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to make new bones, thus decreasing bone density. It increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.


Vegetarian Thai Curry

We did a post a awhile ago on easy vegetarian recipes, where you can use vegetables readily available to you and customize the spice to your own preference. The vegetarian thai red curry is another example of such dish.

I use zucchini, carrots, onions, and mushrooms in the recipe. However, you can adapt this to whatever you prefer, such as adding potatoes or pumpkins for zucchini, or you can substitute with some hearty greens like bok choy or curry


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon Thai Kitchen® Premium Fish Sauce
  • 1 cup onions, cubed
  • 1 cup of carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup of zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup of mushrooms, chopped
  • ¼ cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Spices: curry powder, basil, cayenne pepper (~1 tbsp each)
  • 2 cup of brown rice


  1. Cook brown rice in rice cooker, or a medium pot (~1 hr)
  2. Heat coconut oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
  3. Add chopped onion and carrots to the skillet, cook for ~5 minutes
  4. Add the rest of vegetables, and coconut milk. Cook in medium heat until coconut milk boils.
  5. Stir in the red curry paste, bring to simmer on medium heat.
  6. Stir in the other spices and cook for another 1 minute, then add the cilantro.
  7. Remove from heat and serve hot over rice, Enjoy!


Gomaae: Fast and Easy Spinach dish

Gomaae is a traditional Japanese dish made of cooked spinach in sesame paste-type sauce. As I have mentioned in my last post on Iron-rich vegetarian foods, both spinach and sesames are a great source of iron, making this a perfect little side dish for all those with iron-deficiency anemia. The dish is also really simple and takes only 5 minutes to make…so it great for everyone as well!


  • 1 bunches spinach (preferably with root intact)
  • 1/2 tablespoons sesame paste or tahini
  • 1/2 tablespoons miso (fermented soybean paste)- I prefer white but you can use other miso types as well
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon tamari (aka non-GMO soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, crushed
  • Optional: Japanese seaweed/kelp


  1. Wash spinach well. Blanch spinach in a pot of boiling water until just wilted, 15 to 30 seconds,
  2. Drain spinach and squeeze excess water
  3. Stir together sesame paste, miso, water, and soy sauce to form a sauce.
  4. Toss spinach with sauce and sprinkle with the crushed sesame seeds
  5. Serve it either warm or cold. Enjoy!


Iron-Rich Vegetarian Foods

Many people, especially women, suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. There are several iron-rich vegetarian foods to meet ones daily recommendation of iron. Sometimes having a few listed makes it easier to remember and incorporate on a daily basis.

I felt this was probably something that would be worthy of at least 1 blog post, so here it is….

The recommended daily intake of iron are higher for women than men, and women who are pregnant require even higher daily amount of iron (see Table 1 below).

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iron from NIH

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 0.27 mg* 0.27 mg*
7–12 months 11 mg 11 mg
1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg
4–8 years 10 mg 10 mg
9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg
14–18 years 11 mg 15 mg 27 mg 10 mg
19–50 years 8 mg 18 mg 27 mg 9 mg
51+ years 8 mg 8 mg

* Adequate Intake (AI)

Iron is available in many vegetarian foods such as leafy greens, nuts, beans, and egg yolk. It is important to remember that Vitamin C helps your body to absorb the iron you ingest, so spinach and other greens that are rich in Vitamin C will greatly increase your iron absorption. You can also consider adding citrus fruits and sweet peppers, which are high in Vitamin C, to your meal.

Specific iron amounts (based on daily value of 14 mg of iron) :

  • Spinach: 1 cup of raw spinach provides ~34% of daily value
  • Seaweed, wakame: 1 cup of wakame salad provides ~28% of daily value
  • Sesame seeds: 1 cup of roasted/toasted whole sesame seeds provides ~188% of daily value

The three above ingredients combine perfectly into a salad. You can also enjoy goma-ae: (cooked spinach with sesame dressing).



NIH Office of Dietary Supplement. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet-Iron.


Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers Your Way

I know that not everyone has the luxury of year-around farmers markets like we do in California, so I wanted to share a recipe that will let everyone enjoy a nutritious vegetarian meal no matter what the season is or where you live.Stuffed bell peppers

Bell peppers and onions are probably one of the easiest vegetables to obtain from a local grocery store throughout the season. This dish is versatile enough that If you can’t find fresh produce like zucchinis or mushrooms, you can also substitute it with a frozen version of peas and corns. I prefer using red or yellow bell peppers for a sweeter taste which really compliments the rest of the ingredients.


  • Brown rice (long or short- your preference)
  • 2 bell peppers of your choice
  • 1 cup of mushrooms of your choice
  • 1/4 of onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup of green peas or zucchini, diced
  • 1 tsp of parsley
  • 1 tsp of oregano
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 cup of feta cheese, optional (may substitute with parmesan as well)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook brown rice in a rice cooker or in a medium sauce pan with water (~1 hour).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). 
  3. Remove the top portion of the bell peppers with the stem, then de-seed and cut into half on the long side.
  4. Place the peppers cut-side down on an well-oiled skillet and roast 20 minutes in the oven or until the skin becomes tender, turning slightly brown.
  5. Sauté the onions in olive oil for ~3 minutes or until the onions become translucent.
  6. Add mushrooms, peas, and the rest of vegetables to the onion, along with all the spices , salt & pepper,  for another 5 minutes.
  7. Spoon in the cooked rice, and stir until mixed throughly. Remove from heat and mix in the cheese (optional).
  8. Remove the bell peppers from the oven, turn them over and spoon the mixture into the pepper halves.
  9. Heat the stuffed peppers in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  10. Serve hot!


Healthy Vegetarian Spanish Tortilla

Traditional spanish tortilla includes potatoes, onions and eggs. I like to add mushrooms or bell peppers to make it more healthy. I also like my tortilla to have a little extra kick so I season it with some paprika, curry powder and cumin. Alternatively, I make a version with fresh mushrooms, truffles and truffle salt 

Traditional Spanish tortilla from

It is fun to play with the flavor using different spices (in moderate amount of course). Spices are not only great for adding flavor, they contain powerful antioxidants, essential oils and minerals. Traditional cultures have often taken advantage of these properties by using spices in medicine.


  • 1-1/2 teaspoon olive oil, or more if needed
  • 1 large potatoe, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 mushroom (or about ½ cup), finely chopped (shitake or crimini works the best)
  • ¼ cup bunch fresh parsley or green onions, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste
  • curry powder and cumin (1 tsp each)-optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In an ovenproof skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until it shimmers and place the onions into the skillet, let it cook for about 30 seconds, then add the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Pan fry the potatoes and onions, stirring and tossing occasionally until they begin to soften (about 10 minutes). Then turn off the stove and let it cool.
  3. Beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Stir in the parsley and add the potato-onion mixture and chopped mushroom. Lightly combine.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then gently spoon the egg-potato mixture into the hot skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, and let the mixture simmer for about a minute, or when the edges harden.
  5. Slide the skillet into the preheated oven, and bake until the omelet is puffed and the top is golden, about 10 minutes. Test it by inserting a fork into the center of the omelet, it should come out clean. Cut the omelet into pie-shaped pieces.
  6. Serve cold or hot


Ways to Help Pain Without Medication and Surgery

More medication? How about some yoga instead?

I promised a series about pain, and a series you will have! In my last post, I talked about lifestyle changes that can help with managing pain. Chronic pain requires a long-term plan, and life-style change should be part of that plan. Although, I don’t know about you, but when I am in pain, I usually need some relief NOW. Some of that can come from medication, but what happens when medication isn’t enough? Lots of times the answer is more meds, but as someone who has given people narcotics and seen the dependence it creates without really improving quality of life, I have asked myself if it is really worth adding more. Not to mention the fact that I am always worried about whether I am contributing to the supply of narcotics on the street. Don’t get me wrong – thousands of people are able to get through the day because of their percocet, tramadol and oxycontin. It’s just – at what cost? That is where non-medication based therapies come in. The ones I talk about here are the ones that I see most commonly used successfully. Obviously the list of therapies is endless – I would love to hear your suggestions too!

Nerve Stimulation Based Therapies – There are several ways to help both new and chronic pains with electrical stimulation. the most famous way to do this is with a TENS device. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator. These devices send electrical signals to your nerves and help to control pain signals from them. How they do so is still up for discussion. A simple amazon search yields several options for TENS devices that are very affordable. They are regularly dispensed by pain management doctors and lots of people find lots of relief from them. Electrical stimulators that are more high-tech can often be found at physical therapist and chiropractic offices as well.

Physical Therapy – Many of our joints rely as much on the muscles surrounding them for stability as on the tendons and ligaments keeping them together. When the muscles that support joints become weak, we start to use other, smaller and weaker muscles, creating irritation, scar tissue, and spasm in the process. Physical therapists use a combination of graded exercise training, massage, electrical stimulation, and heat to help people decrease pain and risk of injury. Since NOT moving can worsen the pain, learning how to exercise safely from a physical therapist is essential. It helps people ease back into exercising while minimizing the risk of injury.

Manipulative Therapy – Osteopathic manipulative therapy, Chiropractic adjustment, myo-fascial release, massage and other manipulative therapies can be helpful. Chiropracters have the most training in manipulative therapy. Scientific studies have not shown manipulation to be better than conventional treatment. As for most integrative therapies, the trials are small, but evidence is accumulating. In my experience, these therapies work best when combined with physical therapy.

Acupuncture/Acupressure – There is more and more evidence accumulating to suggest that acupuncture and acupressure are effective therapies for many conditions, but especially for pain and injury. Acupuncture is predicated upon the East Asian theory of health and illness that attributes disease to a blockage in the flow of Qi (pronounced like “chee”). What has always been interesting to me is that Chinese meridians are exactly along the lines of what call fascial planes – the planes into which the various body compartments are separated by tissue called fascia. I remember being at a presentation about how acupuncture might work. Some say that it stimulates our connective tissue cells called fibroblasts to do what they do when we stretch our muscles. All of this is still being worked out in labs and peer reviewed journals. In the mean-while, getting needled to help your pain may not be such a bad idea!

Trigger-point Injections – Trigger points are tender areas on the body where pain can be localized, often co-existing with muscle spasm. While there are physicians who use small needles to introduce steroids into trigger points, there are also several acupuncturists and physical therapists who use dry needling to release trigger points medication free. Here’s a cool video!

What do you do when medication fails to treat your pain? Would love to hear what works for you!

- DS