Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Font Size
A
A
A

Osteoporosis Diet Dangers: Foods to Avoid

Salt, soda, caffeine: Could your daily diet be damaging your bones -- even leading to osteoporosis?
By
WebMD Feature

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is essential for warding off osteoporosis. For even stronger bones, avoid these everyday osteoporosis diet dangers.

Osteoporosis Diet Danger 1: Salt Is Bad for the Bone!

Salt can pose a great obstacle to a sturdy skeleton. Research has found that postmenopausal women with a high-salt diet lose more bone minerals than other women of the same age.   

"The salt content of the typical American diet is one of the reasons why calcium requirements are so high," says Linda K. Massey, PhD, RD, a professor of human nutrition at Washington State University in Spokane.

Massey says studies show that regular table salt, not simply sodium, causes calcium loss, weakening bones with time. That’s important because Americans get about 90% of our sodium through salt.

We also get about twice as much sodium as we should. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day – equal to a teaspoon of salt. But most Americans get at least 4,000 milligrams a day.

"Generally speaking, for every 2,300 milligrams of sodium you take in, about 40 milligrams of calcium is lost in the urine," Massey explains.

Getting the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D every day helps offset bone loss from salt.

  • Adults up to age 50 require 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily -- the equivalent of three 8-ounce glasses of milk.
  • Older adults need 1,200 milligrams of daily calcium – about half a glass more of milk.

As for vitamin D:

  • People need 200 International Units (IU) of vitamin D a day until age 50.
  • Adults need 400 IU of vitamin D from the ages of 51 to 70 years.
  • Seniors need 600 IU of vitamin D a day after age 70.

Good sources of vitamin D are natural sunlight and from fortified milk, egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and supplements.

Of all the dangers to bone, salt is perhaps the hardest to curb. Salt shows up in nearly all processed foods, including whole grain breads, breakfast cereals, and fast foods.

Removing the salt shaker from the table, and cooking without added salt, helps. But avoiding processed foods provides the biggest bang for the buck. Processed foods supply 75% of the sodium we eat.

If you want to get a grip on this diet danger, here are some of the highest-salt foods to limit or avoid. Choose no-added salt versions whenever possible.

  • Processed meats, such as deli turkey and ham, and hot dogs
  • Fast food, such as pizza, burgers, tacos, and fries
  • Processed foods, including regular and reduced-calorie frozen meals
  • Regular canned soups and vegetables and vegetable juices
  • Baked products, including breads and breakfast cereals

Scan food labels for sodium content. There's a good chance the majority of it comes from salt, so the lower the sodium, the better for bones.

When you dine out, check the web sites of your favorite restaurants for the sodium content of the dishes you order most often. If your typical meals exceed 800 milligrams of sodium, opt for lower-sodium alternatives, such as grilled fish or chicken, steamed vegetables, baked potato, and salad. Request that your meal be prepared without salt, too.

If you think you can’t lower your salt sufficiently, eat plenty of potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, tomatoes, and orange juice. Potassium may help decrease the loss of calcium.

1 | 2 | 3
Next Article:

Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

How do you exercise for strong bones?