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Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the body makes too little bone tissue, or begins losing bone tissue. Sometimes, both things happen. Osteoporosis often comes with age and leads to weaker bones, making breaks more likely. After age 50, nearly half of all women, and a quarter of all men, will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis.

There are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk for osteoporosis and improve bone health. In addition to performing strength-building exercises**, diet plays an important role. In particular, you want to eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.



How Does Calcium Protect Against Osteoporosis?

The two most important nutrients for bone health are calcium and vitamin D.Osteoporosis Clancy Medical Group

In addition to helping build strong bones, calcium strengthens your immune system and aids in muscle and nerve activity. As your body develops, calcium deposits cause bones to grow in density. However, by around age 30, your bones achieve maximum density. For women, menopause brings hormonal changes that further weaken bone density.

The recommended daily dose of calcium is between 1,000 and 1,200 mg. If you do not get this amount from your daily diet, your body leeches calcium from your bones. The goal is a diet that works to replace this calcium, and fuel your body’s needs without it having to pull from itself. Please note, though, that there is a limit to how much calcium your body can absorb in a day – 2,500 mg. Trying to reverse damage caused by calcium-deficiency cannot happen by over-consumption; it takes time. Too much calcium actually damages the body, impairing its ability to absorb other minerals and nutrients and possibly causing kidney stones.

Another thing to consider is that some foods with high calcium content also contain a substance called oxalate, which keeps your body from absorbing the calcium. Rhubarb, spinach, some beans, and beet greens are high in oxalic acid, making them a bad source of calcium. However, they are rich in other nutrients, so don’t avoid them, just don’t use them as a calcium source.

What are the Best Foods for Calcium?

The best sources of calcium in your diet include:

  • Almonds and almond butter
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Collard greens
  • Fat-free or law-fat frozen yogurt
  • Fat-free or low-fat ice cream
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Fat-free or reduced fat milk
  • Kale
  • Soy milk
  • Soybeans (edamame)
  • White beans

How Does Vitamin D Protect against Osteoporosis?

Calcium is vital to bone health, but without vitamin D, your body doesn’t know what to do with it, since this is the nutrient that transports calcium throughout the body.

Vitamin D deficiency in children causes rickets (a condition where the bones bend under the body’s weight). In adults, it leads to osteoporosis. The easiest, most natural way to create vitamin D in your body is through direct sunlight on the bare skin of your arms (or other body part). Between 10 and 15 minutes per day, four times per week, is enough time in direct sunlight to produce ample vitamin D in the body.

If you have a history of skin cancer or are unable to withstand that level of direct sunlight, you may also take a daily supplement with 800 International Units (IU).

What are the Best Food Sources for Vitamin D?

Not many foods contain plentiful amounts of vitamin D. However, there are some options, including:

  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Fortified fat-free or reduced-fat milk
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mushrooms treated with UV
  • Sardines
  • Soy milk
  • Wild salmon

What Foods Impede Your Body’s Ability to Absorb Calcium?

Some foods make it difficult for your body to absorb calcium, even when that food is a rich source of the nutrient.

Beans are a good source of calcium and other nutrients, but they also contain phytates, which block calcium absorption. One way to combat this is by allowing the beans to soak for several hours before cooking them. Then, rinse the beans and cook them in fresh water.

Wheat bran also contains phytates. However, this is typically only an issue when consuming 100 percent wheat bran. In other words, if you eat a bowl of wheat bran cereal, your body will still absorb some of the calcium in the milk.

As stated above, foods high in oxalates or oxalic acid also inhibit calcium absorption.

Protein is important to bone health, but too much actually harms bones. If you follow a diet that includes multiple servings of protein in each meal, your body may lose calcium. Combat this by adding calcium. Dairy products contain both calcium and protein.

Foods that Lead to Calcium Loss

  • Excess sodium: Look at the nutrition labels on your foods; your goal is consuming fewer than 2,300 mg of sodium each day
  • Caffeine: Coffee, tea, and sodas should be consumed in moderation
  • Coffee: Limit intake to no more than 3 cups per day
  • Excess alcohol consumption: Limit intake to 1-2 drinks per day

Soft drinks present a mystery, with some studies suggesting that cola (brown-colored sodas) leads to bone loss. There is no definitive answer yet, though researches do know that the carbonation in sodas do not harm your bones, though caffeine and phosphorous may.