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Getting enough calcium is important at any age, but it’s especially important for women around the age of menopause.  

Here’s why, what you need to know, and where to find enough calcium to keep your bones strong well into older adulthood.

Your bones change throughout your life. As you age, your body undergoes changes in the balance between bone breakdown, called “resorption,” and bone formation, where calcium is deposited into new bones.

In young children, for instance, the bones are forming rather than breaking down, while in early and middle adulthood, the balance is about equal.  

As you get older, however, the percentage of bone breaking down typically exceeds the amount of new bones, which can result in bone loss. In some people, this can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis, where the bones are weak, porous and easily breakable.  

As a result, the daily recommended intake for calcium from the National Academies of Sciences varies, depending upon your age. Children 4-8 need just 800 milligrams of calcium per day, while men and women 51+ need 1,200 milligrams a day.  

Calcium sources

In the typical American diet, calcium is usually found in:

•  dairy foods:

•  plant-based foods:

•  supplements.  

In fact, milk and milk products provide more than 70 percent of the calcium consumed by Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Eight ounces of non-fat milk has about 300 milligrams of calcium, while plain low- or non-fat yogurt provides around 400 milligrams per eight-ounce serving.

Watch the fat!

But women who consume dairy foods in search of calcium should select low-fat versions, otherwise the amount of saturated fat in their meals may be too high.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines bear this out. A one-ounce portion of regular cheddar cheese has about 315 mg of calcium, six grams of saturated fat, and 114 calories, while a one-ounce portion of low-fat cheddar cheese has roughly the same amount of calcium, but only slightly more than one gram of saturated fat and 49 calories.  

In other words, you may be building strong bones by getting proper amounts of calcium, but you‘re also building a bigger waistline from all the calories and saturated fat contained in certain dairy products.

But what if you don’t like dairy products, don’t consume them because you are vegan or vegetarian, or you avoid them because of other cultural food preferences?  

Head for the veggies - and tofu, too

For starters, head for the vegetable section of your local supermarket, and select broccoli or such dark leafy greens like kale, turnip greens, Chinese cabbage or collard greens.

Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to eat significant amounts of these vegetables to match the amount of calcium in an eight-ounce glass of milk.  

According to the federal government’s Office of Dietary Supplements, you’d need to eat one cup of cooked kale, two-and-a-fourth cups of cooked broccoli, or eight cups of cooked spinach to match the 300 milligrams of calcium found in the glass of milk. Other plant-based sources of calcium include tofu made with calcium sulfate, beans, sesame seeds and almonds.  

If you eat fish, sardines and canned salmon are both excellent dietary sources of calcium. Three ounces of canned sardines, including bones, has 324 milligrams of calcium, while the same portion of canned pink salmon with bones has about 180 milligrams of calcium.

You also could boost your calcium intake by drinking calcium-fortified soymilk or orange juice, eating calcium-fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal, or taking a mineral supplement


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Mar 3, 2009
    • Good information. Sometimes I take Kale and run it through the food processor raw and sprinkle it over my salad to the added calcium boost. I also try and get a handful of almonds a day.

      Weight bearing exercise like light weight training and even walking on the pavement builds bone density, too.

      Thanks for the reminder!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Mar 3, 2009
    • Great information.  I now drink Silk, the soy milk.  I like Tofu but I have a hard time in eating Tofu raw.  I usually pan fry them a little or cut in square and put into my Chinese soup.

      I heard the darker the color, the better the nutrient source.

      Oriental are known to have osteoporosis.  I see my grandmother shrank and my mother is shrinking as well.  Here, I am afraid I am going to turn to a Qasmoto.estatic

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kaylene Lee wrote Mar 4, 2009
    • chinadoll you can marinate tofu   and it taste great also,:)

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Mar 4, 2009
    • We Chinese only know soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil.  Soy sauce and oyster sauce are loaded with sodium.  

      I do like to coat it with flour and pan fried a little bit.  Pinch of salt is ok.  I like to eat my Tofu mixed in with my rice so the rice is not too dry.

      Also another good dish, beat up the eggs, add warm  water so it is not too thick, cut up with Tofu, steam it together with the beaten eggs.  Kinda like k-ish, Oriental way without the cheese and steam vs. baked.

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