Monday, August 4, 2014

Are You Getting Enough Calcium? And a Green Avocado Smoothie

Sometimes, we just need to talk about the basics.  It’s not sexy, but it’s important to our overall health.  And we want to help you have the healthiest, most vibrant life possible!  And truthfully, writing these blog posts makes us think about our own health, too.  Like, are we getting enough calcium?

What is calcium, and why do I need it?
Calcium is a mineral that is important for many functions in our body.  We all know calcium is important for building strong bones and healthy teeth, but it also is important for blood clotting, nerve impulses, hormone secretions, and muscle contraction.  Our body stores calcium in our bones and teeth.  We cannot make calcium, so it is an essential nutrient we must get from food.  Our body maintains a constant level of calcium in our blood, so when we don’t eat enough calcium, our body takes calcium from our bones, resulting in weak bones.  That’s why eating foods rich in calcium is so important. 

How much calcium do I need?
The amount of calcium you need every day depends on your age and sex.

Ages 4 – 8 need 1,000 mg daily
Ages 9 – 18 need 1,300 mg daily

Age 19 – 50 need 1,000 mg daily
Age 51 & older need 1,200 mg daily

Age 19 - 69 need 1,000 mg daily
Age 71 & older need 1,200 mg daily

Which foods contain calcium?
Dairy products, like milk, yogurt and cheese, are all great sources of calcium.  However, if you don’t eat dairy, there are still many other sources of calcium, including fish (sardines, salmon, perch, rainbow trout), leafy greens* (like kale, collard greens and broccoli), tofu, beans that have been soaked and cooked, and calcium-fortified foods like orange juice, oatmeal and breakfast cereals. 

*Although spinach, chard and beet greens also contain calcium, the calcium in these foods is not well-absorbed because they also contain oxalic acid which binds the calcium and prevents absorption.

When you are buying boxed and canned products, check the nutrition facts label to find out how much calcium the food contains.  The nutrition facts label will list the calcium content as a percentage of the DV (1,000 mg of calcium per day). For example:

  • 30% DV of calcium equals 300 mg.
  • 20% DV of calcium equals 200 mg of calcium.
  • 15% DV of calcium equals 150 mg of calcium.
Examples of Calcium Content in Foods*

Serving Size
Calcium (mg)
Milk, whole
1 cup
305 mg
Yogurt, whole
1 cup
274 mg
Cheddar Cheese
1 ounce
200 mg
Cottage Cheese
½ cup
103 mg
Feta Cheese
1 ounce
140 mg
Broccoli, cooked
½ cup
47 mg
Kale, cooked
½ cup
45 mg
Butternut squash
½ cup
45 mg
Sweet potato
½ cup
32 mg
½ cup
38 mg
1 ounce
72 mg
Almond butter
1 tablespoon
43 mg
1 tablespoon
64 mg
Sardines with bones (canned)
242 mg
Blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon
172 mg
Tofu, firm
½ cup
258 mg
Dried figs
107 mg

*Check the nutrition label of the brands you buy for calcium content. Calcium may vary.

If I can’t get enough calcium from foods, should I take a supplement?
If you’re not getting enough calcium from foods, you can consider taking a calcium supplement.  The two main forms of calcium in supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate is the most common and least expensive, but it is best absorbed with food.  Calcium citrate is absorbed equally well with or without food.  If you experience gas, bloating or abdominal discomfort with the calcium supplement, try taking a different kind.  Also, spread the dose out throughout the day to increase absorption.

What else should I know about calcium absorption?
  • Your body only absorbs about 500 mg of calcium at a time, so it’s best to spread out calcium consumption throughout the day.
  • You need Vitamin D to properly absorb calcium, so be sure you’re getting at least 800 mg of Vitamin D3 each day. 

Here’s a recipe for a calcium-rich green smoothie, to get you started with filling your calcium needs!  It's a delicious way to start your day.

Green Avocado Smoothie

Makes 1 smoothie

1 cup milk or milk substitute (fortified with calcium)
½ banana (preferably frozen)
1/2 small avocado or ¼ of a medium avocado
1 cup baby kale
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 dates, pitted

Optional:  ½ cup frozen fruit of choice (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, etc.) or an apple for added sweetness and fiber.

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.

Enjoy, preferably with someone you love! (Make them a smoothie, too!)

No comments:

Post a Comment