Most people take it for granted that their bones will continue to support them and keep them standing straight and tall, but that’s not always the case. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease, affecting almost 200 million people worldwide. As many as one in three women will experience a painful bone fracture at some point during their life due to osteoporosis.
Most people know that getting enough calcium in their diet helps prevent bone loss but fewer know what type of foods to avoid to keep their bones healthy. Here are five types of foods that may put you at greater risk for osteoporosis.
Foods High in Sodium
Diets high in sodium cause blood pressure elevations in some people, and a high-sodium diet isn’t heart healthy – but that’s not all. It’s bad for your bones. Why? When you have too much sodium in your diet, it causes your kidneys to excrete more calcium. Fortunately, you can offset some of this risk by getting adequate amounts of potassium and calcium in your diet.
The risks of a high-sodium diet are greatest for people who don’t get enough dietary calcium and potassium. The remedy? Help yourself to low-fat dairy foods, green, leafy vegetables and broccoli to increase the amount of these minerals in your diet. Lighten up on the sodium in your diet by eliminating processed and packaged foods and reduce how often you eat out.
Wheat bran is a good source of fiber, but it also contains phytates, compounds that reduce the absorption of calcium. Wheat bran is an ingredient in some high-fiber cereals. If you add milk to your cereal, the phytates in the bran binds to the dairy calcium and reduces its absorption. If you eat cereal with wheat bran, help yourself to an extra serving of milk later in the day or add a cup of yogurt to ensure you’re meeting your body’s calcium requirements.
Beans are another high-fiber food with health benefits, but beans are also a source of calcium-binding phytates. Fortunately, there’s a way to reduce the amount of phytates in the beans you prepare at home. Soak them overnight in warm water at a temperature of around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This significantly reduces the amount of phytates available to block calcium absorption. Beans are filling and many are a good source of antioxidants. Don’t purge them from your diet. Instead, soak them to reduce the amount of phytates they contain.
Soft drinks have a lot of strikes against them. Now there’s another one to add to the list – they’re bad for your bones. The two problematic ingredients in soft drinks are caffeine and phosphoric acid. The link between caffeine and osteoporosis is still in question, but the phosphoric acid-osteoporosis connection is supported by research. When you drink soft drinks that contain phosphoric acid and don’t balance it by eating calcium-containing foods, your body excretes more calcium. That’s not good for the health of your bones.
Vegetables are loaded with heart-healthy fiber and antioxidants, but they also contain compounds called oxalates that block the absorption of calcium. Veggies with the highest amount of oxalates include spinach, Swiss chard, beets, collard greens, carrots, rhubarb and sweet potatoes. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up these healthy foods to protect your bones.
Steaming or boiling vegetables like spinach reduces their oxalate levels. Boiling reduces them the most, although it also destroys some of the vitamins and nutrients. To low your exposure to calcium-depleting oxalates, don’t eat vegetables high in oxalates raw. Keep eating your veggies, but watch how many raw vegetables you eat.
The Bottom Line?
Keep these foods in mind if you’re at high risk for osteoporosis and make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet to keep your bones healthy and strong.
J Am Coll Nutr June 2006 vol. 25 no. suppl 3 271S-276S.
WebMD. “Soda and Osteoporosis: Is There a Connection?”
J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Apr 20;53(8):3027-30.