Eating habits to avoid accelerating bone loss, says the dietician: eat this, not that

As the years go by, you may find that your appearance starts to change: some fine lines, changes to your hair, a better style (what were we thinking 10 years ago?). But beyond the obvious changes in appearance, your bones are busy rebuilding and breaking. Bone mass peaks at age 30, and after age 40, bones begin to break down faster than they rebuild.

If this bone loss occurs too quickly, you may be at increased risk for osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens bones, often leading to fractures. Thankfully, you have some control over how slowly or quickly your bones break with your lifestyle choices, including exercise and eating habits.

Here are six eating habits to prevent accelerating bone loss, according to experts. Here’s what you need to avoid for strong bones. So, don’t miss out on the best supplements to prevent bone loss.

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Many soft drinks, especially colas, have phosphoric acid added to give them a tangy flavor. If cola is your favorite drink, it could accelerate bone loss.

“When blood phosphorus levels are elevated (hyperphosphatemia), the body breaks down calcium from tissues such as bones and teeth to reduce blood phosphorus levels,” says Andrew Akhaphong, MS, RD, LD.

This bone loss can lead to great consequences. A 12-year study published in Menopause followed over 70,000 postmenopausal women and discovered it those who drank more than 2 servings of soda a day had a 26% higher risk of hip fracture than women who did not drink soda.

“Consider trying soda water like Aha, Bubbly, or LA Croix to reduce phosphorus intake from soda pop,” Akhaphong says. “Not a fan of soda water? Challenge yourself in the habit of buying smaller cans of soda pop and reducing the amount you drink each day.”

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Unsurprisingly, highly processed, salt-laden foods can be bad for your health.

“Eating a salt-rich diet can not only increase blood pressure, but it can also increase the risk of osteoporosis,” says Toby Smithson, RD, founder of DiabetesEveryDay and author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies.

While some sodium is needed to regulate fluids and transmit electrical signals in the body, too good a thing can cause serious bone problems. Too much salt causes calcium to be extracted from the bones to keep the body’s acid-base balance in a safe area.

Related: 19 best low sodium fast food orders

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Almost all of the calcium in your body is found in the bones. Hence, it is not surprising that not eating enough calcium has an effect on bone health. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium for adults is 1,000 milligrams per day. This amount increases to 1,200 milligrams per day after age 51.

To absorb all the calcium you are eating, you will need enough vitamin D. Without it, your body will have a hard time absorbing and using the calcium you get in your diet. Vitamin D also plays a more direct role in bone health as the cells responsible for bone growth need it to do their job. Adults need 15 micrograms of vitamin D per day. Check out these popular vitamin D foods to eat every day.

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“Many people think of calcium and vitamin D when it comes to bone health, but consuming adequate protein is also essential to prevent osteoporosis,” says FRESH Nutrition’s Sharon Puello MA RD CDN CDCES.

Protein helps your body absorb more calcium, reduce bone breakdown, and increase lean muscle mass and strength which can help improve bone density, according to a 2014 review published in Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care.

Puello suggests adding at least one high-protein food to each meal as an easy way to eat enough for bone health each day. Protein foods include animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy as well as plant-based protein choices.

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Dietary guidelines for Americans recommends at least 1 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 to 4 cups of vegetables each day. While eating this amount of products every day can help you get the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need, it can also help slow bone loss.

How do fruits and vegetables work their magic on the bones? The body steals calcium from bones to help neutralize an acidic environment from eating or drinking sodas, salty foods, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol. Many fruits and vegetables have an alkalizing effect on the body, helping to neutralize acids so that calcium can stay exactly where it needs to be: in the bones.

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A 2019 review in Drug and alcohol addiction found a relationship between alcohol consumption and osteoporosis. People who drank one to two drinks a day increased their risk of osteoporosis by 34% compared to non-drinkers, and drinking more than two drinks a day increased the risk by 63%.

So what’s the reason why a few cocktails a day are so bad for your bones? Alcohol can accelerate bone loss as it interferes with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D, two essential nutrients for healthy and strong bones. It also increases the levels of cortisol in the body, a stress hormone that accelerates bone breakdown and prevents bones from rebuilding.

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