Calcium: Are you getting enough?
Calcium. Some nutritionists declare it one of the more overlooked nutrients in the diet and consumers don’t think much about it, they just assume they’re getting enough calcium because they drink milk. There is reason to keep track of calcium intake, however - whether you’re taking calcium in supplement form (in which case it should be accompanied by vitamin D for optimum absorption) or you prefer to let your diet do the nourishing, calcium is critical to be aware of.
An estimated 74% of Americans are calcium deficient. Without proper calcium intake, the body starts to absorb it from the bones, resulting in brittle bones and osteoporosis which is painful and sometimes debilitating. Calcium is important for small children as their bones are developing, but it is still important that adults consume their fair share. The Office of Dietary Supplements suggests adult females consume between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, and approximately the same amount is suggested for men and children. Activity level, age, and general health all contribute to just how much calcium an individual needs, so check with a doctor or nutritionist before supplementing calcium into the diet.
Over-consumption of calcium can have negative effects on the health as well - constipation and development of kidney stones have been related to too-much calcium in the body, but with the statistics being stacked on the calcium deficiency side, the likelihood of calcium-overload is significantly lower.
One may think, “I drink milk and eat yogurt, and I take a daily calcium supplement - could I really be that deficient in calcium?” There are many factors which can affect how effectively the body is absorbing calcium. Consuming large amounts of caffeine from coffee, tea and energy drinks, high amounts of protein and large quantities of sodium can result in calcium lost from from the body. These substances increase the body's acidity and to neutralize the acid, the body sucks calcium from the bones and urine. If you’re drinking milk or eating a cup of yogurt with breakfast, and then washing it down with 5 cups of coffee, you’re likely canceling out all of your hard work and healthy eating. So lay off the caffeine, eat lean meats in moderation and limit your salty snacks.
Some of the most calcium-rich foods might surprise some, as they aren’t necessarily all in the dairy section of the grocery store. 8 ounces of plain, lowfat yogurt contains about 415 milligrams of calcium, while 6 ounces of orange juice packs 375 milligrams - that's pretty impressive! Other non-dairy items high in calcium include: sardines, salmon, rhubarb, kale, cabbage, broccoli and other dark leafy greens. Also, worth keeping in mind - only about 30% of calcium from food is consumed (depending upon the type of food and other lifestyle choices), so if you’re not eating many greens or consuming much dairy, you’re likely deficient and could stand to look into supplementing calcium for your health.
Calcium is an important part of human growth and maintenance and certainly not something which should be overlooked. Many calcium rich foods also pack their fair share of protein, and other vitamins and minerals - so track your calcium intake right alongside your protein and calorie consumption and keep feeding your happy!
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