Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Calcium Needs

Written by Erica Melling, U of H dietetic intern.

Hear the word calcium and what do you think? A nutrient I need for healthy bones, right? Well that is true, but did you know that calcium is also a key nutrient for proper muscle function? I’ll spare you the boring details, but without enough calcium, your muscles cannot work properly and can even cramp up. So, as athletes who are always looking for ways to perform better in competition, take a second to evaluate if you are getting enough calcium in your diet.

How much calcium do I need?
Men and women aged 19-50 years old should aim for 1,000mg per day of calcium. Now, what does that really mean? A glass of milk has about 300mg or roughly 1/3 of your daily needs, so drinking 3 cups of milk each day (milk in cereal counts) is an easy way to ensure that you get enough calcium. However, few people have that much milk each day, so remember 1 cup milk = 1 oz cheese = 1 cup yogurt (all have 300mg per serving).

What are good sources of calcium and how do I include them in my day?
Calcium is mainly found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese, but it is in other foods like broccoli and spinach in lower amounts. It is also fortified in some foods like orange juice and breakfast cereals, so check the label. If you are lactose intolerant, you can also find soymilk and yogurt fortified with the same amount of calcium as regular milk products. Also, lactose intolerant people can often tolerate yogurt and cheese alright since the lactose is already partially broken down in these foods.
5 ways to meet your calcium needs in a day even if you don’t like drinking milk by itself:
1.                          Have 1 cup in your cereal in the morning (300mg)
2.                          Make a latte instead of regular coffee by adding ½ cup milk (150mg)
3.                          Have 1-2 of the following calcium-rich (300mg) snacks during the day: a yogurt, a reduced-fat string cheese, a slice of cheese with crackers, or half a turkey sandwich with cheese.
4.                          Add 1 cup veggies like broccoli or spinach to pasta, pizza, or just as a side (50-150mg)
5.                          Use 1 slice or ¼ cup grated low-fat cheese on crackers, sandwiches, pasta, pizza…c’mon do you really need ideas on how to eat cheese? (300mg)

For a grand total of…drum roll please…over 1,000mg! Not so hard right?

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