Calcium: The Key to Bone Health & Much More
By Amy Rosenfeld, MS, RD, CDN
You have heard it before; calcium is key to maintaining strong bones and teeth and warding off osteoporosis. But did you know that bone health is not calcium’s only job?
Calcium is important for athletes for strong and efficient muscles. Calcium also plays role in keeping our heart’s healthy through blood clotting, keeping a regular heartbeat, and reducing blood pressure. Calcium also works to release necessary hormones and enzymes.
Our bodies cannot produce calcium; therefore we must get it from the foods we eat. Vitamin D and vitamin K also play an important role with calcium absorption regulation, and bone formation.
As we age, our calcium requirements change. Young adulthood is a critical stage when bones build up to their peak strength, and calcium requirements are at their highest (1,300 mg per day for ages 9-18). The recommendation from our government for adults ages 19-50 is to get 1,000 mg of calcium per day, increasing to 1200 mg daily for people ages 50 and over.
Thinking in terms of food, focus on getting 3 sources of calcium-rich foods per day, such as low-fat yogurt or cheese.
Not down with dairy? You can still enjoy a calcium-rich life with:
• Fortified soy, almond, or rice milk products
• Canned sardines or salmon
• Steamed soybeans & tofu
• Almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, & Brazil nuts
• Tahini paste or almond butter
• Black eyed peas
• Collard greens, broccoli, bok choy, kale & spinach
Don’t forget the D and K! Include vitamin D fortified foods, including dairy and dairy alternative products, as well as dark green leafy vegetables for vitamin K.
5 ideas to get more calcium:
1) Mix soybeans in a brown rice dish.
2) Make a trail mix with sunflower seeds.
3) Have almond butter on your toast for breakfast.
4) Have a spinach salad with sliced figs.
5) Make a stir-fry with tofu and bok choy, topped with sesame seeds.
Sunrise Shake (serves 1)
1 cup of fortified unsweetened soy milk
1 tbsp of almond butter
1 tbsp of whey protein powder
In a blender, blend together all ingredients until smooth. Serve cold! Perfect for breakfast or post workout.
Veggie Chili (serves 8-10)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 peppers, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 lb mushrooms, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups frozen corn kernels
24 oz canned low sodium crushed tomatoes
16 oz canned low sodium black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
16 oz canned low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground chili powder
In a large pot, heat olive oil and cook onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring thoroughly. Add tomatoes, corn, beans, and spices and stir well. Cover and cook for at least 1.5 hours (ideally 6-8 hours).
Soybean Hummus (serves 8-10)
1 cup shelled soybeans, defrosted
1 cup low-sodium canned chickpeas, rinsed
2 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves
Pinch of salt
In a food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Serve with sliced veggies or whole-wheat pita!