Bone up on Calcium

calcium rich foods

When most people hear the word “calcium,” the immediate reaction is to visualize a large glass of chilled dairy milk. For some, that may not be an appetizing way to increase the most abundant mineral in the body. Don’t worry – you can find calcium in foods like sunflower seeds, figs, edamame, tofu and even sardines.

In agriculturally abundant California, you can even eat some Chinese cabbage, kale and broccoli to boost your calcium numbers.

Calcium is found in a wide-array of foods, and can be added to others as a dietary supplement. Some medicines even have calcium, such as antacids. Why does a person’s calcium level even matter?

It’s simple, really. Bones need good nutrition to stay strong and healthy. Unfortunately, a large majority of Americans take in less calcium every day than is required for them to maintain good bone health.

And what if you learn that low levels of calcium in your body can explain why your fingers are numb and tingling? Or if you’re getting those aching muscle cramps, it might because you’re low in calcium. Brittle nails may be less severe in terms of overall medical problems, but it’s a health issue associated with low calcium.

There’s so much more that can occur in your body if you’re not taking in enough calcium, including on the more serious side, convulsions, lethargy/fatigue and abnormal heart rhythms. Extended calcium deficiency can even lead to osteoporosis.

For men and women making sure they’re taking in enough calcium, there are a few federal guidelines to make sure bone health is at its optimum amount.

A recommended daily allowance of 1,300 milligrams is suggested for children ages 9-13 for example, and 1,000 mg for adults age 19-50. Those older than 71 should take in 1,200 milligrams each day, and there are recommended levels for specialty groups, such as lactating women.

Just meeting the recommended daily allowance of calcium isn’t reason enough for many people to boost their intake of calcium-laden foods. Knowing there can be long-term health impacts may make a difference. With calcium, a few key groups are particularly at risk for problems associated with low levels of the mineral.

Postmenopausal women, for instance, may suffer from bone loss because of the body’s decreases in estrogen production, which may also mean less calcium is absorbed by the body. People with an intolerance to lactose or with allergies associated with cow’s milk have the option of eating low-lactose dairy products such as aged cheese, yogurt or lactose-free milk to get calcium into their bodies. Plenty of nondairy food sources with high calcium levels are available as well, including bok choy, collards and kale.

If you want to learn more about how much calcium and other nutrients you need for bone and overall health; find out additional sources for calcium and get the scoop on reading a nutrition label, you can join LVMC and American Bone Health for the June 27 free Calcium Challenge at Ocean’s Seven Café inside the acute hospital. Join us from 5:30 to 7 pm, enjoy some calcium-rich snacks and learn how to boost your calcium intake.

Reservations are requested by calling LVMC Outreach Coordinator Karen Ortiz at 805-875-8868 or online. Learn More

About the Author

Author: Julie Chudak, RDN, CPT, Director of Nutrition Services

Julie Chudak , RDN, CPT is LVMC’s Director of Nutrition Services. She is a Registered Dietitian and American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She is also a health and wellness coach. Julie earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Ecology with a major in Nutrition Sciences from the University of Manitoba.

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