Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. However, because calcium helps your body build strong bones and teeth and supports other important functions, it’s continuously being used. It’s important, therefore, to replace the lost calcium by eating
calcium-rich foods. Dairy foods, or course, contain
the most calcium per serving. One cup of yogurt contains 415 mg. of calcium, 1 cup of milk supplies 300 mg. and 1 ounce of cheddar cheese has 204 mg. It’s not easy to get enough calcium in the diet without these and other dairy foods added to your daily menu.
There are other foods that can help people increase their daily intake of calcium, especially when combined with dairy foods. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other greens contain calcium. Plus, they are high in vitamin C, which improves calcium absorption. Oranges and raisins are also a good source of calcium.
To increase your calcium intake further, add beans to your diet. One-half cup of contains 100 mg. of calcium. Beans have the added benefit of being high in protein, which makes it easier to absorb calcium. Foods such as whole-wheat bread, corn tortillas and other grain products, though not high in calcium, help increase calcium intake because they are eaten so frequently.
So how much calcium is needed each day? That depends on your age. Children ages 1 to 3 need about 500 mg. a day, while children ages 4 to 8 need 800 mg. Teens ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 mg. a day, which is the equivalent to three glasses of milk a day. Even adults ages 19 to 50 need about 1,000 mg. a day and those over 51 need 1,300 mg. a day to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones as people age. A calcium-rich diet reduce the risk of this disease.
As far as dairy foods are concerned, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid recommends that people age 2 and older eat two to three servings a day. One serving is equal to 1 cup of milk, 8 ounces of yogurt, 1.5 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese.
In addition to focusing on eating calcium-rich foods, you can also try cooking with calcium. In other words, use yogurt and milk to make salad dressings. Try nonfat dry milk in casseroles, meatloaf and baked goods. Use milk in cream soups. Add tofu (calcium processed), cheese and cottage cheese to casseroles, lasagna and salads. Add milk when making pancakes, hot cereals, hot cocoa and pudding. Add eat calcium-fortified foods.
For more information, contact the Letcher County
Cooperative Extension Service at 633-2362.