Calcium is key to healthy bones for a lifetime. How to eat to build your bones and prevent osteoporosis
What are the health benefits associated with calcium?
Many people overlook calcium as a vital nutrient in their diets. Nearly every cell of the body uses calcium in one way or another, including the nervous system and muscles. Calcium is used by the body to build strong bones and teeth, maintain their strength as you age, send messages via the nervous system, help blood clot, contract your muscles, and regulate your heart rhythm.
Your body will absorb calcium from your bones if you don’t eat enough. This can cause osteoporosis or weak bones. A calcium deficiency can lead to mood problems like irritability and anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping.
These vital functions aside, many people are still confused about calcium and how to protect our bones and overall health. How much calcium should I get? What should you do to get it? What about vitamin D, magnesium, or other nutrients that aid calcium in its work? This confusion means many people aren’t getting enough calcium. Approximately one in four women over 50 will fracture a bone from osteoporosis.
Calcium intake is important not only for seniors. Children, teens, and young adults need to have enough calcium in their diets. We continue to build bone mass until our 20s. Without sufficient calcium, our bones can start to shrink. No matter your age or gender it is important to eat calcium-rich foods, limit calcium-depleting foods, and make sure you get enough magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K to support calcium’s work.
The connection between calcium and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, also known as “silent”, is characterized by a loss of bone mass. Fractures can become more common due to weak bones. This poses serious health risks. Osteoporosis is a condition in which people with weak bones don’t heal from a fall. It is the second leading cause of death for women aged 60 years and older. Osteoporosis is also a possibility for men, although they are more likely to develop it 5-10 years later than women. Osteoporosis can be prevented. Getting enough calcium into your diet is the best place to start.
Calcium is best obtained from food
Doctors recommend you eat as much calcium as you can and only take low-dose supplements to make up the difference. Calcium is more easily absorbed from food than from supplements. Studies show that people who take calcium supplements have higher calcium intakes than those who eat more calcium. However, they have stronger bones if they get their calcium from food. High-dose calcium supplements can increase your risk of developing kidney stones or heart disease.
Calcium-rich foods are a good source
Dairy products, leafy green veggies, some fish, oatmeal, and other grains are good sources of calcium.
Calcium and whole milk dairy: The benefits and disadvantages
Milk and other dairy products are high in calcium, but there could be potential problems.
Saturated fat is a common problem with whole-milk dairy products. While many prominent health organizations advise that you reduce your intake of saturated fat and opt for low- or no-fat dairy products, increasing research has shown that whole-milk dairy products are associated with lower body fat and lower levels of obesity. Hidden sugars are often added to low-fat or non-fat dairy products to compensate for the loss in taste. This can lead to more harm to your health than the saturated fat they replace.
High levels of estrogen can be found in milk. Studies have shown a link between natural estrogens found within milk and breast, prostate, and testicular cancer. Modern dairy practices are part of the problem. Cows are continuously fed synthetic hormones and antibiotics and milked for over 300 days a year. The hormone content in milk is affected by how pregnant the cow is. Organic milk is made from grass-fed cows and does not contain synthetic hormones. However, organic milk can still have high levels of natural hormones. Skim milk is lower in both synthetic and natural hormones due to the high levels found in milk fat.
There are some people who are lactose intolerant. This means they cannot digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk or milk products. The symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, gas, and gas. Other than the discomfort, lactose intolerance can also affect calcium absorption from milk.
Here are some tips to increase your calcium intake
You can increase your calcium intake by including calcium-rich foods in several meals and snacks.
Here are some tips to increase calcium intake from dairy.
- When making oatmeal and other hot breakfast cereals, you can use milk instead of water.
- You can substitute milk for some of your soup liquids, such as tomato, squash, pumpkin soups, or curries.
- You can add milk to many sauces, or use it as the base for sauces like Alfredo and Bechamel.
- Use milk or yogurt to make whole-wheat pancakes or waffles
- Plain yogurt can be used in many ways. You can use it as a dressing, dip, or top potatoes with sour cream.
- To make a fruit smoothie, add milk or yogurt. Blended smoothies can be frozen for popsicles.
- Cheese can be enjoyed as a dessert or as a snack. You can try cheddar, mozzarella, or Gouda.
How to get more calcium from non-dairy sources
You can add greens to soups and casseroles. These and other dishes can be spiced up with garlic, basil, and oregano to increase their nutritional value.
Enjoy dark green leafy vegetables along with your meals. You can try romaine hearts and arugula as well as butter lettuce, mesclun, and watercress. Avoid iceberg lettuce which has very low nutrient content.
Add additional servings of vegetables to your meals, i.e. Fresh green peas, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, and okra are all good options.
Make a sandwich with canned fish, such as sardines or pink salmon.
You can use beans/legumes in your meals. They taste great in soups, stews, and soups. You can also try tempeh, black-eyed beans, black beans, and other dried legumes like tofu. Edamame is also a good snack option.
Get started with oatmeal. You can choose from steel-cut or rolled oats. Add cinnamon for an extra punch.
Enjoy nuts and seeds like almonds and sesame seeds. These can be added to your morning oatmeal.
Prepare sandwiches with whole-grain bread.
Healthy bones require more than calcium
Calcium alone does not suffice when it comes to bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis. You can also get other vital nutrients to help your body absorb calcium and make it useful.
Why it is important: Magnesium aids your body to absorb calcium and protect against osteoporosis. Magnesium isn’t stored in the body so it is important to ensure that you have enough.
How much should you take? Adult men need 400-420mg daily. Adult women need 310 to320 mg daily (more during pregnancy).
How to add more to your diet: Magnesium can be found in nuts (especially cashews and almonds), seeds (pumpkin and sesame, sunflower, flax, and pumpkin), and whole grains, seafood, and legumes. It is also found in many vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chards, summer squashes, turnip greens, mustard greens, turnip, celery, sea vegetables, and cucumbers. Limit sugar and alcohol intake, as they increase magnesium excretion.
Why it is important: Vitamin D aids the body to absorb calcium and regulates calcium levels in the blood.
How many do you need? From age 70 to 60, 600 IU per day. Over 70, 800 IU per day.
How to add more to your diet: Vitamin D is made by the body when it is exposed to sunlight. Spend at least 15 minutes in the sun every day, and include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet.
Why it is important: phosphorous works with calcium to make bones. It’s crucial to balance the phosphorous and calcium in your body. Too much can cause your body to absorb less calcium, making it toxic.
How much should you take? Adults need 700mg a day.
How to add more to your diet: Some good sources of protein include milk, eggs, tuna, cod, salmon, and pork.
Why it is important: VitaminK helps regulate calcium levels and create strong bones.
How much should you take? Adult men need 120 micrograms per day. Adult women, 90 micrograms daily.
How to add more to your diet: Simply eating one or two servings of broccoli, Brussels sprouts or dark green lettuce per day should provide enough vitamin K.
Vitamin C and vitamin A
Recent research shows that vitamin B12 and vitamin C may play an important role in bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.
Vitamin C can be prevented by eating foods high in vitamins. Citrus fruits, including oranges and grapefruits, strawberries, blueberries, Brussels sprouts, green bell peppers, and mangos are all good sources of vitamin C.
Studies also show a correlation between vitamin B12 levels, bone density, and osteoporosis. There are many good sources of vitamin B12, including seafood like salmon, haddock, and canned tuna.
Here are some other tips to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis
You can increase the calcium content of your diet by including calcium-rich foods. However, it is possible to reduce your intake of calcium-depleting substances.
Lower your salt intake. Too much salt can lead to bone loss and calcium loss. Reduce sodium intake from packaged foods, convenience foods, fast food, and processed meats. To enhance the flavor of your food, you can use herbs and spices instead of salt.
Limit how much caffeine you take in. Calcium loss can be caused by drinking more than 2 cups of coffee per day. For older people who have low calcium levels, the loss can be significant. Drinking coffee with milk can help to buffer these effects.
Watch your alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol can inhibit calcium absorption and cause a variety of problems in your body’s calcium balance. Limit your alcohol intake to 7 drinks per week.
Avoid soft drinks. Your body takes calcium from your bones to compensate for the phosphates found in soft drinks. This calcium is then excreted. Instead, opt for water or calcium-fortified Orange Juice.
For long-term bone health, exercise is essential
Exercise is vital for building and maintaining strong bones. Make it a habit to do something you love.
Calcium supplements: What do you need to know?
Supplements are another way to get calcium. It is important to not take too many.
Calcium citrate is a highly absorbable calcium compound.
Calcium ascorbate and calcium carbonate are not as easily absorbed as calcium citrate.
Calcium supplements should be taken with caution
Do not consume more than 500mg at once. Calcium is a very limited mineral that your body can absorb, so it is important to take small amounts throughout the day.
Limit your intake to the recommended daily intake for your age. Consider the calcium in foods. Remember, more calcium is not better. It may cause damage to the heart and other health problems.
Eat your calcium supplement with food. Calcium citrate is an alternative if it is not possible to consume your calcium supplement with food.
It is essential to maintain purity. You should choose calcium supplements that are labeled “purified” or, in the United States, the USP symbol. Supplements made from unrefined oyster shells, bone meals, and dolomite should be avoided as they could contain high levels of other toxic metals.
Side effects should be considered. Side effects include acid rebound, gas, and constipation. Switch from calcium carbonate to calcium citrate to prevent acid rebound. Increase your fluid intake and eat high-fiber foods to reduce gas and constipation.
Look out for drug interactions. Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and antacids can interact with certain medications, such as heart medicine, blood thinners, and certain cancer drugs. Discuss possible interactions with your pharmacist or doctor. Calcium should not be taken with any medications you take on an empty stomach.