This week we’ll wrap up our two-part discussion on osteoporosis and calcium and delve a little deeper into calcium intake.
What is calcium? Calcium is a vital mineral we get from food sources that not only helps with bone strength and longevity of bone density, but also aids with muscle contractions, regulates heart rate, helps nerve functions, and helps with blood clotting.
Where can we get calcium? One of the best sources is low-fat or non-fat diary products. Other sources include dark leafy greens, certain fish like sardines, beans, soy products, and other foods fortified with calcium.
How much calcium do we need? For most adults, the recommendation is to consume at least 1000 milligrams of calcium a day. For women over 50 and men over 70, that recommendation goes up to 1200 milligrams per day. To give you a general idea of how much that is, a glass of milk has roughly 300 milligrams of calcium. If you’re unable to get enough calcium from your diet, consult with a doctor or dietitian about boosting your calcium intake with supplements.
Keep in mind, there are a number of nutrients that can influence calcium absorption. Vitamin D is critical for calcium absorption, while excessive sodium consumption may hamper it. Additionally, certain compounds found in food, like oxalates, may inhibit calcium absorption, which is why the calcium in spinach, for example, is not as readily absorbed as calcium in dairy products. Calcium can also negatively affect the absorption of other nutrients as well, namely iron, which is why you should not take calcium and iron supplements at the same time.
While calcium intake is critical, don’t forget about what you learned in part I – strength training, moderate-impact cardio, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use are also important factors for maintaining good bone health!