Food For Thought
How about some Calcium?

By: Leanne Ely

If your skin is looking dry, your nails are breaking more than usual and/or your teeth are starting to look a little yellow, you may be deficient in calcium.

Muscle cramping is another sign of a calcium deficiency. Also, if you’ve been experiencing more intense PMS symptoms, that’s another sign that you might need to look at upping your calcium intake.

So, what is it that calcium does in the body?

Yes, calcium is important for teeth and bones, but there’s a bigger role for calcium to play in the body. Calcium is required for every cell in your body to function properly. It’s essential for nerve and muscle function and even for weight management.

Roughly 99% of your body’s calcium is stored in your teeth and bones, but your body needs calcium to do just about anything.

After you eat something containing calcium, the mineral is absorbed by your small intestine. From there, the calcium is distributed to your bones and teeth.

If calcium levels aren’t right in the body-whether they’re too high or too low-organs will stop working. Calcium is vital and your body is smart. When you consume more calcium than you need, the excess will be absorbed by your intestines. But, if your body isn’t getting enough calcium, cells will borrow calcium from your bones. Sounds like an efficient system, but if you’re not putting enough calcium into your body, your bones will be depleted of this vital mineral and that’s what leads to osteoporosis.

How much calcium do we need?

Every day we should be taking in roughly 1000 mg of calcium. That’s for the average woman (including pregnant and nursing women) between the ages of 19 and 50, and for men aged 19-70. For children 12-18, pregnant and breastfeeding teens, the daily recommended intake of calcium is 1300 mg. For women over the age of 50 and for men over the age of 70, that recommended daily dose goes up to 1300 mg.

When you’re trying to get in more calcium, also up your intake of Vitamin D. This nutritional combo helps more calcium to be absorbed by the body. Iron, on the other hand, does not get along well with calcium. Space the intake of these two minerals out if you possibly can.

So, what foods are good sources of calcium?

Everyone knows that dairy products contain calcium. And it’s true that a lot of dairy products are also fortified with Vitamin D (to help the calcium be absorbed better). An 8 ounce serving of yogurt or milk will give you about 25% of the calcium you need for the day.

But dairy is not our only source for this important mineral and good thing because a lot of people can’t tolerate dairy or choose not to consume it. But fear not! We don’t need to be running to the store for a calcium supplement! For the majority of us, we can get all the calcium we need from our diet (dairy or not). Here are some foods you should be reaching for to up your calcium reserves:

• Salmon. Canned salmon is especially high in calcium because it contains tiny little bones. It’s also high in Vitamin D. Win-win!

• Cabbage. Most members of the cabbage family are high in absorbable calcium. Bok choy, broccoli, kale-they’re all very high in calcium.

• Turnip Greens. One cup of this green veggie, eaten raw, will give you 10% of your calcium needs for the day.

• Nuts. One serving of almonds will give you roughly 7% of your daily recommended intake of calcium and you can get about 4% of your daily recommended intake from 6 Brazil nuts.

• Herbs. Dried herbs will also give you a big calcium bang for the buck! A few pinches here and there will really add up. Savory is the herb that contains the most calcium at 85mg per tablespoon. That’s 9% of what you need for the day.

Do you find it hard to get in all that calcium? http://www.facebook.com/savingdinner

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