Maintaining An Osteoporosis-Friendly Diet: Three Things You Need To Know

Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease that causes decreased bone mass and bone quality. In the United States, experts estimate that around 10 million people already have the disease, while another 18 million Americans are at risk of getting the disease. Various factors, including genetics, lifestyle and alcohol intake, can all increase the risk of osteoporosis, but dietary changes can help mitigate some of the risk. If a doctor diagnoses you with osteoporosis, find out how your diet can help you deal with the problem.

Salt is bad

Excess intake of salt can cause serious problems for somebody with osteoporosis. Salty food increases the amount of calcium that passes through your body in your urine. For every 2,300 milligrams of salt you consume, it leads to a 40-milligram calcium loss. In turn, this loss of calcium can lead to more severe osteoporosis, as calcium is a vital building block for healthy bones.

Of course, part of the problem is that many people are unaware of their salt intake. Dietary guidelines state that you should have no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, but many Americans consume nearly double this amount. As such, if you suffer with osteoporosis, you should carefully monitor your diet to minimize salt where possible.

Calcium absorption is a complex matter

There are plenty of healthy foods that are calcium-rich. The extra calcium intake you derive from these ingredients can replace or slow down bone loss, so it's important to have a diet that is high in these foods. Calcium-rich foods include:

  • Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt.

  • Canned sardines with bones.

  • Kale, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables.

Many supermarkets now also sell foods fortified with calcium to help people who need to boost their intake. Juices, bread, snacks and rice milk are all available with added calcium.

However, to maintain calcium levels, you cannot just think about foods that are high in calcium. While these ingredients are vital, you must also watch out for foods and ingredients that can counter the effects of calcium-rich food.

Some foods are high in oxalates or oxalic acid. This chemical stops the body absorbing calcium in the food, so it's best to minimize your intake of foods high in this chemical. Examples include spinach and rhubarb. Foods rich in phytates can also interfere with calcium absorption. As such, you should also monitor your intake of foods like this, which include wheat bran and legumes.

There are various ways to boost your vitamin D intake

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for people with osteoporosis. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, which in turn helps improve bone strength and density. Experts recommend that adults under 50 get 400 to 800 international units (IU). Over this age, the recommended intake increases to 800 to 1,000 IU.

Foods that are naturally high in vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. Egg yolks and liver are also rich sources. Manufacturers now also often fortify dairy products with extra vitamin D. Boost your vitamin D intake by stuffing your diet full of these foods.

However, 15 minutes of exposure to the sun every day can also help you get the vitamin D you need. Of course, if you live in a colder climate, this isn't always possible, so vitamin D supplements are another alternative you can consider to boost your intake. Doctors agree that it's generally better to get your vitamin D from natural sources, but supplements are a useful boost. You should take separate calcium and vitamin D supplements, as calcium can interfere with other nutrients like vitamin D.

A healthy diet is vital to anyone with osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor, such as those at Sarasota Arthritis Center, for more advice and information.