tofino health - all about calcium

All about Calcium

by Jayne Francis


Throughout our life we need an adequate supply of calcium. This essential mineral has multiple functions in the body. However, it is known primarily as the building block for healthy bones and teeth. About 99% of the total body calcium is present in the skeleton the remaining 1% provides critical functions including muscle contraction, nerve impulse conduction and the regulation of many metabolic processes.

Prior to birth, we count on our mothers to take in enough calcium for our development. If our mother's diet does not provide enough calcium her body will rob the calcium from her bones and teeth to nourish her unborn baby. During the rapid growth period, young children must be in positive calcium balance. That is, they must consume more calcium than they excrete.

Females are most at risk for calcium deficiency because of their tendency to restrict calories. Pregnancy and breast feeding increases calcium requirements. During menopause, fluctuations in the levels of the hormone estrogen will affect bone density and the likelihood of developing osteoporosis.

To simplify our understanding of calcium requirements the number of milligrams per day can be translated into servings of calcium rich foods.

Children Ages 4-9:
2 cups milk and 1 dairy product per day

Youth Ages 10-16:
2 cups milk and 2 dairy products per day

Adults and women on estrogen:
1 cup milk and 3 dairy products per day
Pregnant & breast feeding women:
2 cups milk and 2 dairy products per day
Post menopausal women not on estrogen and adults over 65:
2 cups milk and 2 dairy products per day
Studies have shown that approximately 60% of our calcium requirement is obtained from fluid milk, 20% from dairy products and the remainder from other foods.

Additional non dairy foods which are a source of calcium are: fortified fruit juice vegetables such as broccoli, kale, bok choy, chick peas, baked beans
fortified soy milk
calcium set tofu
almonds, soy nuts
blackstrap molasses
salmon with bones

It must be noted that calcium absorption is enhanced by the availability of vitamin D—the sunshine vitamin. Although milk and dairy products are fortified with vitamin D has has been estimated that 5-15 minutes if sunlight 2-3 times per week will provide adequate Vitamin D.

Current research is finding that calcium may be effective in preventing obesity. So drink milk to keep a slim waistline.

Jayne Francis is a registered dietician and has been working in the field of nutrition for over 30 years.

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Calcium is an essential mineral with multiple functions in the body. Jayne Francis writes about nutrition in Tofino Time magazine.

tofino time october 2003

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