The Calcium Connection in Body
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One of the key factors in building and maintaining strong bones is to consume enough of the mineral calcium. Until recently, most of the information about healthy bones focused on what you could do to keep from getting osteoporosis in your later adult years.
Calcium is a key nutrient for your body to stay strong and healthy. Almost every cell in the body uses calcium in some way, including the nervous system, muscles, and heart. It is also an essential building block for lifelong bone health in both men and women. While the amount you need depends on various factors, everyone can benefit from eating calcium-rich foods, limiting foods that deplete calcium, and getting enough magnesium and vitamins D and K-nutrients that help calcium do its job.
Did you know that calcium
Maintain normal heartbeat?
Regulates blood pressure?
May decrease your risk of developing colon cancer?
Helps the nervous system function properly?
May play a role in weight management?
How much calcium do you need?
0-6 months 210 milligrams / day
7-12 months 270 milligrams / day
1-3 years 500 milligrams / day
4-8 years 800 milligrams / day
9-18 years 1,300 milligrams / day
19-50 years 1,000 milligrams / day
50+ years 1,200 milligrams / day
Do you get enough Calcium?
Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and crimini mushrooms.
Beans: For another rich source of calcium, try black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas, or baked beans.
Herbs and spices: For a small but tasty calcium boost, flavor your food with basil, thyme, dill weed, cinnamon, peppermint leaves, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and parsley.
Other foods: More good sources of calcium include salmon, tofu, oranges, almonds, sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses, and sea vegetables. And don’t forget about calcium-fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice.
Getting Enough Calcium
Excelllent sources of calcium are dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Other good sources of calcium include broccoli, bok choy, kale, canned salmon and sardines with bones, beans and calcium-fortified foods.
Calcium supplements are another way to boost calcium intake but pills do not take the place of food. They do not provide the packets of nutrients your body needs for strong bones and good health. Vitamins A and D, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and protein, for example, are other bone-building nutrients found in dairy products that calcium pills often don’t provide.
Fortified foods are an alternative source of dietary calcium, but again, may not provide the complete nutrient package found in foods naturally rich in calcium. Levels of calcium and efficiency of absorption in fortified products vary widely among different brands.
Vegetariansshould have no problem getting adequate calcium, especially if consuming milk and dairy products. Several medium-calcium food sources are abundant in vegetarian diets, like dried beans, broccoli, greens and tofu with calcium.
Maintaining Strong Bones
Building and maintain strong bones is a lifelong process. We actually build the foundation for a lifetime of strong bones during your teen and young adult years.
During teen and young adult years, your bones become as dense as they’ll ever be that is your peak bone mass as high as you can for the rest of your life. It is important to get 3 servings of calcium-rich foods everyday to make sure your bones keep the calcium they already have.
The Role of Calcium, Vitamin D, and Phosphorus
The most important component of good bone health is calcium. Each day, calcium is deposited and withdrawn from your bones. Foods like lowfat milk, yogurt, cheese, soy products, and leafy green vegetables are good natural sources of calcium. Here are some tips to help calcium supplements work best:
Try taking smaller doses two times during the day. You will consume the full dose at once
Take your calcium at the same time each day, such as when you finish meals
Take calcium with meals, because food improves absorption of the calcium and other minerals
Don’t forget the vitamin D.
Where there’s calcium, there must be vitamin D: the two work together to help the body absorb bone-boosting calcium. Boost vitamin D consumption by munching on shrimp, fortified foods like cereal and orange juice, sardines, eggs (in the yolks) and tuna, or opt for a vitamin D supplement. The body also produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun — 10 to 15 minutes of exposure three times per week will do. Vitamin D’s importance to bone health.
Two types of exercise help build and maintain bone. Weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, dancing, and skiing increase bone density. Muscle strengthening exercises such as weight training and vigorous water exercises improve bone strength and muscle mass. Both types of exercise make you stronger and more agile.
For optimal bone health, a good goal should be to get at least 30-40 minutes of weight bearing exercise three to four times per week, and to add muscle strengthening exercise a day or two each week. Of course, consult your physician or personal trainer if you have any questions or concerns.
What type of exercise is most effective? Weight-bearing exercises like running, walking, jumping rope, skiing and stair climbing keep bones strongest. Resistance training has also been shown to improve bone health in several studies, so pick up the weights after going for a jog. Bonus for the older readers: improved strength and balance helps prevent falls (and the associated fractures) in those who already have osteoporosis.
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