Saturday, January 16, 2021

Calcium for Better Health


This fact sheet is one in a series containing information to help you select foods that provide adequate daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently released recommendations for the development of Dietary Guidelines that convey these nine major messages: 

  • Consume a variety of foods within and among the basic food groups while staying within energy needs.
  • Control calorie intake to manage body weight.
  • Be physically active every day.
  • Increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat or low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Choose fats wisely for good health.
  • Choose carbohydrates wisely for good health
  • Choose and prepare foods with little salt.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation if you do choose to drink.
  • Keep food safe to eat.

What Is the Importance of Calcium?

One to two percent of your body weight is calcium. It is the most abundant mineral in the body. Ninety-nine percent of this calcium is in teeth and bones. The other 1 percent is found in blood, extra cellular fluids, and within cells of all tissues where it regulates key metabolic functions. Calcium is needed for growth and bone density, plus it keeps the heart pumping, muscles moving, and nerves communicating.

Why the Concern with Calcium in the Diet?

Low intake over a lifetime may lead to less dense bones or bone loss and increased risk of osteoporosis. The body stores calcium in bones till age 20, then through ages 20 to the early 30s, the body reaches its peak bone mass.

The USDA 1994 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) showed a 25 percent higher intake of calcium in males than females ages nine and over. Males consumed 925 milligrams to the women’s weak 657 milligram intake. The adequate intake (AI) for males and females is 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Both groups are below the adequate recommendation.

What Are Sources of Calcium?

According to data from 1994 (released by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion [CNPP], 1996), 73 percent of calcium came from milk products, 9 percent from fruits and vegetables, 5 percent from grains, and 12 percent from other sources.

Figure 1 shows where you can find calcium in MyPyramid. Table 1 shows a list of foods that contain calcium and the percent of calcium in each item.

Table 1. Percentage of Calcium in Some Selected Foods
Food GroupFoodServing SizeMg of Calcium % of AI
MilkYogurt, plain, nonfat1 cup 45045
MilkTofu (w/calcium) ½ cup43543.5
MilkYogurt, plain, low fat1 cup 41541.5
MilkYogurt, fruit1 cup 31531.5
MilkMilk, fat free1 cup 30030
MilkMilk, 2% 1 cup 29529.5
MilkMilk, whole1 cup 29029
MilkChocolate milk, 1%1 cup 28528.5
MilkChocolate milk, 2%1 cup 28528.5
MilkSwiss cheese1 ounce 27027
MilkCalcium fortified soy milk8 ounces250-300 25-30
FruitCalcium fortified orange juice ¾ cup22522.5
Cheese pizza1/8 of pizza22022
MilkCheddar cheese1 ounce 20520.5
Meat (Protein) Salmon, canned3 ounces20520.5
MilkMozzarella cheese½ cup18518.5
Macaroni and cheese½ cup18018
SweetBlackstrap molasses1 tablespoon17017
SweetPudding½ cup15015
MilkTofu, raw, w/o calcium ½ cup13013
MilkFrozen yogurt½ cup10510.5
VegetableTurnip greens½ cup10010
Meat (protein) Sardines1 ounce909
Meat (protein) Dried figs3909
Milk/Sweets Ice cream½ cup85 8.5
MilkCottage cheese½ cup75 7.5
VegetableTempeh½ cup757.5
VegetableOkra½ cup75 7.5
MilkParmesan cheese1 tablespoon70 7
MilkMilk chocolate bar1 ounce70 7
VegetableMustard greens½ cup50 5
FruitOrange150 5
VegetableKale½ cup45 4.5
VegetableBroccoli½ cup45 4.5
Meat (protein) Anchovies540 4
Meat/beansPinto beans½ cup40 4
VegetableRutabaga½ cup404
MilkCream cheese2 tablespoons252.5
VegetableChinese cabbage, raw½ cup303
Meat (protein)Tuna, canned3 ounces101
VegetableLettuce greens½ cup101

Why Is Milk Intake So Low?

There are a variety of reasons why adults shy away from milk.

  • They do not like the taste.
  • They feel it is “for kids only.”
  • They feel it has too many calories.
  • They are lactose intolerant — a condition in which milk gives them gas and makes them feel bloated.

What Are the Facts?

Current research reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that incorporating three servings of dairy per day (i.e., three glasses of milk) in your diet will aid in weight loss. Calcium in milk promotes muscle growth and healthy bones. The study conducted had three groups — one on a low calcium diet, one on a high calcium diet (using a calcium supplement), and one on a high dairy diet. The group that drank more milk had a significantly larger weight loss than the other two groups. Another bene­fit of milk is it also contains protein for healthy bones; vitamins A, B12, and D; riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

What Are Alternatives to Drinking Milk?

If you are lactose intolerant, try using one of the lactose digesting products on the market (Lactaid, Dairy Ease). Fresh lactaid milk with extra calcium is also available at grocery stores.

Use Cheese

There are many low-fat (e.g., Kraft Light Naturals and “Philly” Light — a Neufchatel cheese) and nonfat (cottage, cream, Alpine Lace brand) cheeses. Eat cheese plain or combine it with other foods where it calls for traditional cheese.

For those who are lactose intolerant, harder, longer-aged cheeses have more whey removed, so they are lower in residual lactose.

Use Yogurt

Choose low-fat and non-fat versions, plain and flavored. Use as a substitute for mayonnaise in salad dressing. Replace sour cream with yogurt in dips, salads, desserts, and main dishes (e.g., stroganoff.) If a thicker product is desired, drain the yogurt by placing it in a coffee filter and strainer over a bowl in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Use frozen yogurt for dessert instead of ice cream.

Use Dry Milk

Use dry milk as an additive in cooking and baking.

Most recipes will tolerate the addition of 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry milk. Serving size portions may take 1/2 to 1 tablespoon.

  • Add dry milk to main dishes like meatloaf, cream soups, stroganoff, spaghetti, lasagna, chili, enchiladas, tacos, chicken and broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese (even from the box), and most casseroles with a cream soup base.
  • Add dry milk to baked products such as cookies, brownies, cake mixes, coffee cake, muffins, biscuits, pancakes, French toast, quick breads (corn bread, pumpkin or zucchini bread), yeast breads and rolls and their fillings, and bread dressing.
  • Add dry milk to other milk-based products such as puddings, Popsicles made with pudding , cheese sauces, milk shakes (made from dry milk, sugar, fruit or flavoring, ice cubes, or frozen yogurts), milk gravy, cheesecakes, custards, cream soups, and creamy salad dressings (make it with a yogurt base, not a sour cream or mayonnaise one).

Use Non-Dairy Sources

If you have a severe allergy to milk (usually to the milk proteins), get your calcium from non-dairy sources. Drink juices fortified with calcium and combine this with a daily dose of higher calcium vegetables (greens), legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils), tofu, and fortified grain products (e.g., some breakfast cereals.) Use canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines, and mackerel).

When simmering bones to make soup stock, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the pot. This will dissolve a small amount of the calcium from the bones and leave it in the meat broth.

Use a Dietary Supplement

Calcium supplements are available, if needed. Make sure to get a supplement with vitamin D added. Vitamin D plays a key role in the absorption of calcium.

Make sure the calcium supplement will disintegrate properly by placing it in 6 ounces of vinegar for 30 minutes. If it disintegrates, your body will be able to absorb the calcium in the pill.

Labels and Sources of Calcium

Grocery stores label their products according to regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A “high”, “rich in”, or “excellent” source of calcium is 20 percent or more of the RDA/AI (Recommended Daily Allowance/Adequate Intake). When a product is labeled “good”, “contains”, or “provides”, it has 10 percent of the RDA/AI for calcium. If a product is labeled “more”, “enriched”, “fortified”, or “added”, it has 10 percent or less of the RDA/AI. Table 1 shows the percentages of calcium in some food items.

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