RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—We all know that calcium helps build stronger bones. But Spanish researchers have found that foods rich in phytate, a naturally occurring compound in whole grains, legumes, and nuts, also may boost bone density and protect us from osteoporosis. Their study recently appeared in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
THE DETAILS: Researchers compared bone density of more than 1,400 volunteers who filled out diet questionnaires and found that bone density was higher in people who ate more phytate-rich foods. Low phytate consumption should be considered a risk factor for osteoporosis, say researchers, who urge people to eat phytate-rich foods as part of a balanced diet to avoid suffering from osteoporosis, which can lead to painful bone fractures.
WHAT IT MEANS: Phytate has actually been shown to hinder your body’s ability to utilize calcium, so it may seem weird that researchers now suggest it can keep your bones strong. But as long as you’re getting enough calcium in your diet, you can also reap the additional benefits of phytate, explains Felicia Cosman, M.D., clinical director for the National Osteoporosis Foundation and author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Osteoporosis: Help Prevent--and Even Reverse--the Disease that Burdens Millions of Women (Grand Central Publishing, 2003). “The foods that are rich in phytates may slightly impair calcium absorption, but it’s so minor,” she says. “We aren’t recommending people limit intake of phytate-rich foods. We just want to make sure people get enough calcium.”
Here’s how to get the calcium you need and keep your bones in tip-top shape.