Bone Up on Calcium for Strong Bones

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

We’ve all heard by now that getting enough calcium and vitamin D in our diets is important for building and maintaining strong bones, and these nutrients play other vital roles in keeping our bodies healthy. Growing up, you were probably told to drink your milk to boost your bone health.

How fitting is it that June happens to be Dairy Month. Dairy is an excellent source of calcium and is the mostly widely consumed source of calcium in the American diet today. However, most Americans are still falling short on the recommended daily amount of calcium. Adults aged 19-50 need 1,000 mg of calcium a day, while adults over 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium daily. Adults can meet their daily calcium needs by including three cups (or three one-cup equivalents) from the dairy group. These count as one cup: 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 cup calcium-fortified soymilk, 1 and 1/2 ounces natural or hard cheese, 2 ounces processed cheese or 2 cups cottage cheese).

Without Enough Calcium…
Failing to get enough calcium and vitamin D throughout your lifetime could lead to osteoporosis, a disease that causes your bones to become weak, brittle, and more likely to fracture. Those who have osteoporosis frequently experience broken bones in their hips, spine and wrists. In the United States, there are over 40 million individuals who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or have a very high risk of developing the disease due to low bone mass. In fact, one out of every two women who are over the age of 50 (and one in eight men over the age of 50) will experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in her lifetime. In order to avoid becoming part of this alarming statistic, take steps now to prevent this disease.

Easy Ways to Boost Your Calcium Intake
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to boost your calcium intake through low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Add some reduced fat shredded cheese to your morning eggs; make fruit and yogurt parfaits; enjoy cottage cheese with diced fruit as an afternoon snack; use milk or calcium-fortified non-dairy milk (such as almond milk) instead of artificial creamer in your coffee.

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium
Some people don’t consume dairy, whether it be because they have lactose intolerance and can’t digest dairy products well or because they choose not to include dairy in their diet for personal reasons (example: vegans). Non-dairy sources of calcium include calcium-fortified soymilk and orange juice, cooked collards, spinach, turnip greens, kale, broccoli, almonds, shrimp, tofu with calcium, salmon or sardines with bones, calcium-fortified dry cereal and blackstrap molasses.

Operation Food Search seeks volunteer groups for the 5th Annual Saturday Jubilee – a community-wide food drive on July 27, 2013. Over 1,500 volunteers are needed to position themselves outside of 90+ grocery stores throughout the St. Louis area to ask shoppers to donate food as they shop that day. Put together your team and join us for one day – one purpose – to end hunger! Contact Volunteer Coordinator Steve Baer at (314) 726-5355 X 19 or Steve.Baer@OperationFoodSearch.org.