Spotlight on Calcium

March 16, 2021

Did you grow up with your mom telling you to drink your milk because it was good for your body. Did you ever wonder why it was good? Sure, you probably heard that the glass of milk had calcium in it and that meant it would help your bones grow, but beyond that, what do you know about calcium? Today we’re going to take a look at this powerhouse nutrient -why we need it, how much we need, and how we can best get it!

Calcium’s Role in the Body:

  • Builds bones and gives strength and structure to teeth and bones
  • Plays an important role in muscle contractions, carrying nerve impulses and hormone secretions
  • Helps blood clot when you are bleeding
  • May help to control blood pressure and reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal and breast

How Much Calcium Do We Need?

  • Males and Females 4-8 years old and 19-50 years old need: 1000 mg /day
  • Males and Females 9-18 years old need: 1300 mg / day
  • Females over 51+ and Males 71+ need: 1200 mg / day
  • A mild deficiency over a lifetime can affect bone density and contribute to bone loss, potentially leading to osteoporosis as you age. Inadequate intake for children can interfere with growth and result in increased risk for bone fractures.

What are the Best Sources of Calcium?

  • Milk and dairy foods such as yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese
  • Dark leafy greens such as bok choy, kale, turnip greens, and broccoli
  • Fish with edible bones, such as canned salmon
  • Calcium-fortified foods such as soymilk, tofu, orange juice, bread
  • Corn tortillas

Of Special Note:

  • When consuming calcium, it’s also important to make sure your body gets enough vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb, carry, and deposit calcium in the bones and teeth. 
  • While leafy greens and grains DO contain calcium, it is less bioavailable than calcium from dairy foods.  In fact, some vegetables (such as spinach) contain oxalates and some grains contain phytates, both of which bind to calcium and partially block its absorption.
  • 40% or more of the body’s bone mass is formed during adolescence, so making sure your children consume calcium-rich foods is extremely important.
  • Building peak bone mass continues into your early 30s, as bones become stronger and denser as more calcium becomes part of the bone matrix.
  • After age 30, bones slowly begin to lose minerals, so the amount of calcium a woman has stored in her skeleton will be the amount in her bones as she enters menopause. 
  • During menopause, estrogen levels go down and bones loss speeds up. Continuing to consume calcium and vitamin D during this time is important to help women retain their bone density and lower their risk for osteoporosis later in life.

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