With osteoporosis and other bone problems on the rise, calcium has become a hot topic. Calcium, the most common mineral in the body, is essential for healthy bones. Not only is calcium stored in our bones, but it also is circulates in the blood to help promote muscle contraction, blood clotting, a healthy nervous system and a strong heartbeat. If you don’t get enough calcium, it will be drawn from the bones to keep blood calcium levels normal. Eating adequate calcium-rich foods is the key to keeping both your bones and blood fully supplied with calcium.
So, how much calcium do you need daily? The latest recommendation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and American Dietetic Association is 1000 milligrams (mg)/day for people 19 to 50 years old and 1200 mg. daily for teenagers and those over 50. Use caution when considering calcium supplements. To avoid risks associated with consuming too much calcium, the upper limit has been set at 2500 mg/day. Try to get calcium in the foods you eat at meals and snacks and check with your doctor or dietitian about using a calcium supplement.
March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is "Eat Right with Color." What better way to boost your calcium intake than to focus on the many colorful foods where it is found?
White: Dairy products provide 75% of the calcium in our food supply. Try skim or low-fat milk at breakfast or a low-fat yogurt and fruit parfait as a healthy dessert. Low-fat mozzarella string cheese is a great on-the-go snack with calcium and other nutrients.
Green: Deep green vegetables like spinach, greens, and broccoli have calcium along with other nutrients that are beneficial to your health like vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium. Try a spinach and tomato salad at dinner or add broccoli to your favorite lunchtime pasta. Or serve turnip greens spike with a little pepper sauce with your chicken dish at dinner.
Pink: Canned salmon and sardines also offer calcium and can be easily added to your diet. For a snack try canned sardines and crackers. Or instead of using tuna, use canned salmon in your tuna salad recipe.
Aim for three servings of calcium-rich foods a day to meet the recommended amount. By including these in your diet, your bones and your heart will be happy!
Jennifer Wright is a dietetic intern at Texas Health Resources Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who completed a community nutrition rotation with Neva in February 2011.