Calcium has many benefits for the body, although it’s primarily important for building and maintaining strong bones.
During the ageing process, your bones lose mineral content faster, so the risk of developing brittle bones and fracture increases.
Over a lifetime, women can lose between 30 and 50 per cent of bone mass while men can lose between 20 and 30 per cent.
It’s therefore vital to maintain the calcium in your diet, especially if you’re a post-menopausal woman.
Calcium is such a critical nutrient that it makes up about two per cent of the average adult’s weight.
Most of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth, where it provides strength and structure. The small amount that’s circulating in the bloodstream helps to move nutrients across cell membranes and plays a role in producing the hormones and enzymes that regulate our digestion and metabolism.
Calcium is also needed for ongoing communication among the nerve cells, blood clotting, healing wounds and muscle contraction.
In order to have enough of this vital mineral available in the blood, the body will ‘steal’ it from the bones, which can leave them fragile.
How much calcium your body needs depends on your age and your gender. All men up to the age of 70 should get 1000 mg of calcium per day, while women 51 and over should get 1200 mg of calcium per day. Men should also increase their daily calcium intake to 1200 mg per day once they are over 70.
Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products have high levels of calcium, and also other key nutrients for bone health, such as phosphorus and protein.
When you read food labels, look for foods and drinks that give you 10 per cent or more of the daily value for calcium.
If you’re lactose intolerant or if you avoid dairy for other reasons, there are lots of other options:
- Calcium-fortified orange juice, plant-based milks (like soy and almond milk), and cereals
- Green, leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and spinach
- Seafood, such as canned salmon, oysters, ocean perch, clams, blue crab and shrimp
Are you confident you have enough calcium in your diet?
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