I know a lot of people that are lactose intolerant, or just tend to really dislike dairy, and want to add more calcium to their diet. Calcium adheres to the bones and helps to prevent osteoporosis. It can be a bit tricky to know how much you might need to eat of various foods to get the amount of calcium that you need each day. Calcium is also a bit of a tricky supplement to take because you need vitamin D to absorb the calcium, without vitamin D, you only actually absorb about 10-15% of the calcium you ingest. Vitamin D can be taken in supplement form but the best way to get Vitamin D? Spend 30 minutes in the sun, outside of the most intense sunlight times (10am-2pm) with only light sunscreen on (and it’s best absorbed without any on).
How much calcium do I need?
From the ages of 10 to 20 your body absorbs the most calcium to the bones, and slows significantly after the ages of 30. It is suggested that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the ages of 9 to 18 is 1300mg, ages 18 to 50 is 1000mg, and ages 51+ is 1200mg per day. If you think that an 8oz serving of yogurt has around 400mg of calcium, and an 8oz glass of milk has around 350mg, cheese has about 300mg per 1.5oz serving, eating three servings of dairy, really help you to hit that RDA for calcium. If you can’t tolerate dairy, or just don’t like it, fear not, there are other ways to get in enough calcium, you just need to pay attention to your diet.
How do I get my calcium on?
The good news is that we live in a world full of fortified foods, and soy, almond, and coconut milks all have around 300mg of calcium in an 8oz serving, as does Orange Juice fortified with calcium. One serving of beans (1/2 cup) gives you around 100mg, 1/4cup of almonds (in any form) adds 80mg, and green leafy vegetables are chock full of calcium (1 cup of uncooked kale/spinach/etc has about 200mg). And, if you are really into sardines, you are really in for a surprise, 8 medium-sized canned sardines has 370mg of calcium! And for all of you tofu lovers, 1/2 cup of tofu has 270mg of calcium. Your after dinner treat of frozen yogurt? 100mg of calcium. So pay attention to the foods you eat, most likely you are getting a good amount of calcium, and remember that most cereals and breads are fortified with calcium, so read the labels.
What else can I do?
Remember that your body can only really absorb a maximum of 500mg of calcium at a time, so if you are taking supplements, be aware of that! Remember to get your sun for the Vitamin D to aid in absorption of calcium into your bones. Also doing low weight-bearing exercises, lifting low amounts of weights, ankle weights, helps to strengthen your muscles around your bones and keep the calcium in your bones instead of stripping off. Too much calcium can cause some bad things, so make sure just to get the approximately the amount that you need! So get that calcium in and strengthen those bones!!
Yours in Good Health