I’ve been counting calcium milligrams lately. Partly because it was my assignment for week 10 of the New American Plate Challenge, and partly because I recently found out I’m developing osteopenia, which means my bones are getting too thin. I’m not really surprised about the thin bones. Everything about me is pretty thin, including my bones. I occasionally make jewelry, and I realized that I have the same sized wrist as a seven year old :(. I’ve always been a small girl, can’t really help it. When I gain weight, it never goes to my wrists, or ankles, or spine, or hip (those are the areas that are thinning) only my stomach, which although not huge, is unfortunately, not thin.
When I was little, my mom would force me to drink my milk. I. Hated. It. The thought of drinking a glass of milk still makes me gag. That’s probably why I have thin bones. It was actually my hatred of milk, and lack of calcium that made me reconsider my career and go back to school to study nutrition. I was pregnant with my daughter, and I realized why calcium is important, and that there are other ways to get it, besides the dreaded milk. Hooray! Better late than never, so now I count my calcium. And eat lots of yogurt.
In addition to helping to build strong bones, calcium, is also important for lots of other things. It plays an important role in regulating blood pressure, and it may be helpful in preventing diabetes, reducing the risk of colon cancer, and possibly helping with weight loss. However, too much calcium, especially if taken in supplement form, may be harmful to you heart, and may be associated with increased risk for prostate cancer.
So the goal of my NAP challenge for last week was to aim for calcium balance – not too little but not too much either. The goal for women ages 19-50 is to get 1,000 mg per day, and those over 50 should get 1,200 mg per day. Men ages 19-70 need 1,000 mg per day, and men over 70 should get up to 1,200 mg daily. These recommendations for calcium translate to consuming 2 1/2 to 3 servings of dairy or other calcium-rich foods each day –the challenge for week 10.
Of course milk (cow, soy, or other fortified non dairy milk) is a great source of calcium, but luckily for me, so is yogurt, cheese, fortified orange juice, leafy greens, and beans. I still won’t drink a glass of plain milk, but I’ve come to love a good 8 oz serving in my latte every morning, and I try to get at least 6 oz in my oatmeal. That, plus some yogurt, and fortified orange juice most days gets me pretty close to what is recommended. I get the rest from my Adora dark chocolate calcium supplement. Dessert 🙂
The American Institute for Cancer Research has put together a helpful list of foods and their calcium values, as well as the percent of your daily value, so you can add up what you eat and see how close you come to the recommendation.
Food Sources of Calcium
|Food||Milligrams (mg) per serving||Percent DV|
|Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces||415||42|
|Mozzarella, part skim, 1.5 ounces||333||33|
|Sardines, canned in oil, with bones, 3 ounces||325||33|
|Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces||313–384||31–38|
|Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces||307||31|
|Milk, nonfat, 8 ounces||299||30|
|Soymilk, calcium-fortified, 8 ounces||299||30|
|Milk, buttermilk, low fat, 8 ounces||284||28|
|Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 6 ounces||261||26|
|Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup||253||25|
|Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone, 3 ounces||181||18|
|Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup||138||14|
|Tofu, soft, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup||138||14|
|Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve, ½ cup||103||10|
|Turnip greens, fresh, boiled, ½ cup||99||10|
|Kale, raw, chopped, 1 cup||100||10|
|Kale, fresh, cooked, 1 cup||94||9|
|Chinese cabbage, bok choi, raw, shredded, 1 cup||74||7|
|Tortilla, corn, one 6″ diameter||46||5|
|Bread, whole-wheat, 1 slice||30||3|
|Broccoli, raw, ½ cup||21||2|
Credit: Adapted from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
As I’ve mentioned before, Greek yogurt has become one of my favorite foods, and a go-to ingredient for so many of my recipes. This dip is a delicious way to sneak some extra calcium into your diet. Try it with fresh veggies as a snack, or as a sandwich spread.
- ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
- ½ cup jarred sun dried tomatoes in herbs, drained
- 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- salt and pepper
- Place first 3 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.
- Blend until smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with fresh vegetables, crackers or pita bread OR as a sandwich spread.
- Keep refrigerated and this should last for up to 1 week.
Do you get enough calcium in your diet? If not, do you remember to take a supplement?