I find a lot of time there is confusion about the difference between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. People often think that the conditions are the same or are related, but that’s not the case. Osteoarthritis is just a fancy name for what you normally think of as arthritis. It has nothing to do with osteoporosis, other than the fact that both conditions become more prevalent as we age. Osteoporosis is a decrease in bone density. Comparing a normal bone with an osteoporotic one is like comparing a block of wood to a piece of sponge. The wood is denser and stronger than the sponge. Osteoporosis occurs when you are not consuming or absorbing enough calcium and other nutrients. You see, calcium and magnesium are very closely regulated in your blood. They are important nutrients utilized in the contraction of muscles, including your heart muscle. Therefore, your body makes sure that the levels of those two nutrients in your blood are controlled without very much deviation from normal. Therefore, if you aren’t absorbing enough calcium to maintain those levels in your blood, your body starts pulling the calcium out of your bones. That’s when osteoporosis starts. Calcium gets pulled out of your bones causing them to be less dense and weaker. Osteoporosis is far more prevalent in women, but men are at risk as well.
That is why it’s important that you eat foods that are high in calcium, especially as you age. Most of us think of dairy foods when we think of calcium, but you can actually get as much or more calcium from other foods that you don’t regularly think of. For example, raw sesame seeds contain over 1000mg of calcium per 100 g of seeds. Green leafy vegetables are also high in calcium. Spinach ranks very high in calcium, with 291 grams per cup. A 100g serving of collards packs a 145 mg calcium punch. One cup of steamed bok choy has around 158 mg of the mineral. Kale ranks in with 139mg of calcium and the spicy mustard green has 103mg of calcium per 100g serving. Flax seeds are not only high in calcium (256mg per 100g serving), they are also rich in omega-3 fats. Make sure to use ground or whole flax seeds, as the refined flaxseed oil loses its calcium levels during processing. Black strap molasses is high in a number of vitamins and minerals, but one tablespoon of it will give you 172 mg of your daily calcium needs. Broccoli is also a good source of calcium with one cup of green florets offering about 74 mg of the mineral, along with 120mg of Vitamin C which will help your body absorb the calcium.
In addition to foods you should eat, there’s a list of foods you shouldn’t. Salt is actually at the top of that list. 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. Soda or carbonated beverages should be second of the list of foods to avoid. Many soft drinks and certain other carbonated soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which can increase calcium excretion in your urine. And nearly all soft drinks lack calcium which spells trouble for people at risk of osteoporosis. The caffeine in soft drinks also makes them problematic. Caffeine leaches calcium from bones, sapping their strength. So even if you put creamer in your morning cup of coffee, the caffeine far outweighs the benefit of the calcium in the cream.
I hope this answers any questions you may have in regards to what osteoporosis is and things you can do to help get enough calcium in your diet. You can also read my other blog post on supplements that are good to take to help with osteoporosis.