What Are Leaching Foods?

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Coffee contains caffeine, a compound that leaches calcium from the bones.
Coffee contains caffeine, a compound that leaches calcium from the bones. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Leaching foods deplete the body of vitamins and minerals. They drain the body’s vitamin stores by preventing absorption, breaking down nutrients or damaging tissues such as bone. Minerals, including calcium, magnesium and iron are especially prone to leaching. If you’re at high risk for osteoporosis or other diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies, limit your intake of the following foods and drinks.

High-fiber Foods

The fiber and phytic acids in whole grains and vegetables can bind to calcium, iron and zinc and keep the body from absorbing the minerals. Thin bones, anemia and skin problems can result. High-fiber foods have many benefits. For example, fiber also binds to cholesterol and sweeps it from the body and it can prevent constipation. Don’t eliminate fiber from your diet, but avoid eating high-fiber foods within a few hours of taking calcium supplements or other minerals.

Salt

High sodium intake speeds up the loss of calcium through the kidneys, a process that leaches the mineral from bones. Federal nutritional guidelines call for eating less than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day, but people at high risk for salt-related health conditions should stay below 1,500 milligrams daily. Cut back on salt consumption by steering clear of processed foods such as canned soups, snack crackers and potato chips.

Foods with Phosphorous

The mineral phosphorous is important to human health. It repairs tissue damage, helps the kidneys filter toxins and balances absorption of other nutrients. However, too much phosphorous can keep the body from absorbing iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Phosphorous-high foods and drinks such as beef, chicken and colas will force the body to pull calcium from the bones to keep blood levels of both minerals balanced. Brittle or thin bones and dental problems can follow.

Caffeine

Caffeinated drinks and foods such as coffee, tea and even some chocolates hurt absorption of magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, potassium and B vitamins, all of which are important to bone, tissue and heart health. Coffee and tea also increase urination, which can lead to quicker loss of vitamins and minerals. However, coffee, tea and dark chocolate also have health benefits, including boosting fat metabolism and preventing migraines. The Food and Drug Administration considers caffeine safe. Limit consumption only if you’re at high risk of osteoporosis or other illnesses related to mineral deficiencies.

Alcohol

Drinking more than 3 ounces of alcohol a day prevents the stomach and pancreas from absorbing calcium and vitamin D. Alcohol suppresses estrogen, which slows the body’s bone regeneration and can cause osteoporosis. Alcohol also increases the body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol and parathyroid hormone, both of which can break down bones if they’re present in high amounts.

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