Calcium: important at every age

 



The foods we eat contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients that help keep our bodies healthy. Calcium is needed for our heart, muscles and nerves to function properly and for blood to clot. Inadequate calcium significantly contributes to the development of osteoporosis. Many published studies show that low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates. National nutrition surveys have shown that most people are not getting the calcium they need to grow and maintain healthy bones. To find out how much calcium you need, see the Recommended Calcium Intakes (in milligrams) chart in the sidebar.

To learn how easily you can include more calcium in your diet without adding much fat, see the Selected Calcium-Rich Foods list below:

Selected Calcium-Rich Foods

Food

Calcium (mg)

Fortified oatmeal, 1 packet

350

Sardines, canned in oil, with edible bones, 3 oz.

324

Cheddar cheese, 1½ oz. shredded

306

Milk, nonfat, 1 cup

302

Milkshake, 1 cup

300

Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup

300

Soybeans, cooked, 1 cup

261

Tofu, firm, with calcium, ½ cup

204

Orange juice, fortified with calcium, 6 oz.

200–260 (varies)

Salmon, canned, with edible bones, 3 oz.

181

Pudding, instant (chocolate, banana, etc.) made with 2% milk, ½ cup

153

Baked beans, 1 cup

142

Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup

138

Spaghetti, lasagna, 1 cup

125

Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft-serve, ½ cup

103

Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with calcium, 1 cup

100–1,000 (varies)

Cheese pizza, 1 slice

100

Fortified waffles, 2

100

Turnip greens, boiled, ½ cup

99

Broccoli, raw, 1 cup

90

Ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup

85

Soy or rice milk, fortified with calcium, 1 cup

80–500 (varies)

Source: tde 2004 Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Healtd and Osteoporosis: What It Means to You. U.S. Department of Healtd and Human Services, Office of tde Surgeon General, 2004, pages 12–13.

Calcium culprits

Although a balanced diet aids calcium absorption, high levels of protein and sodium (salt) in the diet are thought to increase calcium excretion through the kidneys. Excessive amounts of these substances should be avoided, especially in those with low calcium intake. Lactose intolerance can also lead to inadequate calcium intake. Those who are lactose intolerant have insufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down the lactose found in dairy products. To include dairy products in the diet, dairy foods can be taken in small quantities or treated with lactase drops, or lactase can be taken as a pill. Some milk products on the market already have been treated with lactase.

Calcium supplements

If you have trouble getting enough calcium in your diet, you may need to take a calcium supplement. The amount of calcium you will need from a supplement depends on how much calcium you obtain from food sources.

There are several different calcium compounds from which to choose, such as calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, among others. Except in people with gastrointestinal disease, major forms of calcium supplements are absorbed well when taken with food. Calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken several times throughout the day.

From National Institutes of Healtd (www.nih.gov)

Recommended Calcium Intakes

Age

Calcium (mg)

Infants

Birth to 6 months

210

6 months to 1 year

270

Children/Young Adults

1 to 3 years

500

4 to 8 years

800

9 to 18 years

1,300

Adult Women & Men

19 to 50 years

1,000

50 years and older

1,200

Pregnant or Lactating

18 years or younger

1,300

19 to 50 years

1,000

Source: National Acedemy of Sciences, 1997