“Got Milk?” What a great way to start getting people thinking about calcium! Calcium is important for every age and stage of life. Getting enough calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps your blood clot and keeps your muscles and nerves working properly. Calcium may even play a role in preventing high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.
How much calcium do you need?
The amount of calcium you need depends on your age. Young bones grow rapidly, so calcium needs are highest for teens because nearly half of all bone is formed during teen years. Yet as you continue to age your bones begin to lose calcium. For older adults, increasing calcium is necessary because it is lost from bones more rapidly as one ages. It is recommended that those ages 51 and older should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily.
Keeping bones healthy and strong
If you don’t get enough calcium, your body takes calcium from your bones to keep the level of calcium in your blood steady. Over time, this loss can lead to weak bones that break more easily, a condition called osteoporosis.
Along with eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, there are several other ways to keep your bones strong. Vitamin D is key. This vitamin helps your body absorb and use calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include milk, fish and eggs. Exercise is also important. Regular weight-bearing exercise helps your body build more bone. Pay attention to your weight and make sure it stays within the proper range based on your height and frame. Don’t smoke, go easy on alcohol and eat a balanced diet. Too much protein and salt may make your body lose some calcium.
Here are some foods that can help boost you calcium intake:
In the morning
- Mix your oatmeal with milk instead of water
- Top your breakfast cereal with creamy fruit yogurt
- For a refreshing morning drink, blend together milk, yogurt, banana slices, or berries. Make it dairy-free with soy milk or calcium fortified orange juice
- Make a dip for fresh vegetables with plain yogurt blended with your favorite herbs or a dip mix
- Keep easy to eat calcium-rich snacks such as string cheese, pudding and yogurt cups close by
- Melt cheese on a soft tortilla and top with salsa for a spicy snack
At meal times
- Make sandwiches with calcium-fortified bread, add a slice of cheese for even more calcium
- Use canned salmon in place of tuna in sandwich spreads or fillings
- Dress up soups and salads with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
- Dilute cream based soups with milk instead of water
- Toss your favorite pasta and vegetables with a creamy sauce made with ricotta cheese, milk, and fresh herbs.
Most people can get the calcium they need from a variety of foods. If your eating plan often falls short of the recommended daily amount, a calcium supplement may be right for you. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian for advice on supplements.
Some people have difficulty digesting lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. If so, you may find yourself having stomach issues after eating or drinking milk products. If this is happening to you, try the following tips:
- Eat or drink smaller servings of milk products.
- Some dairy products, like yogurt and hard, aged cheeses (cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss) may be easier to digest.
- Try lactose-reduced milk products, or take lactase enzyme tablets to help your body digest the lactose.
Low-fat or low-calorie diets
Some people cut back on dairy products to lower the fat or calories in their diet. Many low-fat or fat-free milk products are available including milk, cheese, yogurt, pudding, and ice cream. A calcium-rich diet can also be low in fat and calories.
Vegetarians who eat dairy foods can easily meet their daily calcium needs. IF you don’t include these foods, plan your choices to include enough calcium from other foods such as calcium fortified foods and calcium rich plant foods.
If you are interested in learning more about how United Methodist Homes helps residents maintain a proper calcium intake please visit our website or contact us today!
*Information in this article is based off of information from the American Dietetic Association