Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become weak, brittle, and susceptible to fracture. Osteoporosis is thought to be caused, in part, by poor calcium intake and/or absorption throughout life. Some of the risk factors for being diagnosed with osteoporosis are genetic and therefore unchangeable, while other risk factors are lifestyle-based and therefore within the patient’s power to alter. Eating foods that inhibit the absorption of calcium is a lifestyle choice that can be improved with a few simple adjustments to the diet.
It’s no secret that there are a lot of interactions going on between our bodies and the foods we eat. We must absorb the different nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from our food in order to stay healthy throughout life. Some foods can enhance the absorption of certain nutrients while also inhibiting the absorption of others. This is very much the case with many of the foods that affect calcium absorption.
There are three main reasons that food may inhibit calcium absorption—it contains phytates or phytic acid, it contains oxalic acid, or it promotes calcium flushing. There are various foods that fall under these three reasons, as we discuss below:
Foods Containing Phytates or Phytic Acid
Phytates and phytic acid are actually antioxidants that have some proven health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties and reducing glycemic load. But many people also worry about their tendency to bind to certain nutrients in the body like calcium, zinc, iron, and manganese, inhibiting their absorption. Foods that contain higher levels of phytates include:
- Whole grains (wheat bran, oats, rice, etc.)
- Legumes and beans
- Nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, almonds)
- Sesame seeds
However, don’t put down that bowl of wheat bran cereal just yet! If you’re worried about phytates affecting your calcium absorption, there is a solution. Simply soak phytate-heavy foods in an acidic liquid medium, such as yogurt or buttermilk, for several hours or overnight before cooking to reduce their phytate content (and improve their taste!).
Foods Containing Oxalates or Oxalic Acid
Just like phytates, oxalates and oxalic acid are accused of inhibiting calcium absorption in the body by binding to it. Also, just like phytates, oxalic acid has other proven health benefits that mean these foods should never be avoided entirely. Foods high in oxalic acid include:
- Beet greens
- Sweet potatoes
All these foods contain other vitamins and minerals that the body needs for proper functioning but should be consumed in moderation if you are prone to bone weakness.
Foods That Flush Out Calcium
The next foods don’t get credit for having other health-boosting benefits that outweigh the risk of them inhibiting calcium absorption—these are foods you should try to avoid anyway. They are known to promote the flushing of calcium out of the blood by the kidneys, which causes the body to steal the calcium it needs from the bones. These foods include:
- Salty snacks
- Salty cheeses
If you must drink alcohol, only drink in moderation and never consume more than 2-3 drinks in one day. Avoid any food that contains 20% or more of your recommended daily sodium intake.
The Balanced Solution
Many of the foods listed above, such as whole grains, spinach, and legumes, are good for you and should not be excluded from your diet unless specifically directed to do so by a reputable medical professional or nutrition expert. However, you can limit their calcium-inhibiting effects by strategically timing your food consumption. Only eat calcium-rich foods, like milk, low-sodium cheeses, and yogurt, at least two hours before or after eating foods that inhibit calcium absorption. Keeping these foods separate in your digestive tract is key to making the most out of your diet and best-promoting your health.
Osteoporosis Care with Regenerative Medicine
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you should speak with a nutrition expert about what changes you can make in your diet to best manage the disease. You may also want to consider other proven regenerative medicine treatments for osteoporosis, such as stem cell therapy. Find a regenerative medicine practitioner in your area using our convenient search tool at Regenerative Medicine Now.