Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. You must absorb calcium every day from your dietary intake because your body does not make calcium. You lose calcium through shed skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces. When you do not have enough calcium, your body breaks down bone to obtain the mineral.
Bones are constantly going through a process known as remodeling in which small amounts of old bone are removed and new bone is formed in its place. Generally, after age 35, more bone is lost than gained. Bone loss accelerates after menopause.
Women are vulnerable to osteoporosis, or a thinning of the bones, which develops slowly over many years. Researchers believe that decreasing hormone levels, too little calcium in the diet early in life, and lack of exercise play a role in osteoporosis.
You can get the amount of calcium required daily through a variety of foods. Milk and dairy products offer the biggest source of calcium. Green leafy vegetables are another source of calcium. Therefore, eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods is very important.
The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine has issued new daily calcium and vitamin D intake guidelines for various groups of persons:
Adequate Intake (AI)*
Males and females 9 - 18 years 1,300 mg
Women and men 19 - 50 years 1,000 mg
Pregnant or nursing women up to age 1 1,300 mg
Pregnant or nursing women 19 - 50 years 1,000 mg
Men and women over 50 1,200 mg
People 9 - 50 years with limited sun exposure 1,300 IU
People 51 - 70 years with limited sun exposure 1,000 IU
People over 70 with limited sun exposure 1,300 IU
*Adequate Intake (AI) is the mean intake which appears to sustain a defined nutritional state by most people in a specific group.
** People who spend adequate amounts of time in the sun do not need dietary vitamin D intake.
Selecting foods high in calcium is one way to help you achieve your targeted daily calcium intake. Here are 25 major food sources of calcium to assist your meal planning.
Serving size Food Amount of Calcium(mg)
1 cup (8 oz.) yogurt, plain, low-fat 415
1 cup yogurt, fruit, low-fat 314
1 cup skim milk 302
1 cup 2% milk 297
1 cup whole milk 291
1 oz. swiss cheese 272
1 oz. cheddar cheese 204
1 oz. Colby cheese 194
1 oz. American cheese 174
1 cup cottage cheese, low-fat 155
1 English muffin, with butter 103
1 cup sardines, in oil, drained 351
3 oz. perch,cooked 117
1 cup tofu 260
1 1/2 cups chef salad 235
1 taco 221
l large plain hamburger, with bun 74
1 cup almonds 332
l cup,chopped collards,cooked 357
l cup,chopped kale,cooked 179
1 cup broccoli, cooked 94
l cup kidney beans, canned 69
10 fl. oz. vanilla shake 344
1 cup vanilla ice cream 170
5 oz. tapioca pudding 119
Source: Agricultural Handbook, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
(For a free brochure on osteoporosis call the Academy's public service telephone number (800) 824-BONES or send a stamped, self addressed business size envelope to Prevent Injuries America!-osteoporosis, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, P.O. Box 2068, Des Plaines, IL. 60017.)
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