Our bodies need Calcium and our main source is through our diet. Although it is a mineral that is essential for life, the majority of Americans do not get adequate calcium on a daily basis. Actually Calcium is the fifth most abundant element by mass in our bodies and it’s an essential factor in keeping those bodies running smoothly. We use this important mineral for numerous functions, including building and maintaining our bones and teeth, the transmission of our nerve impulses, the regulation of our heart’s rhythm, it’s used in muscle contractions, blood clotting, and the maintenance of cell membranes. Pretty important right?
Calcium plays an important role in building stronger bones in children and keeping them strong all life-long. By consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D and performing regular, weight-bearing exercise we can build maximum bone density and strength. “Weight-bearing” exercises may include walking, dancing, jogging, weightlifting, stair-climbing, racquet sports, and hiking and more. Calcium is essential to good health and getting enough can help us reduce the risk of osteoporosis when we are older. Typically people lose bone as they age, despite consuming the recommended intake of calcium necessary to maintain optimal bone health. Teenagers, young women and post-menopausal women in particular are notorious for not consuming enough calcium in their diets. It’s for this reason that many coaches and sport professionals recommend that young girls in sports, like gymnastics, begin supplementing Ca as early as age 10. However, we do know that dietary sources are the best way to attain optimal calcium intake. Calcium requirements depend in part upon whether the body is growing or making new bone. Dietary requirements will vary throughout life and are greatest during periods of growth (teen years) and pregnancy (hopefully not teen years, but I digress.) The typical American diet takes in a staggering amount of sodium and we know that diets high in sodium cause increases in calcium losses in the urine.
Many foods contain Ca, but dairy products are the most significant source. Foods and beverages high in calcium include milk, cheese and other dairy products, which is abundant in this state. But if drinking 3-1/3 cups of milk a day does not appeal to you, you can get calcium from a range of other sources. Other dairy products like: yogurt, cheeses, and buttermilk are excellent sources of calcium. Now again, because we are in Wisconsin, doesn’t mean that our intake of Buttermilk batter coated, deep fried cheese curds has us covered; most sources are available in low-fat or fat-free versions. Most people get about half their dietary calcium from milk and other dairy products.
I would reccomend increasing your intake (and your kids intake) of: dark green leafy vegetables because they also are a good source of calcium, however, it is not often as readily absorbed as when it comes from dairy. Don’t forget besides leafy green vegetables, that broccoli, nuts, seeds, beans, cheese, dried figs, salmon and sardines are good sources of this mineral.
Milk and dairy products are the source that is most abundant in calcium, but eating a variety of foods is the best way to get an adequate amount, even though 12 cans of sardines and a barrel of peanuts doesn’t sound appealing. The best best is all sources in moderation and combination. Today’s markets supply us with a wide variety of foods and beverages that contain calcium and others are fortified with calcium. There are juices, breakfast foods, soymilk, cereals, snacks, breads and bottled water all fortified with this necessary nutrient.
Calcium is important, without a doubt. There are many sources for us but keep in mind that our typical diet saturates us with salt, and that defeats the Ca intake we get from other sources. For most people, being aware of the need is probably good enough and will result in a better menu selection. For young females this is imperative, and for your female athletes, a supplement may be a good idea. Talk with your physician and get their input too. Taking care of our bodies with a healthy intake of calcium means that our bodies can, and will take care of us too….for a long healthy time.
* other source for this post comes from Gymnastics Stuff.