How to get the calcium you need

December 23, 1997

How to get the calcium you need

Teens, senior citizens, pre-teens, middle-aged adults, children and young adults: A common thread for all these people is the need for calcium. It plays a vital role in the body at every age, especially in the development of strong teeth and bones.

American diets are lacking in calcium when their bodies need it. Studies show that teens, for example, are drinking more soft drinks and less milk, one of the best sources of calcium available. This can have long-term effects, since the good health of bones in later years depends a lot on calcium intake between the ages of 20 and 30.

Research from American Dairy Association suggests that between the ages of 12 and 55, milk consumption drops from about 26 gallons a year to less than 10. A consequence of this lifelong shortage of calcium may be osteoporosis, a serious disease in which the bones grow thin with age and can break easily.


Our bones are like a bank for calcium. Deposits or withdrawals are made based on how much calcium is in the diet. The more calcium in the diet, the more deposits made and the stronger the bones.

To determine how much calcium you need daily, here are the recommendations from experts assembled by National Institutes of Health:

* Children, from ages 1 to 10: 800 milligrams

* Adolescents and young adults, ages 11 to 24: 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams

* Men and women, ages 25 and older: 1,000 milligrams

Dairy products, such as low-fat versions of milk, yogurt and cheese, are important to a diet that is adequate in calcium. Low-fat dairy products will offer just as much calcium as the high-fat versions. Green, leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified cereals also help give your body the calcium it needs.

Here are some ways to help ensure that your diet includes the foods that your body needs to make regular deposits in its calcium bank:


* Low-fat milk with meals or as a snack

* Milk-based cocoa or other flavored milk instead of soft drinks

* Calcium-fortified fruit juices.

Snack On...

* Nonfat frozen yogurt, ice milk or ice cream

* Sticks or slices of cheese

* Custard or pudding prepared with milk

* Low-fat cottage cheese mixed with chopped fruit or vegetables

When cooking, add...

* Cheese to sandwiches and salads

* Nonfat dry milk to casserole dishes and sauces

* Milk, instead of water, to hot cereal and cream soups

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

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