Tuesday’s blog was all about exercise and osteoporosis and today we need to dive into the flip side of bone density, nutrition. You need to have the right building blocks for bone density. And as important, avoid foods and nutrients that compete with your bone-boosters.
You already know that calcium is queen of bone density. Women need about 1200 mg after 50. If you’re deficient, or your diet has been deficient for a long while, you may need to take more.
Without enough calcium in the diet, the body leaches it from your bones. Testing can falsely show you’re sufficient in calcium. What? Yes. The blood could be sucking the calcium out of your bones.
Be a critical thinker about your diet. Do you drink plenty of high calcium foods? Do you reduce the habits that rob you of calcium? Too much caffeine and or alcohol (and certainly both) can reduce your calcium absorption.
Certain nutrients can compete with calcium too. Iron, for instance is a big competitor. Read more on that below, but essentially, scheduling your supplements throughout the day is best to be sure you absorb the majority of them.
Certain lifestyle diet habits you may choose are associated with lower calcium levels. If you’re a vegan or go gluten-free for instance, I’m not challenging that, but you want to bump your awareness of calcium intake.
I think we’re all aware dairy products are notoriously highest in calcium. Who doesn’t love an excuse to eat cheese? For those of use for whom cheese doesn’t agreed with, or who opt not to do dairy, however there are PLENTY of other ways to get calcium.
See the table below. The yogurt from coconut milk is equal to dairy milk. Read labels on particular brands before you buy to be sure. You also want to check for low sugar! Skip the sweetened by fruit or other flavor options. Sugar will interfere with micronutrient absorption.
|Yogurt, plain||415 mg|
|Almond Milk*||300 mg|
|Salmon, 4 oz||300 mg|
|Cheddar Cheese, 1 oz||307 mg|
|Pink Salmon, canned||181 mg|
|Kale, 1 cup raw||100 mg|
|Broccoli, 1 c||89 mg|
|Sesame Seeds||88 mg|
All items based on a serving size and purely for comparison sake. *enriched
More Than Math
In addition to adding your dietary intake of nutrients, supplements or exposure to the sun (Vit D) you have to consider that not everything you ingest is absorbed. Certain calcium-containing foods, for instance, also contain substances that interfere with absorption. Having your smoothie with greens and almond milk for instance will decrease the total amount of calcium your body can absorb.
Phytates and oxalates (found in nuts, beans, and spinach and kale, respectively) deplete calcium. If you eat a varied diet, interactions are probably minimal but if you have your calcium regularly at the same time you have your greens, beans, or you eat soy products, regularly for instance your intake of calcium may be a false sense of security. Vegans and vegetarians should pay most attention.
Absorption of calcium decreases with age. It’s at about 60% of total dietary intake for young children and decreases by 15-20% into adulthood, continuing to decrease with age. Older adults who eat a wide variety of foods, keep coffee and alcohol to a moderate level and have low risk factors will have improved chances of getting calcium needs met.
Exercise helps. Eating a diet providing adequate Vitamin C, D, E, K, and magnesium also help.
Avoid iron supplementation at the same time you have other supplements since it’s a micronutrient competitor. Plan your iron supplement at midday or in the afternoon, for instance.
Boost Calcium Absorption
Splitting a dose of calcium supplement in two 500 mg boosts absorption compared to a single dose of 1000mg. Calcium comes in various forms, which is often confusing. Different forms are absorbed at different percentages, some as low as 21%. Read carefully the label and ask a pharmacist if you’re uncertain. One form, Calcium Citrate can be taken with or without food and is helpful if you have some digestive irritability.
*Vit D 600 IU daily dose up to age 70 and 800 beyond
Can be manufactured by the body with exposure to the sun
egg yolks, salmon, sardines, oysters, shiitake mushrooms
Certain lifestyle habits deplete Vit D including: conjugated estrogen (Premphase, Premarin, Prempro) Corticosteroids, oral contraceptives, caffeine, gluten-free diet, lack of sunlight, low fat diets, phytates, stress, and vegan/vegetarian diets.
Keep in mind the indicated dosage levels are ideal if you’ve had a history of sufficient intake. Higher doses of micronutrients may be warranted if you’re deficient.
Are you concerned about your bones?
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Calton, Jayson, PhD., and Mira. The Micronutrient Miracle. Rodale Books. New York, NY. 2015
Moyer VA. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation to prevent fractures in adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med 2013;158:691-6.
National Institutes of Health https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/nutrition/
Thulkar J, Singh S, Sharma S, Thulkar T. Preventable risk factors for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Mid-Life Health. 2016;7(3):108-113. doi:10.4103/0976-7800.191013.