Many people have eliminated dairy from their diets so they aren’t meeting the 1000 mg recommended daily intake. But why is calcium so important?
Calcium is important for muscle contractions, nerve transmission and other metabolic functions, which accounts for 1% of total body calcium. The other 99% of calcium in our body is in our bones and teeth. Our body cannot make calcium itself. Therefore, if we do not consume the adequate amount of calcium we need per day, our body will take calcium from our bones and use it elsewhere. Inadequate calcium intake over a long period of time can lead to osteopenia or even osteoporosis, which is characterized by porous and fragile bones. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures of the hip, vertebrae, wrist, pelvis, ribs and other bones. In addition, calcium deficiency is also associated with hypertension, and colon cancer. The daily recommended intake of calcium per day for adults between 19 and 50 years is 1000 mg.
Some associations have also been made between weight management and calcium intake. Several studies suggest that calcium intakes below the recommended level for adults is associated the obesity risk including increased waist circumference, BMI, and body weight. However, it is cautioned that this is not a reason to take excessive supplementation, but only to practice an overall balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods.
Of course, the best sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. However, if you are avoiding dairy all together, there are several other option as well. Excellent sources of calcium that provide more than 20% of the recommended intake per day are sardines, soymilk, calcium-fortified orange juice and tofu, as well as calcium-fortified cereal. Other good sources are turnips and kale.
Here’s a list of some calcium rich foods:
A few simple ways on how to incorporate more calcium into your diet are:
- Add milk or yogurt to fruit smoothies
- Use milk instead of water when making oatmeal
- Use yogurt to make salad dressings or dips
- Enjoy a mozzarella cheese stick for a snack with some apple slices
- Add some orange slices to your breakfast or have them as a snack
- Snack on a handful of trail mix
- Add beans to your meal, as for example in soups, chili or stews
- Use tofu and bok choy in your stir fry
Be sure to include calcium-rich foods in a healthy whole food diet.
Contributed by Kristine James, Dietectics Student