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Foods and habits that interfere with calcium absorption

Calcium is an important part of a healthy diet and necessary for strong, healthy bones, and yet there are certain foods and habits that can impair your body’s ability to absorb this vital nutrient.

Woman eating yogurt

Here’s the lowdown on these calcium busters.

Alcohol intake

Keeping your alcohol consumption in check has many benefits, including helping your bone health. WebMD suggests that drinking even just 1–3 ounces of alcohol per day can impair the ability of your stomach and pancreas to properly absorb calcium and can also affect your liver’s ability to activate vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption.

Inadequate vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and bone health. This vitamin is necessary to maintain calcium levels in the body and prevent bone loss. To ensure a lack of vitamin D doesn’t interfere with your calcium absorption, make it a habit to consume vitamin D–rich or fortified foods and beverages, and take a supplement if necessary.

Tobacco use

It’s common knowledge that smoking is linked to several health issues, and this includes a greater risk for the development of osteoporosis. Since smoking interferes with calcium absorption, it directly affects bone density and could increase the risk of bone-related problems, such as fractures.

Excessive caffeine

Much to the chagrin of coffee addicts, caffeine can potentially wreak havoc on your calcium levels. While moderate consumption of coffee, tea or drinks containing caffeine is generally considered acceptable, excessive amounts can interfere with calcium absorption.

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A high-protein diet

Protein is crucial for several reasons, such as building strong bones and muscles, repairing cells and maintaining good health, but too much might not be a good thing. Following a high-protein diet can inhibit calcium absorption and, in the long term, be a risk factor for developing osteoporosis as well as have a negative effect on bone health.

Sodium intake

Salt or sodium is a common element of flavouring found in most processed foods, such as canned goods, junk food, frozen dinners and fast food, but a diet high in sodium can affect your calcium levels. Per ScienceDaily, when sodium is excreted from your body, it takes calcium with it. This reduces calcium absorption.

See more factors that affect bone health >>

Hidden culprits

  • Oxalate. While present in many good-for-you foods with great nutritional value, such as kale, spinach, beets, rhubarb and berries, oxalate itself can affect calcium absorption, as it binds with the mineral and passes through your system.
  • Phytic acid is found in healthy high-fibre foods, such as whole grains, wheat bran, seeds and some nuts, but is another substance that binds with calcium to interfere with its absorption.

Tell us

What is one habit you would change to improve your calcium absorption for better bone health? Tell us in the comments section below.

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