Some Foods, Beverages Pose Threat to Bone Health

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • It seems like we’re always being told what to eat. But as I noted in a recent post, some foods can be problematic when taken with certain medications.  In fact, they can cause certain medications to become exceptionally hazardous to our overall health.

    Learning about these interactions made me wonder whether certain foods could be problematic for our health even when we’re not taking medications. My research found that specific foods that are touted for their health properties – think spinach, beets, bran, and protein – can actually be detrimental for bone health if too much is consumed.  That’s why it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes a lot of different foods.

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    According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), the foods that can mess with bone health include:

    • Some vegetables. Foods that are high in oxalic acid mess with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. These foods include spinach, rhubarb, beet greens and certain types of beans.  NOF points out that these foods are considered nutritious, but that they shouldn’t be considered sources of calcium because of their oxalic acid.
    • Beans. These foods are high in phytates, which interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Fortunately, the level of phytates can be reduced by soaking the beans in water for several hours. Before cooking, change the liquid so you use fresh water while cooking. On the positive, side, beans also have magnesium, calcium fiber and other nutrients.
    • Wheat bran. Because it has high levels of phytates, 100-percent wheat bran can reduce how well your body can absorb the calcium in other foods that you eat at the same time. Therefore, the milk that you might use with your 100 percent wheat bran cereal may not be totally absorbed.  However, wheat bran in breads and other goods is not as concentrated and, thus, won’t have as much of an impact on your body’s ability to absorb calcium. NOF recommends that if you take calcium supplements, try to time them so you don’t take them when you’re eating 100 percent wheat bran. Instead, aim to take them at least two hours before or after eating the bran.
    • High-protein foods. Consuming protein in a diet requires a careful balance since proteins are digested into amino acids that are used to replace proteins in the body’s cells, tissues and organs. However, too much protein can be bad for bone. Special high protein diets that require eating multiple servings of meat and protein with each meal can cause the body to lose calcium. Because of this, you need to get enough calcium from good sources to offset this loss. On the flip side, many older adults don’t get enough protein in their diets, which also can be harmful to not only their bones, but to their overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that experts recommend that a person’s diet be comprised of between 10 percent to 35 percent protein. 
    • Salty foods.  Foods with a high level of sodium cause the body to lose calcium. Therefore, it’s important to read labels to avoid getting too much salt. High-sodium foods are ones that are marked 20 percent or more for the % Daily Value in the Nutrition Facts label. Especially watch out for high sodium content in processed foods, canned foods and salt that is added to food (especially at restaurants). The recommended amount is 2,400 milligrams or less of sodium per day.

    Beverages also can be problematic. NOF warns about these three groups:

    • Alcohol. Drinking a large amount of alcohol can lead to bone loss. NOF recommends  limiting the amount of alcohol you consume to no more than 2-3 drinks daily.
    • Soft drinks that contain caffeine. Colas can decrease calcium absorption and speed up bone loss.  The problem is the caffeine and phosphorous contributes to bone loss. Experts are divided as to whether Americans get too much phosphorous (which also is part of bones) or too little calcium. Therefore, only drink soft drinks in moderation and opt when possible to drink milk and beverages that have been fortified with calcium.
    • Coffee and tea. The same moderation holds true for these beverages, due to their caffeine levels.  NOF warns that drinking more than three cups of java daily can interfere with calcium absorption and thus, cause loss of bone.

    Primary Sources for Shareposts:

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    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Protein.

    National Osteoporosis Foundation. (nd). Food and your bones.

Published On: October 07, 2013

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