Beware: Beverages That Sap Your Bones

Why cola, caffeine and alcohol can rob your body of calciumand what you should be drinking instead.

By Amanda Prost

Sure, you’ve heard that foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can keep your bones healthy. But did you know that some of your favorite drinks may be sabotaging your best efforts for strong bones? Here, the beverages that could be robbing your body of valuable nutrients--and the bone builders that’ll help keep you in tiptop shape!

Sneaky bone saboteur: Alcohol

Moderate intake may be beneficial to bones, but indulge in more than three alcoholic drinks a day and your bones could suffer. That’s because the beverages interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D. And excessive consumption destroys osteoblasts, the cells that make bone.

Bone builder:Try a plum mocktail! Next time you’re in the mood for a drink, quench your thirst with a mocktail made of boiled plums (3 cups), water (1 3/4 cups), honey (4 tsp), salt (1/2 tsp), black pepper (1/4 tsp), sugar (2 Tbsp), lemon juice (1/4 tsp) and fresh mint to garnish. According to researchers, postmenopausal women who ate about a half a cup of dried plums for three months had increased levels of hormones associated with bone formation. And a 2010 Journal of Nutrition study showed that adult and elderly mice fed dried plums actually gained bone mass.

Sneaky bone saboteur: Cola

Whether it's diet or regular, making a habit of sipping cola can reduce your bone mineral density by 4%, according to a Tufts University study. The reason: “Phosphates in soft drinks bind to calcium and eliminate it from the body,” explains Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health. And that loss of calcium can equal loss of bone.

Bone builder: Switch to seltzer or clear sodas. The same Tufts study found no bone loss in people who drank non-cola soft drinks, like ginger ale and citrus-flavored sodas.

Sneaky bone saboteur: Coffee

Need a cup o’ joe to get going in the morning? One or two cups may be fine, but overdo your java and you could be putting your bones in jeopardy. “Coffee affects the bones adversely by increasing calcium excretion,” warns Dr. Dean. While keeping your daily caffeine intake to 300 mg should be fine, many people get much more than that—consider that you’ll get about 320 mg from just two 8-ounce cups!

Bone builder: Sip green tea instead. It has less caffeine than coffee, and it contains antioxidants called polyphenols, which short-circuit chronic inflammation, a major contributor to bone loss. In fact, a Texas Tech University study found that drinking 4 cups of green tea daily actually improves bone density.

Hint: You can ease the transition to green tea by swapping your second cup of java for matcha green tea, which has more caffeine than other green varieties.

Published December 2013

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