Nutritional therapy, like allopathic medicine, recognizes that getting enough dietary calcium is important in treating and preventing osteoporosis. However, the dietary needs for this condition are more complex than calcium alone. Several nutritional factors either help or hinder the absorption and retention of calcium. It's interesting to note that people in parts of the world where calcium intake is low have some of the lowest rates of osteoporosis. The following factors may play a role in this fact:
- Excessive protein intake is linked to osteoporosis, because protein causes calcium to be excreted from the body with urine. In addition, meat contains high levels of phosphorus, which also competes with calcium for absorption. People who follow cereal-based diets with low to moderate levels of protein, such as vegetarians, require lower levels of calcium for healthy bones. In fact, several studies have shown that vegetarians have a lower rate of bone loss than nonvegetarians.
- Sodium (salt), refined sugar, and caffeine also encourage the loss of calcium through the urine.
- Too much saturated fat and unusually large amounts of fiber, iron, and zinc all limit the quantity of calcium that's absorbed in the digestive tract.
Vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, and boron are among the nutrients that support healthy bones. (Magnesium is extremely important for keeping calcium in the bones.)So are milk and other dairy products a good thing? While they supply a lot of calcium, they usually also provide saturated fat and high levels of protein. Instead, practitioners of nutritional therapy typically recommend getting calcium from green leafy vegetables, dark-green vegetables, and certain types of beans, as well as other foods, all of which provide little or no protein and fat.
Here's a sample of good calcium sources that are low in protein and fat:
- 1 cup bok choy (250 mg of calcium)
- 1 cup kale (200 mg)
- 1 cup broccoli (180 mg)
- 1 cup great northern beans (140 mg)
- 5 dried figs (135 mg)
- 2 corn tortillas (120 mg)
Note: The Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium for menopausal women is 1000 to 1200 mg, although a practitioner of nutritional therapy may recommend less than that, depending on the woman's typical dietary sources of protein.