Most of us mentally connect the growing years with the need for calcium.
That’s true, but “boning up” is a lifelong process—starting at the moment of conception.
During the childhood and teen years, bones grow long and wide.
40 percent or more of the body’s bone mass is formed during adolescence.
By age twenty or so, that phase of bone-building is complete.
But the period of building toward peak bone mass continues until the early thirties.
Bones become stronger and denser as more calcium becomes part of the bone matrix.
Your bones are in a constant state of change.
Because bones are living tissue, calcium gets deposited and withdrawn daily from your skeleton,
much like money in a bank, in a process called remodeling.
As small amounts are withdrawn, they’re used for other body functions; at the same time, calcium is
deposited in bones.
To keep your bones strong and to reduce bone loss, you need to make regular calcium deposits to replace the losses—and even build up a little “nest egg” of calcium for when your food choices come up short.
Calcium doesn’t work alone.
It works in partnership with other nutrients, including phosphorus and vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps absorb and deposit calcium in bones and teeth, making them stronger.
Phosphorus also is an important part of the structure of bone.
If you don’t consume enough calcium—or if your the body doesn’t adequately absorb it (perhaps because you’re short on vitamin D)—your body may withdraw more calcium from bones than you deposit.
You need calcium, for example, for muscle contraction and your heartbeat, too.
This process gradually depletes bone, leaving a void in places where calcium otherwise would be deposited, eventually making bones more porous and fragile.
After age thirty or so, bones slowly lose minerals that give them strength. That’s a natural part
of the aging process.
Whatever calcium a woman has “banked” in her skeleton will be the amount in her bones when she
Even then, consuming enough calcium can help women retain their bone density and lower the risk for
During the childbearing years, the hormone estrogen appears to protect bones, keeping them strong.
But with the onset of menopause, bone loss speeds up for women as estrogen levels go down.
If women achieve their peak bone mass as younger adults, their risk for osteoporosis or brittle
bone disease, later in life is reduced.
Their bones are strong enough before menopause to offer protection.
For older adults (ages fifty-one and over), calcium remains important for bone health as well as for protection from high blood pressure and cancer.
It’s not too late to get the benefits from consuming more calcium, even if you’re starting now.
An adequate calcium intake is one important factor in building healthy bones.
Adequate exercise is another.
Regular, weight-bearing physical activities such as walking, strength training, dancing, kickboxing, and tennis stimulate bone formation.
These types of activities trigger nerve impulses that, in turn, activate body chemicals to deposit
calcium in bones.
Women—and men, too: You can build bone until about age thirty.
After that, you can only slow the bone loss that comes with aging.
Follow these tips:
Consume adequate amounts of calcium—at every age and stage of life! Be careful about weight loss; eating plans that severely restrict food often restrict calcium, too.
If you’re concerned about calories or fat, choose fat-free or low-fat milk and still get the bone-building benefits of milk.
Participate regularly—at least three times weekly—in weight-bearing activities.
Avoid smoking and an excessive intake of alcohol; both interfere with bone health.
Calcium How to Eat More!
Need more calcium in your food choices?
Give your meal and snack choices a calcium boost in these easy ways:
Make it a habit! Eat two to three servings—or more—of foods from the Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group each day.
Include fruity yogurt with breakfast and a refreshing glass of milk for lunch or dinner for two easy servings.
Three cups of milk, regardless of whether it’s whole, fat-free, or flavored, supply about 900 milligrams of calcium.
Milk for calcium
during your “coffee break.” If there’s no place to buy a carton of milk, bring it
Refrigerate milk for a day at work in a small water bottle.
Some experts say that just choosing milk at snack time could make a big impact on reducing the risk for osteoporosis.
Give goat milk a try.
One cup supplies about 325 milligrams of calcium, slightly more than 1 cup of cow milk.
The fat content varies, so you need to check the Nutrition Facts on the label.
Look for low-fat goat milk that’s fortified with vitamins A and D.
For the “new taste” of milk, try flavored milk—blueberry, banana, a peanut butter—or
Or make your fruity drinks by blending milk or yogurt with fruit and ice in a blender or food
Enjoy calcium-rich snacks:
frozen yogurt, ice milk, cheese with crackers, plain yogurt, pudding, milk or calcium-fortified juice.
For a calcium-rich, low-fat dip or cracker spread, see “At a coffee bar, order a latte (steamed milk with espresso coffee) or cappuccino.
Lower the calories and hold the fat by asking for fat-free milk. For more flavor, sprinkle on a little cinnamon or nutmeg.
While caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption, this effect is readily offset by consuming the amount of steamed milk typically added to latte or cappuccino.Lighten up with milk.
Add milk to your coffee or tea (milk tea), rather than drinking it black.
Milk has more calcium than powdered non-dairy creamer.
Choose vegetables and fruits with more calcium:
dark-green leafy greens such as kale and mustard, collard, and turnip greens; broccoli, dried beans, and bok choy are good sources of calcium.
Other non-dairy options include dried figs and calcium-fortified fruit juices.
Drink calcium-fortified soy milk (from the carton or blended in smoothies) and use it in cooking, especially if you choose to avoid milk. Say “cheese” when you make or order sandwiches.
Choose canned fish with edible bones:
salmon, sardines, and anchovies. Mix salmon in salads, casseroles, pasta dishes, salmon cakes, and other mixed dishes.
Add tofu (soybean curd) made with calcium to salads, casseroles, chili, stir-fries, smoothies,and other dishes.
Boost the calcium in your food preparation.
Make soups, chowders, and hot cereal with milk.
Top salads, soups, and stews with shredded cheese.
Mix dry milk powder into meatloaf and casseroles.
Make vegetable dips with plain yogurt,calcium-fortified tofu, or cottage cheese.
Add bok choy, broccoli, or kale to soups, casseroles, and other mixed dishes.
Look for calcium-rich foods in the grocery store.
Check the Nutrition Facts on food labels, listing the calcium in a single serving.
The amount is given as the % Daily Value, which approximates the percentage of your day’s calcium need to be supplied by one serving of that food.
Calcium Nutrition at home
Do you say you’re not a milk drinker?
Just whisk one or two ingredients, such as those below, with one cup of milk—cold or hot, fat-free or whole—and give it a refreshing new flavor!
(And enjoy the added benefits of 300 milligrams of calcium from a cup of milk.)
•1»2 cup of fresh or frozen berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or
• 2 tablespoons of fruit juice concentrate and 1»2 teaspoon of flavor extract
• 1»4 teaspoon of almond, anise, hazelnut, maple, or
• vanilla extract. Or try a flavored oil, perhaps cinnamon or peppermint: use 2 drops of flavored oil in place of 1»4 teaspoon of extract.
• 1 banana or peach, with 1»2 teaspoon of honey
1»2 cup of cranberry juice cocktail and a small scoop of low-fat vanilla ice cream
• 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter and 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup