I have a question for you.
What nutrient do you think of when you think dairy?
Do you think calcium?
That’s what I figured.
Since we’re talking about dairy all month, I thought it would be a good time to talk about calcium. Here we go!
What is calcium?
Calcium is an essential mineral for normal bone and tooth development but it has many other functions as well. When you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body pulls it from your bones to use for other purposes. This can lead to osteoporosis, a disease characterized by porous, brittle bones.
Fun fact: Calcium is also what makes up coral, seashells, eggshells, and antlers.
Why is calcium good for you?
- Helps with bone health and tooth structure
- Helps with blood clotting
- Aids in nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and enzyme regulation
- Helps to prevent osteoporosis
- May protect against the development colon cancer
- May help to decrease blood pressure
Did you know: muscle spasms in your hands or feet can be a sign that you don’t have enough calcium in your bloodstream.
What are some calcium rich foods?
When we think calcium, we think dairy so obviously milk and milk products are good sources of calcium. Other good sources include canned fish with bones, leafy vegetables, tofu, and fortified orange juice.
The amount of calcium the body absorbs varies depending on the food along with other factors. Foods containing lactose, other sugars, and protein help with calcium absorption. Calcium absorption is reduced when eaten with foods containing phytic acid (in nuts, grains, and beans), oxalic acid (in many vegetables), phosphorus (in meats, seafood, nuts, dairy, and beans), and polyphenols (in vegetables and fruits).
- Only about 5% of calcium in spinach can be absorbed.
- About 30% of calcium in dairy products can be absorbed.
- About 60-70% of calcium in Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale can be absorbed.
Even though only about 30% of the calcium in dairy is absorbed, dairy foods provide a greater total amount of calcium than many foods containing better absorbed calcium.
So with that in mind, let’s look at some food sources of calcium.
|1 cup yogurt||372|
|3 ounces sardines||324|
|1.5 ounces cheddar cheese||306|
|1 cup skim milk||199|
|1 cup kale||101|
|1 cup broccoli||43|
|RDA* for women up to 50 years and men up to 70 years||1000|
|RDA for older adults||1200|
|UL** for adults up to 50 years||2500|
|UL for older adults||2000|
*RDA is the amount of a nutrient that meets the needs of most people of a specified age and sex.
**UL is the maximum daily intake level that is unlikely to cause negative health effects for most people of a specified age and sex.
Don’t go overboard – Too much calcium can lead to kidney stones and other problems in susceptible people.