A balanced diet that is rich in diverse nutrients is always best for bone health. But many people have restricted diets for various reasons – personal, ethical, religious, allergies, health conscious, geographic, and more – that affect their bone health.
Restricted diets require planning and creativity in order to get the daily recommended amount (RDA) of the nutrients that are essential for bone growth and maintenance.
Restricted diets almost always necessitate supplementation.
Allergy-Free Diets And Deficiency Of Nutrients
In the examples below, we take a look at various restricted diets that cause nutrient deficiency and recommend supplements to complete your nutritional needs. Also few suggestions on what foods to include to maintain bone health.
1. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance becomes more common as we age. Those with lactose intolerance, or who just do not like the taste of dairy, still have plenty of dietary options for calcium intake. Most dairy foods now come in lactose-free versions – milk, cottage cheese, yogurt etc., and some are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Yogurts, cheeses, and even frozen yogurts are often easier to digest because the lactose is partially digested during the preparation of these products. Regardless, calcium, vitamin D and magnesium should be added as a daily multivitamin for bone health unless you are getting three or more servings of dairy each day. However, there is a strong case for supplements instead of excess dairy.
While calcium is important, too much calcium may cause problems including brittle bones and increased risk of heart attacks. The focus today is improving the effects of calcium and vitamin D by adding other essential nutrients.
For example, the addition of silicon helps attract and hold calcium to bone, and vitamin K2 activates bone proteins that help improve bone toughness.
The vegan diet is problematic for bone health because it restricts almost all dietary sources of Vitamin D and many dietary sources of calcium. But we need much more than calcium and vitamin D for bone health.
L-arginine, which helps the arteries relax and improves blood flow, is found almost exclusively in non-vegan foods like chicken, turkey, beef, pork, salmon, shrimp and eggs. And silicon is found in small amounts in only a handful of foods.
The big problem with vegan diets (and this applies to vegetarianism and the Alkaline Diet, too) is that by depending on fruits and vegetables as the primary source of nutrition, the body may not receive the recommended amounts of proteins, calcium and other vitamins and minerals needed to sustain a healthy diet and optimal bone health. In addition to supplementation, the best vegan food choices for bone health are:
- Vegan nutritional yeast (rich in vitamin B12)
- Beans/soy beans (the protein in beans improves calcium intake)
- Non-dairy Vitamin-D fortified milk (you’ll still need to supplement, as it’s almost impossible to get enough Vitamin D from just foods)
- Citrus fruits (rich in vitamin C)
- Kale and leafy greens (rich in vitamin K, which studies show may lower the risk of fractures)
The most recent dietary trend – the gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The gluten free diet is needed for those with gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease, but more recently it’s being used by people with various digestive disorders, autism, obesity and other conditions that may or may not respond. Adherence to a strict gluten-free diet for a prolonged period of time may result in poor absorption of bone-building nutrients.
Following a gluten-free diet means giving up most processed and enriched foods – including many grains, pastas, cereals, cakes, breads, beer, chips, crackers, sauces, dressings and more. That still leaves a whole spectrum of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy from which to consume bone-building nutrients.
So the challenge with gluten-free is not so much restriction, but convenience. Going gluten-free may mean not eating out at restaurants as often, staying away from prepared and boxed foods, and avoiding entire cultural cuisines. The biggest conflict for bone health is consuming enough silicon and magnesium.
4. Alkaline Diet
The basic underlying premise of the alkaline diet is that the body keeps a slightly alkaline balance – and fruits and vegetables are more alkaline than meat, poultry, dairy products and grain – so it stands to reason you should eat more of them.
With regards to bone health, some advocate that an alkaline diet can prevent calcium loss caused by high acid forming foods, which may lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. The alkaline diet may have some benefits, but mainly it is a way of increasing the intake of nutritious foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
Overall, there is little evidence that the Alkaline Diet is better for bone health.
Note: Adequate calcium and vitamin D, throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.