Growing up our mothers served (and sometimes force-fed) us healthy foods that would build strong bones. As adults, we have picked up the banner of healthy eating and continued to fill our bodies with enriching foods that keep them strong (with an occasional rabbit trail to our favorite fast-food restaurant or ice cream shop). While it’s important to know what foods will fortify our bones, it’s just as important to recognize which foods are eating away at them. A number of everyday foods and drinks contain substances that weaken bones, pulling out their minerals and preventing growth. How many of these foods are in your daily diet?
Is your diet high in sodium? Too much salt can cause your bones to leach calcium. Photo By Chris Blakeley/Courtesy Flickr.
Salt: Sodium draws calcium out of our bones. For every 2,300 milligrams of sodium we intake, we lost about 40 milligrams of calcium. The USDA recommends that we intake no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, but most Americans have a diet that includes double that amount, meaning twice the calcium is likely being sucked from our bones. To reduce your sodium intake, cut back on processed foods (frozen, canned and fast food), and replace with fresh ingredients.
Soda: Soft drinks threaten our bones on multiple levels. First, many of us will reach for a soda before we do a glass of milk, juice or even tea. Sodas are nutrient-empty drinks, laden with sugar or sweeteners but lacking in vitamins and healthy essentials that can be found in other beverages. Soft drinks also contain phosphoric acid, which causes the blood’s acidity to rise. To normalize the blood’s pH levels, the body draws calcium out of the bones.
Finally, sodas contain caffeine, which also causes bones to leach calcium. The numbers on caffeine aren’t terrible—we lose 6 milligrams of calcium for ever 100 milligrams of caffeine (about the size of a standard cup of coffee)—but when you consider the amount of caffeine many Americans drink on a daily basis, the numbers start to add up.
Too much Vitamin A, which can be found in foods such as liver, eggs and carrots, can cause bones to break down. Photo By Laura Taylor/Courtesy Flickr.
Vitamin A: It’s like the old saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad. Vitamin A maintains our vision and immune system and is important in bone growth, but when taken in excess, Vitamin A can trigger the body to release osteoclasts, which break down bones. Scientists also think that too much Vitamin A can interfere with Vitamin D, which helps preserve bones.
Vitamin A comes in many forms, from eggs and dairy products to retinol-infused skin creams. If you’re worried you may be getting too much Vitamin A, switch to egg whites, eat low-fat dairy products and make sure your multivitamin doesn’t contain excessive amounts of this vitamin. You might want to check your skin care products, too.
Alcohol: Alcohol prevents calcium from being absorbed in the body, and excessive alcohol intake prevents bones from regenerating after an injury. If you’re going to drink, keep it to one glass a day—for more reasons than one.
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.