Living in the heart of America’s Dairyland, we Badgers are no strangers to the saying “Drink milk for strong bones.” However, young adults nationwide continue to disregard this advice.
In America, the calcium intake of adolescents and young adults has been continuously declining. Since calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body, an inadequate intake can cause serious consequences. Today I’ll address some of the common misconceptions that may lead to our age group’s lower intake of calcium.
- I’m not growing anymore. I don’t need calcium because I’m not building bones right now.
Although we have reached our maximum height, we are still able to add density to our bones. To do this, however, we need adequate calcium and vitamin D in our diet to strengthen our bone structure.
2. I’ll work on getting enough calcium in my diet when I’m old and actually have weak bones.
This is a huge misconception about calcium. We only have until roughly age 30 to reach our peak bone mass. After this age our bones lose the ability to add additional mass. So when we’re older we cannot simply increase daily intake of dietary calcium and start building stronger bones; we need to do this now.
The greater our peak bone mass is, the longer we can hold off serious bone loss later in life, so getting enough calcium is critical right now!
3. I don’t eat milk or foods that contain milk so there’s so way for me to get enough calcium from my diet.
It’s no secret that foods like yogurt, cheese and milk are full of calcium. But in addition to foods containing milk, you can find calcium in dark leafy green vegetables, such as kale and broccoli. Calcium fortified foods like soy milk, tofu, orange juice and cereal are also ways to get the calcium you need.
4. I don’t care about my bone health, so calcium intake doesn’t apply to me at all.
Calcium is not an essential part of diet for strong bones and teeth alone. It is also needed for normal muscle and nerve function. If calcium intake is insufficient, calcium must be taken out of our bones in order for these processes to occur. When this happens it further depletes bones mass.
In addition to nerve and muscle function, calcium may play other important roles in our health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sited several studies that have linked calcium intake with decreased risks of hypertension and colon cancer.
So now that you know why you need calcium, you’re probably wondering how much you should be getting. The recommended daily allowance for men and women between the ages of 19 and 50 is 1000 mg per day. This is equivalent to about three 8 ounce glasses of milk, three 1.5 ounce servings of cheese or two 8 ounce cartons of yogurt. Tofu and soy milk vary from providing between 14 and 50 percent of your RDA per serving. A 6 ounce glass of fortified orange juice is about 35 percent, while one cup of broccoli or kale is about ten percent of your RDA.
Since vegetables that are considered good sources of calcium are still low compared with your daily needs, I suggest finding a fortified beverage to drink if you don’t eat dairy.
If you hate every food I’ve listed but you still want to make sure you get enough calcium, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about taking a supplement. This is a good option for many people, but make sure you talk to a professional — if taken in the wrong manner, calcium supplements can cause constipation. They can also interfere with other medications or require additional vitamin D supplements.
I hope this information inspires you to be proactive about your health and help to change our age group’s low calcium intake. Milk in your cereal is not enough: Changing your habits today can help you prevent problems in the future!
Rachel Werts is a senior in the dietetics program. For more information on calcium go to the National Institutes of Health fact sheet at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium. If you want to write a question to the column just e-mail Wisconsin.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recipe of the Week:
This week’s recipe is broccoli cheese soup — perfect for those cold days that chill you to your bones and a great source of calcium to strengthen them!
Broccoli Cheddar Soup (yields: 8 servings)
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups chopped, peeled potato
1 16 oz. package frozen, chopped broccoli
3 cups lowfat or nonfat milk
1/3 cup plus
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
8 oz. low fat cheddar cheese, shredded (white or sharp)
Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook 3 - 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth, potato, and broccoli, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until the potato is tender.
In a separate dish, whisk together the milk and flour. Add the milk mixture to the potato mixture and cook 3 - 4 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove the soup from the heat and add the salt, pepper and cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted.
Place half of the soup mixture in a blender and process until smooth. Return the soup to the pan, then serve.