Calcium: Are you Getting Enough?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

By Dr. Ted Jablonski, family physician

There are many vitamins and minerals our bodies need to stay strong and preserve overall health. While many of these can be found in specific foods, our bodies require a wide variety and combination of vitamins and minerals to ensure it functions at an optimal level.

One of the most important minerals, calcium, is critical to our health at all stages of life. But what makes calcium so special?

Why is calcium important?

From forming the structure of bones and teeth, to helping our heart, muscles and nerves work, calcium plays an integral role in keeping our bones strong and helping to prevent health conditions, such as osteoporosis, as we age.[1]  Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become thin and leads to increased risk of fractures, or broken bones. In their lifetime, one in three women and one in five men will experience a fracture due to osteoporosis – an unfortunate occurrence that is more common than stroke, heart attack and breast cancer combined.[2] But it doesn’t have to be that way!

How much calcium should I be getting?

The daily recommended intake of calcium required differs for men and women, and changes at each stage of life. Men aged 50 and above need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day, while women in the same age category need about 1,200 mg per day.[3] To put this in perspective, one cup (236 mL) of milk has about 300 mg of calcium, ¼ cup (59 mL) of whole almonds has 93 mg and one cup of cooked broccoli has approximately 66 mg.[4]

How can I get more calcium in my diet?

There are many ways to incorporate calcium into your diet to help you achieve your daily requirements. Here are some examples of how to boost your intake:

  • Mix yogurt or dairy/soy milk with fresh fruit to create healthy smoothies to power your day
  • Add beans and dark leafy greens to your salad at lunch
  • Pack snacks like almonds or cheese for an easy, high-calcium snack on the go
  • Try incorporating frozen leafy greens, like collards, turnip greens or kale into a healthy stir fry
  • Open up a can of sardines, or make a sandwich with canned salmon
  • Drink a nutritionally complete supplement, such as BOOST® Original™, on its own or add it to a smoothie – one 237 mL serving bottle contains 28% of your daily value.[5]

What can help or hinder my calcium intake?

It’s important to keep in mind that vitamins and minerals work together to help your body. One vitamin – vitamin D – can help the body absorb calcium, and can be found in foods such as fish, egg yolks and milk.

Similarly, there are also foods that should be consumed in moderation because of their ability to inhibit calcium absorption. These include caffeine and alcohol, but also some healthy foods that contain oxalates (e.g., spinach, sweet potatoes, etc.).[6]

Sunlight exposure can help many people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs,[7] which can in turn support the body’s absorption of calcium.

How do I know if I’m calcium deficient?

If you feel that you’re not getting enough calcium through your diet, be sure to speak with your doctor or registered dietitian, who can give you more information.

This article has been sponsored by BOOST®, but all comments and opinions are my own.

Dr. Ted Jablonski Family Physician Dr. Ted Jablonski is a Calgary based-family physician. He completed his medical education at the University of Manitoba and has practiced and taught medicine in rural Manitoba, Northern Saskatchewan and Northwestern Ontario. In addition to his duties as a family physician and educator, Dr. Jablonski is also a clinic associate at the Men’s Sexual Health Clinic at the Southern Alberta Institute of Urology and does consultant work in sexual and transgender medicine for Southern Alberta.

 

[1] Government of Canada. “Calcium.” Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/calcium.html (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[2] Osteoporosis Canada. “Osteoporosis Facts & Statistics.” Retrieved from: http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/osteoporosis-facts-and-statistics/ (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[3] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Calcium.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Calcium/Food-Sources-of-Calcium.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[4] Osteoporosis Canada. “Calcium: An Important Nutrient that Builds Stronger Bones.” Retrieved from: http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/nutrition/calcium-requirements/ (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[5] Nestle BOOST. “Boos Original – Chocolate.” Retrieved from: https://www.madewithnestle.ca/boost/boost-original-chocolate (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[6] Ross AC, Taylor CL, Yaktine AL, et al. "Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56060/

[7] Health Canada. “Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes.” Retrieved from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php#a8 (Accessed June 2, 2017)