Calcium is one of the most vital nutrients all of us need for optimum health.
When we, men and women alike, do not get enough calcium our bones are not the only things that will suffer. Calcium offers some protection from high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney stones and possibly colon cancer.
Ihe United States, people - adults and children - still do not get enough calcium in their diets.
Dairy products are our best source of calcium, but most dairy products contain too much fat. This can become a lose-lose situation. What to do? Use low fat or fat-free dairy products. Read on...
Low Fat or Fat Free Dairy Products and Calcium
Low or fat-free dairy foods often contain slightly higher amounts of calcium than full-fat dairy foods. A cup of fat-free milk contains 306 milligrams of calcium, while a cup of whole milk contains 276 milligrams. Fat contains no calcium; when it is removed, calcium increases simply because of volume. In products where the milk is further processed, calcium content may increase with the reduction of fat. For example, a cup of whole-milk yogurt contains 296 milligrams of calcium; a cup of low-fat yogurt, 448 milligrams.
There are ways around this, however. If you are a milk drinker, drink skim milk. (Check out our Healthy Milk Recipes!) Cheese is an excellent source of calcium and now comes in many low-fat and non-fat options that are much better than they used to be.
The Chia seed is also a rich source of calcium as it contains the important mineral boron, which acts as catalyst for the absorption and utilization of the calcium by the body. The calcium content of chia seed is 5 times that of milk.
According to a sports nutritionist at Penn State University, it's best to take calcium with food because it's absorbed better. Your body can only absorb 500 milligrams of calcium at one time; any more is simply excreted. Lunch may be a better time than breakfast to take your calcium because your morning caffeine impairs calcium absorption.
Quick Calcium Quiz
Calcium helps build strong bones, but it doesn't do the job alone. Which of the following nutrients enhances calcium's efforts?
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
The answer is Vitamin D. Produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight, or taken from foods or supplements, Vitamin D is converted into its active form by the liver and kidneys. Unlike any other vitamin, it acts as a hormone in the body. Hormones are the body's chemical messengers, governing how cells behave. Among other tasks, Vitamin D tells your intestines to maximize their absorption of calcium from foods, boosting the amount of calcium the body absorbs by as much as 70 percent.
Besides being a major component of bones and teeth, calcium is also needed for muscles to contract properly, blood to clot and nerves to function. And yet calcium cannot do its job without Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and fine-tune calcium levels in the blood.
Manufacturers are now enriching many foods with extra calcium; watch for this on food labels.
Get Your Calcium-Rich Foods.
Choose fat-free or lowfat milk, yogurt and other milk products most often.
- Serve milk at meals and with snacks.
- Top pizza, casseroles and veggies with shredded cheese.
- Use plain yogurt as a base for dips or to dollop on baked potatoes.
- Slip cheese slices onto sandwiches.
- Order a latte made with fat-free or lowfat milk.
- Make oatmeal or tomato soup with milk instead of water.
- Stock up on cheese sticks, yogurt cups and yogurt drinks for calcium rich snacks.
- Top fruit with your favorite yogurt for a homemade parfait dessert.
Spices and herbs that contain calcium are black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, chili, cloves, ginger, mustard seed, turmeric, sage, thyme, cumin, coriander, dill, allspice, fennel, basil, marjoram, oregano, paprika, rosemary, peppermint, garlic, curry, salt, nutmeg, tarragon, anise, cardamom, chives, savory, saffron, parsley and chervil. (Source: Nutrition Data)
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