Calcium-containing foods: How to eat healthily for osteoporosis
A healthy and balanced diet containing sufficient vitamins, calcium and protein supports bone formation. This enables a good bone structure to develop even in childhood and adolescence. Proper nutrition is also important for slowing down bone loss. This should be agreed with your doctor or a nutritionist. Develop a nutritional plan with a specialist to meet your individual nutritional needs.
Calcium requirement per day 1,000 milligrams: Calcium provides substance for bones
Sufficient calcium intake is essential in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. This is because: Calcium is one of the main components of our bones: Without calcium, bones cannot form.
The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends adults consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.1 This is also the value recommended by the Osteology Umbrella Organisation (DVO). Overall, 46 percent of men and 55 percent of women consume less than the recommended amount of calcium.2
In case of calcium deficiency, the body gets the necessary mineral from the bones. This can lead to increased bone loss. Calcium-rich products such as milk, fennel or almonds allows health-conscious people to do all they can to avoid the condition and those who are already ill to improve their therapy.
What foods contain calcium?
Milk and dairy products are particularly rich in calcium - anyone who drinks milk daily and eats yoghurt or cheese is helping their bones. In addition to calcium-rich mineral water, the following foods are good sources of calcium:
- whole milk
- soya beans
- white beans
- sesame seeds
- chia seeds
- Brazil nuts
Vitamin D: Key role in the absorption of calcium
Vitamin D ensures optimal absorption of calcium in the bones. Vitamin D levels should be checked regularly by a doctor to ensure optimal absorption of calcium. If necessary, the doctor may prescribe Vitamin D supplements.
If you spend a lot of time in the fresh air, your bones will be even stronger because the body produces the vitamin using UV rays from the sun. In contrast, we consume very little Vitamin D in food. Examples of foods that contain the so-called "sun vitamin" are:
- eel (smoked)
- cod liver oil
- egg yolk
Animal and vegetable proteins
Proteins are important components of healthy bones. As there are several types of proteins, the diet should contain a combination of vegetable and animal proteins. Dairy products (whole milk, yogurt, cheese) and eggs are especially good sources of protein. In terms of plants, legumes such as soya, lentils and peas are particularly beneficial.
What about lactose intolerance?
A calcium-rich diet is good for the bones. However, some people do not tolerate lactose - the sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance leads to digestive problems, abdominal pain and diarrhoea if lactose is consumed. Therefore, dairy products should be avoided. In order to still get enough calcium, osteoporosis patients must therefore ensure they consume the mineral from other food sources.
Lactose-free is better than dairy-free
Lactose-free milk and dairy products are a great alternative for people with lactose intolerance. They do not contain the milk sugar. Lactose-free dairy products still contain all the other nutrients - including the essential calcium.
Calcium robbers: These foods should be avoided in osteoporosis
A calcium-rich diet is good for the bones. But be careful: Some ingredients deprive the body of the calcium. You should abstain from these calcium robbers to ensure your diet is successful:
Excessive intake of phosphate can lead to increased degradation of calcium from the bones and obstruct the uptake of the mineral through the intestine. Phosphate is found in many foods, such as ready meals, fast foods, chips, cola, fizzy drinks, processed cheese, meat extracts and yeast. Meat generally contains a lot of phosphate, especially pork and sausages.
It can combine with calcium in the intestine and reduce its absorption during metabolism. For example, beetroot, spinach, chard and rhubarb contain a lot of oxalic acid.
Acts like oxalic acid. It can combine with calcium, trace elements or minerals in the intestine and make absorption during metabolism more difficult. Phytate occurs among other things in wheat, barley and rye bran. Bread made from bran-free cereals is particularly good for osteoporosis patients.
Promotes calcium excretion in urine. Therefore, you should refrain from high-salt foods and only add a moderate amount of salt during cooking.
Osteoporosis and Coffee: Three to four cups a day doesn’t weaken the bones
For a long time, coffee was considered to be a risk factor for osteoporotic bone fractures because caffeine causes increased calcium excretion. Swedish researchers have investigated these relationships in a large study involving 61,433 women born from 1914 to 1948. 3 Moderate coffee consumption of three to four cups a day is harmless. Many people drink their coffee with plenty of milk, which also benefits their calcium intake.
Smoking furthers osteoporosis
Another reason to stop smoking: The probability of suffering an osteoporotic bone fracture is significantly higher for smokers than non-smokers. According to one study, men are even more affected than women among smokers. Fifty-eight percent of smokers had lower bone density than a healthy average adult.4
Learn more about suitable therapy for osteoporosis here:
1 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung; Empfohlene Zufuhr Calcium. Online published on: www.dge.de/wissenschaft/referenzwerte/calcium/ (Last accessed 05.07.2018)
2 MRI – Max Ruber Institut, Bundesforschungsinstitut für Ernährung und Lebensmittel: Ergebnisbericht Teil 2; Nationale Verzehrsstudie II, Karlsruhe 2008: Die bundesweite Befragung zur Ernährung von Jugendlichen und Erwachsenen
3 Hallström H et al. Am J Epidemiol 2013;178(6):898-909
4 Jaramillo JD et al. Ann Am Thorac Soc 2015;12(5):648-656.