Auburn, Ala.—We all remember the times growing up when our parents made us drink glasses of milk. They said that milk would help us grow big and strong. As a child, we did not fully understand the importance of calcium, but now we know that calcium is an important part of our diets.
“Calcium is needed for bones and teeth and also helps to regulate our nerves, muscle tone and our blood clotting,” said Helen Jones a regional agent in Human Nutrition, Diet and Health with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Calcium is stored in teeth and bones, which contributes to their strength and structure. The mineral is needed for muscle movement and for nerves to transmit signals between the brain and the body, according to the National Institutes of Health. (USDA Photo/Scott Bauer)
“The biggest problem with calcium is not getting enough,” said Jones.
Not getting enough calcium is harmful to health since our bodies cannot produce calcium. A deficiency can cause osteoporosis, a bone disease found in about 54 million Americans according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. The disease is due to the loss of bone and the inability to recreate the lost bone. Bones become very fragile, making mobility and everyday tasks harder.
Other problems related to calcium are being studied but none as definitive as osteoporosis.
“We need to have calcium in our systems because when we get older the calcium in our bones is absorbed more quickly and that’s when osteoporosis happens,” said Jones. “So even when you’re older you still need to continue to drink and eat more foods that have a lot of calcium.”
Because intake is not limited to that glass of milk as a child, it is important to regularly eat and drink foods high in calcium.
“Kale, your dark green vegetables, dairy, cheese, yogurt and of course milk” are all foods high in calcium, says Jones. Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and milk are the number one sources of calcium for Americans according to the National Institutes of Health.
Depending on your age and gender there are certain recommendations for the appropriate amount of calcium intake. Both females and males need the highest calcium intake between the ages of 9 and 18 years according to the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for calcium established by the Food and Nutrition Board. However, the rate of absorption changes as you age so it is important to be aware of the effect it can have on your health.
Our parents were right to have us drink all those glasses of milk as children. Calcium is an essential mineral that supports our overall health. Take a look at your food labels and make sure you are getting a healthy amount of calcium in your diet.
Featured image by Robyn MacKenzie/Shutterstock.com