Calcium is one of the most important nutrients your body needs to maintain health. It is essential to meet many of your bodies needs. Calcium play an important role in many body functions and development. Knowing how much calcium you need daily and where to get it can ensure that your body will reap the benefits of this great nutrient.
Calcium does many things for your body. Everyone knows calcium is beneficial to bones and teeth. It is also important to keep your muscles and nerves working properly. It helps blood clot and keeps your heart beating properly. Lacking calcium in your diet can greatly effect your health now and in the future.
When your body does not get enough calcium it begins to take it from the bones. When this happens, if the calcium is not replaced through your diet the bones become deficient in calcium. This can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease where the bones get thin and brittle. It is fast becoming a major disease among older adults. Calcium is important at any age. For children calcium is essential to ensure proper bone growth. In pregnant women calcium intake is also important. The baby needs calcium to grow and takes this calcium from the mother, so increased calcium intake is important during pregnancy.
Identifying Adequate Intakes
- For most adults, the new guidelines say they need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.
- Adults over 50, who often suffer bone loss due to aging, need even more calcium: 1,200 mg. a day.
- For adolescents (ages 9 to 18), whose growing bones need adequate calcium to reach peak bone density, the guidelines call for 1,300 mg, or four servings from the Milk group each day. This is a major jump for children ages 9 and 10, who previously were advised to get 800 mg.
- The new guidelines indicate that pregnant and breast-feeding women should get the amount recommended for their age group - not more, as previously advised. Research suggests that hormonal changes during pregnancy and lactation boost a women's abiltiy to absorb calcium and to adapt to the demands on her body during this time. Any calcium loss appears to be regained following lactation.
Pregnant or lactating
< 19 years
New Calcium Goal (mg/day)
Closing the Calcium Gap
Unfortunately, most Americans miss the mark in meeting even the old calcium requirements. Osteoporsis causes 1.5 million hip fractures each year in the US alone, resulting in health care costs of $13.8 billion. The Institute concludes in its report that it will worsen unless improvements are made in the typical American diet.
The average adult consumes 500 to 700 mg of calcium per day. Women in particular fall short: 9 out of 10 women in this country fail to get enough calcium. After the age of 11, no age group of females achieves even 75% of the calcium it needs.
First Stop is Food
Increasing calcium intake is best accomplished by eating foods rich in that nutrient. In addition, foods contain nutrients other than calcium that contribute to building bone. Studies indicate that when milk is the calcium choice, rather than a supplement, the overall nutrient quality of the diet is enhanced. Milk also offers vitamin D, which enhances calcium absorption. Taking supplements, however, may be appropriate for those at high risk of health problems because of low calcium intake, the panel concluded.
Additional calcium sources include milk products such as yogurt and cheese, sardines, canned salmon with bones, broccoli, leafy greens, and calcium-fortified foods. The panel emphasizes that calcium may be poorly absorbed from foods rich in oxalic acid (spinach, sweet potatoes, and beans) or phytic acid (grains, nuts, and soy isolates).
Fitting It In
Increasing calcium intake through food can be simple:
- Substitute milk for water in soups, hot cereal, pancake mixes, scrambled eggs, and other recipes.
- Sprinkle shredded lowfat cheese and chopped broccoli on a salad of dark leafy greens or a baked potato.
- Leave a pitcher of milk on the table during mealtime, encouraging teens to drink more than one glass.
- Snack on string cheese. Wrap it in a tortilla with salsa and heat in the microwave.
- Use a calcium suppliment if calcium intake cannot increased with food