Little did I know how important calcium would be growing up, especially after the big 3-0! Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies, 99% of it is in our bones and teeth. We need calcium to build strong dense bones and store it for use later in life.
Mom was right when she said to drink your milk. Bone growth and density tends to reach its peak around 30 years of age. Between the ages of 30 and 40, we begin to lose more bone than we form, which is why it is important to start with strong bones. Bone loss cannot be avoided as we age. However, we can minimize our losses by continuing to get adequate amounts of calcium through our diets.
How do we lose bone density? The other 1% of calcium in our bodies is in body fluids, commonly referred to as blood calcium. When our blood calcium levels fall, mostly due to inadequacies in our diet, calcium is borrowed from the bone. Blood calcium assists in maintaining blood pressure, clotting, muscle contractions, and nerve impulse transmissions.
After the age of 30, if we fail to consume adequate calcium the bones become porous and weak. Weak bones lead to fractures. When the bone is weak to the point of fracture under everyday stress, the condition is osteoporosis. Today is World Osteoporosis Day.
Osteoporosis affects about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over 50. You can help prevent osteoporosis by ensuring adequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and to perform weight bearing exercises (e.g., running and strength training).
USDA adequate intake levels for calcium:
- 500 mg/day for children ages 1 to 3 years
- 800 mg/day for children ages 4 to 8 years
- 1300 mg/day for ages 9 to 18 years
- 1000 mg/day for ages 19 to 50 years
- 1200 mg/day for those over 50 years
Great, so just drink lots of milk right? Milk is not the only source of calcium. Milk is recommended because it is fortified with vitamin D; however, there is calcium in dark leafy greens and some legumes. Below are dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium from the USDA Dietary 2005 guidelines.
|Food, Standard Amount
*indicate non-dairy products
|1.||Romano cheese, 1.5 oz||452||165|
|2.||Plain yogurt, non-fat (13 g protein/8 oz), 8-oz container||452||127|
|3.||Pasteurized process Swiss cheese, 2 oz (2 slices)||438||190|
|4.||Plain yogurt, low-fat (12 g protein/8 oz), 8-oz container||415||143|
|5.||*Soy beverage, calcium fortified, 1 cup||368||98|
|6.||Fruit yogurt, low-fat (10 g protein/8 oz), 8-oz container||345||232|
|7.||Swiss cheese, 1.5 oz||336||162|
|8.||Ricotta cheese, part skim, ½ cup||335||170|
|9.||*Sardines, Atlantic, in oil, drained, 3 oz||325||177|
|10.||Pasteurized process American cheese food, 2 oz||323||188|
|11.||Provolone cheese, 1.5 oz||321||150|
|12.||Mozzarella cheese, part-skim, 1.5 oz||311||129|
|13.||Cheddar cheese, 1.5 oz||307||171|
|14.||Fat-free (skim) milk, 1 cup||306||83|
|15.||Muenster cheese, 1.5 oz||305||156|
|16.||*Tofu, firm, prepared with nigari , ½ cup||253||88|
|17.||*Pink salmon, canned, with bone, 3 oz||181||118|
|18.||*Collards, cooked from frozen, ½ cup||178||31|
|19.||*Molasses, blackstrap, 1 Tbsp||172||47|
|20.||*Spinach, cooked from frozen, ½ cup||146||30|
|21.||*Soybeans, green, cooked, ½ cup||130||127|
|22.||*Turnip greens, cooked from frozen, ½ cup||124||24|
|23.||*Ocean perch, Atlantic, cooked, 3 oz||116||103|
|24.||*Cowpeas, cooked, ½ cup||106||80|
|25.||*White beans, canned, ½ cup||96||153|
For additional reading:
Harvard School of Public Health, Calcium and Milk: What’s best for your bones and health?