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For Better Bone Health, Eat This, Not That!

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Bones & Joints related image Photo: Getty Images

If anyone looked at my overall diet, they might wonder how I am still standing. Okay, I am not a horrible eater, but I do not necessarily take the time to make sure I eat a continuously healthy and vitamin-enriched diet. Who has the time? I have three teenage boys, a home, and several writing endeavors to pursue. Eating usually becomes that one last thing to do as opposed to an actual event in my household.

However, I am in my 40s and have to make sure I keep a more solid focus on my health. Fortunately, I exercise every day and have done so since I was 12. At least I have that habit in my favor. However, that habit should be consciously paired with a well-balanced diet. In researching a variety of foods, I discovered a list of the top six that can essentially wreak havoc on our bones. Sadly, I enjoy most of these foods that should be either avoided, or, at the very least, drastically minimized.

Number one on the list – and no surprise here – is salt. This dietary staple pulls an appreciable amount of calcium from the bones. For every 2,300 milligrams of sodium you consume, you lose roughly 40 milligrams of calcium. The salt-heavy diets in America are not doing us many favors, and reaching for processed foods or the ease of drive-through service won’t do much for the health of your bones. Most of our sodium intake comes not from table salt, but from processed foods, so if you want to strengthen your bones, avoid processed and deli meats, frozen meals, canned soup, and pizza, as well as canned vegetables and fast food.

Soft drinks are a no-no, as well. The phosphoric acid in them that creates that refreshing fizziness comes like a thief in the night, robbing your bones of the calcium you need, accelerating the rate at which it is excreted through the urine. Instead of reaching for a diet cola, opt for a glass of water, milk, or calcium-enriched orange juice. Satisfy your cravings for something sweet with a yogurt-infused fruit smoothie.

Next up on the chopping block is caffeine. Luckily, I am not a coffee drinker, and I rarely drink tea. However, I am a self-proclaimed Diet Coke lover, but in the last year, I have limited my consumption of that to about two glasses a week. For every 100 milligrams of caffeine you drink, you lose about six milligrams of calcium. Again, opt for water, orange juice, or milk. If you do need that jump-start in the morning that only a hot cup of coffee seems to provide, then limit your intake to no more than two cups a day.

We all know that vitamin A is good for our eyes and our immune systems, but too much of a good thing can produce adverse effects. The American diet is rich in vitamin A, and it is not unusual to exceed the recommended daily allotment of 5,000 IUs. Recent research has shown that those who consume more than 5,000 IUs per day have double the fracture rate than those who consume less than 1600 IUs per day. To reduce the amount of vitamin A you consume, switch to low-fat or nonfat dairy products and eat egg whites rather than the whole egg. If your multivitamin is high in vitamin A, switch to a brand that isn’t.

While I do not drink alcohol, it is a popular beverage of choice for celebrations or just relaxing after a long day at work. Alcohol actually works as a calcium blocker, preventing those bone-building minerals you eat from being absorbed. Alcohol can also interfere with proper healing if you do sustain a broken bone. Experts suggest limiting your intake of alcohol to just one drink per day.

Finally, hydrogenated oils are a vicious culprit. Sure, that freshly-baked muffin behind the counter looks good, but you might want to think twice before ordering it. In commercial baking, the process of hydrogenation which turns the liquid vegetable oil into solid oils destroys the vitamin K in the oils. Consider making your own muffins and baked goods at home using canola oil. Also, eat more leafy greens to boost your intake of vitamin K.

Wow! This list makes it seem like you cannot enjoy anything anymore at the risk of compromising the health of your bones. The underlying message is to learn to use everything in moderation and find healthy substitutes that still deliver the flavor and comfort of the stuff that loves to sneak in and sabotage your bones.

Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your diet and overall bone health.


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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.