Nutrient Spotlight: Calcium
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

Nutrient Spotlight: Calcium

All of the things your parents said when they were trying to convince you to finish your milk are true. The calcium found in milk is important for building strong bones and teeth. While bones and teeth are fundamental to our overall health, calcium’s role goes even further. Here are the top eight things you didn’t know about calcium.

#1: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. While 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our bones and teeth, the remaining one percent is vital for all sorts of processes. It enables blood to clot, helps transmit nerve impulses, and aids in hormone secretion. Because it has a crucial role in muscle contraction, our heart could not beat without it. It’s that important.

#2: Everyday we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine, and feces. Eating large amounts of protein or sodium can cause your body to excrete more calcium. If you don’t get enough calcium, your body will steal it from your bones. This can make your bones weak and prone to breaking.

#3: You need about 1000 – 1200 mg calcium. Women over 50 and men over 70 need the highest amount.

#4: We can’t make calcium. We need to get it from the foods we eat. Eight ounces of plain low fat yogurt contains the most calcium at about 415 mg per serving or 32 percent of the daily recommended value. Other foods high in calcium include milk and cheese; leafy green vegetables like broccoli, kale, bok choi, and spinach; nuts, seeds, and beans; and fish with edible small bones, like sardines and canned salmon.

#5: Some juices, breakfast cereals, soymilk, and breads have been fortified with calcium. If you drink soymilk or other liquids fortified with calcium, be sure to shake the container before pouring, as calcium settles to the bottom.

#6: We need vitamin D and magnesium to absorb and use calcium, so it’s a good idea to eat a well-balanced diet that includes lots of variety.

#7: Some conditions or dietary choices can make it difficult to get the calcium you need. They include long-term treatment with corticosteroids, certain bowel or digestive diseases, a vegan diet, or lactose intolerance. If any of these apply to you, you may want to watch your diet closely or ask your physician or a registered dietitian to recommend a calcium supplement.

#8: More calcium doesn’t provide extra bone protection, and it is possible to get too much calcium. Doing so may cause health consequences. Dietary calcium is generally safe. You are most likely to get too much if you are taking supplements. The recommended upper limit is 2,500 mg per day for those 19 – 50 and 2,000 mg for those 50 and older.

Rachel Rodney, RD, is a registered dietitian with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. She sees patients free of charge in 13 primary care practices regionwide. Inquire with your primary care office for an appointment.


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