Bone health becomes increasingly important as you age and calcium is one of the essential minerals involved in bone health. The American dietetic association explains it simply: “Building strong bones is like building a healthy balance in your “calcium bank account.” Bones are living tissue and constantly in a state of turnover, making calcium deposits and withdrawals daily.”1

The older we get, the more we will experience bone loss. A low bone density makes our bones weaker which can increase our risk of fractures as we age. Our bones don’t come with a lifetime guarantee sticker and therefore like any product that doesn’t have a lifetime guarantee we need to put in continuous maintenance to prevent weakening and breakages. 1

It is never too early to start to think about bone health. Starting young can help lower the risk of fractures later on. Our bone mass peaks by our late twenties and therefore the best time to invest in our bones is when we are young. Maximum strength and density is reached by age 18 (girls) and 20 (boys). If our diets are low in calcium, the body will need to take calcium from the bones to keep blood calcium at normal levels, therefore we need to focus on our diet and ensure we are including calcium rich foods into our daily meals.

 

Calcium requirements2:

Age         |     Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):

3yrs                 500mg

4 – 8yrs            800mg

19 – 50yrs        1300mg

51 – >70yrs      1000mg

*Do not exceed more than 2500mg/day.

 

For a lifetime of healthy bones, the American Dietetic association recommends1:

  • Consume 3 servings daily of low-fat milk or other dairy products.
  • Supplement your diet with calcium from calcium-fortified foods and beverages, if you don’t or can’t consume milk.
  • Be physically active with weight-bearing exercise like walking, running or weight training.

We recommended including diary into your diet as a snack option to reach that guide of 3 servings a day.

 

What is the best supplement form of calcium3:

Calcium carbonate contains the largest quantity of elemental calcium. Calcium citrate comes in second place. Calcium carbonate needs an acidic pH to be dissolved and absorbed and therefore needs to be taken with a meal.

If you do not get in enough calcium from your diet and take a calcium supplement, make sure your supplement also contains vitamin D. Vitamin D helps ensure optimal absorption of calcium

 

Try these calcium-boosting tips to ensure adequate calcium intake1:

  • Add a glass of milk to your breakfast or morning snack. Did you know: Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium as whole (full cream) milk.
  • Add milk to your tea or coffee.
  • Make your breakfast (e.g. oats) with milk instead of water.
  • Include ½ -1 cup of plain yogurt with fruit for breakfast or a snack.
  • Toppings for a baked potato can include ½-cup of broccoli and ¼-cup low-fat or fat-free cheese (e.g. reduced fat feta).
  • Make a breakfast smoothie by blending low-fat milk or plain yoghurt with fruit.

 

Calcium Calculator: Add up your points to see if you make your daily total

Points needed (daily total)

Babies/toddlers (0-3): 2-5 points  |  Children (4-8): 8 points  |  Teenagers: 13 points  |  Adults (<50): 10 points  |  Adults (>50): 12 points

Food sources                                                    Amount of Calcium (mg)        Points

Sardines (in oil with edible bones) 90g              324                                            3

Cheddar cheese 45g                                            306                                            3

Milk (non fat) 1 cup                                               302                                            3

Yoghurt (low fat, plain) 1 cup                              300                                            3

Soybeans (cooked) 1 cup                                     261                                            3

Salmon (canned, with edible bones) 90g          181                                            2

Baked beans 1 cup                                               142                                            1

Cottage cheese (low fat) 1 cup                           138                                            1

Broccoli (raw) 1 cup                                              90                                              1

Soy or rice milk (fortified with calcium) 1 cup     80-500                                     1-5

 

Munchwize Dietitians are based in Claremont in Cape Town. Contact us here

 

References:

1.       What is calcium. American Dietetic Association (2014). http://www.eatright.org

2.       National institute of Health Office of dietary supplements. (2009): Dietary supplement fact sheet. Calcium.

3.       Radical product guide