The Importance of a Calcium-Rich Diet
Calcium is a mineral that the body requires throughout life. Although people may recognize the need for calcium, they may not fully understand its importance. Failure to get enough calcium can cause a number of long-term problems. These problems include low bone density and an increased risk of certain diseases such as cancer of the colon or rectum and cardiovascular disease. It is important that people understand why the body needs calcium and how much it requires over the stages of one’s life.
Health Benefits of Calcium
Calcium benefits the human body in a number of ways, such as helping the bones to grow and remain strong. It helps prevent osteoporosis, and according to dentists, calcium also helps to strengthen teeth and keep them healthy. It aids in the clotting of blood and the normal beating of the heart, and evidence shows that it may also help control high blood pressure. Calcium helps control magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous levels in the blood. In addition, it can be beneficial in terms of weight loss, ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrom, and even help prevent certain types of cancer, including ovarian and breast cancers.
Foods Rich in Calcium
When it comes to foods that are rich in calcium, milk is one of the first things that comes to mind. While milk and other dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, they aren’t the only or even the best way to get what is needed. Vegetables such as kale, collard and turnip greens, bok choy, and broccoli are both great sources of calcium. Nuts and seeds, such as Brazil nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds, also provide calcium. Other foods that are sources of calcium include salmon and canned sardines with bones. Firm tofu with calcium sulfate, blackstrap molasses, okra, and navy beans are all also calcium-rich foods. Foods such as breads, juices, and soy milk may also be fortified with calcium.
Getting Enough Calcium
A typical day on a calcium-rich diet involves meeting the daily recommended allowance, or RDA, according to one’s age. For adults up to the age of 50, the RDA for calcium is 1,000 mg. From the ages of 50 to 70, it rises to 1,200 mg a day for women and 1,000 mg for men, although by the age 71, the RDA for both men and women balances so that both must get 1,200 mg daily. For children and teens, the RDA is 700 mg between the ages of one and three, 1,000 mg for children four to eight years old, and 1,300 mg from nine to 18.
To ensure that these requirements are being met, it’s important to understand how much calcium is in the food that is being eaten. A person who starts their day with an eight-ounce glass of milk, for example, is getting 300 mg of calcium. Eating a quarter-cup of almonds as a snack equals 100 mg of calcium, while a medium-sized orange provides only 50 mg. To help the body better absorb the calcium that is being consumed, vitamin D is required. While vitamin D is absorbed by exposure to the sun, the amount that comes from this is not enough. People may also get vitamin D from sources such as cod liver oil and mushrooms, for example. A calcium-rich diet should also include an assortment of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich foods like eggs, legumes, and lean meats such as skinless chicken breast. Care should be taken when including certain foods in a calcium-rich diet, such as food that contains oxalic acid or fiber such as wheat bran. These items can prevent the absorption of calcium. Foods with sugar, trans fats, and sodium should also be limited.
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- Calcium Is Not Just Milk: Calcium-Rich Food
- American Dietetic Association: Calcium (PDF)
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- Cleveland State University: Calcium
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- Calcium to Treat and Prevent Osteoporosis
- Calcium, Vitamin D, and Bone Health (PDF)
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- Arthritis Foundation: Calcium
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