The Benefits of Calcium
Many Canadians are not eating enough calcium, an essential mineral for the maintenance of healthy bone mass. After the age of 30, bone mass begins to decline, leaving you more prone to falls and fractures. The good news is that your bones are living tissues that can be strengthened with exercise and a few key nutrients. Today we’re going to share with you how to get more calcium-rich foods into your diet, why you need them, and provide some tips to boost your bone health—no matter your age.
Did you know that calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body? 99% of the body’s calcium is found in the bones and teeth.
Why Do I Need Calcium?
Did you know that calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body? 99% of the body’s calcium is found in the bones and teeth. The other 1% is present as ions or bound to proteins in the blood, helping to maintain healthy blood pressure, prevent blood clotting and regulate hormone secretion. Calcium is a key player in muscle contractions of the heart and skeletal muscles that move your body. Getting sufficient calcium in the diet can prevent many diseases including osteoporosis and hypertension (high blood pressure). Osteoporosis occurs when the bones become porous and fragile. A preventative diet should include adequate intakes of calcium as well as vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium and fluoride.
What Can I Do to Protect My Bones?
A critical period of bone development occurs before the age of 30, so nutrition and osteogenic exercise is incredibly important at this time. Calcium and other deficiencies early in life can lead to poor growth and underdeveloped bones as peak bone mass is not optimized. To meet your calcium needs, follow the RDA:
Adolescents (9-18 years of age) need 1300 mg/day as they are still growing
Adult men should aim for 1000 mg/day and women should aim for 1200 mg/day
All adults over the age of 70 should be getting 1200 mg/day
Osteogenic exercises promote bone turnover and are especially beneficial for adolescents. As part of your usual physical activity, incorporate some of these exercises to build stronger bones:
Resistance training (e.g. weight lifting, use of resistance bands, body weight exercises)
Impact aerobics (e.g. cardio step classes, jump rope, plyometrics, running)
Where Can I Get My Calcium If I’m Dairy-Free?
Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are the richest sources of calcium, but you aren’t at a loss if you choose not to eat these foods. One cup of 2% milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. To get the same dose of calcium, reach for some of these options:
1 cup calcium-fortified soy, almond or rice milk
3/4 cup (150 g) medium-firm tofu prepared with calcium sulfate
3 oz canned salmon or sardines with bones
1 ½ cups cooked turnip greens or kale
Other food sources include almonds, sesame seeds (including tahini), spinach, swiss chard and rhubarb, although the calcium in these foods are less easily absorbed by the body.
Are you getting enough? Try this handy tool to calculate your calcium intake!
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