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The Importance of Calcium

Bones grow quickly during adolescence, and teens need enough calcium to build strong bones and fight bone loss later in life. Many don't get the recommended daily amount of calcium. People who smoke or drink soda, caffeinated beverages, or alcohol may get even less calcium because those substances interfere with the way the body absorbs and uses calcium.

Bone calcium begins to decrease in young adulthood and people gradually lose bone density as they age, especially women. Teens, especially girls, whose diets don't provide the nutrients to build bones to their maximum potential are at greater risk of developing the bone disease osteoporosis, which increases the risk of fractures from weakened bones.

Calcium also plays an important role in muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones. If people aren't getting enough calcium in their diet, the body takes calcium from the bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones.

If you got enough calcium and physical activity when you were a kid and continue to do so as a teen, you'll enter your adult years with the strongest bones possible.

Osteoporosis Prevention

A calcium-rich diet and exercise can build and maintain good bone health and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It is important to maintain a diet with enough calcium and Vitamin D. Yet nearly 80% of American women do not consume the amount of calcium recommended to help maintain healthy bones.

How much calcium do I need?

Ages                                  Milligrams Per Day

9–18                                           1,300

19–50                                         1,000

51 and older                              1,200

How much Vitamin D3 do I need?

 Ages                                  IU Per Day

 Birth–18                                     400

 19–49                                        400–800

 50 & over                                   800–1,000


Two types of exercises are important for building and maintaining bone mass and density: weight-bearing and resistance exercises.

Weight-bearing exercises are those in which your bones and muscles work against gravity. This is any exercise in which your feet and legs are bearing weight. Walking, stair climbing, dancing and jogging are examples of weight-bearing exercise with different degrees of impact. Find one that you enjoy and will do regularly for 30 minutes most days of the week.

The second type is resistance exercises or activities that use muscular strength to improve muscle mass and strengthen bone. These activities include weight lifting, such as small hand weights. Strength training should be done two times per week.

Consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.

Sources: National Osteoporosis Foundation and the 2004 Surgeon Generals Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis.

What are good sources of Calcium?

Foods Amount Milligrams of Calcium

Almonds 1 oz. 66 mg

Baked Beans ½ cup 100 mg

Bok Choy ½ cup 125 mg

Bread, Whole Wheat 1 slice 25 mg

Broccoli, Raw 1 spear 72 mg

Broccoli, Cooked ½ cup 68 mg

Carrot, Raw 1 medium 26 mg

Cheese, Cheddar 1 oz. 200 mg

Cheese, Mozzarella 1 oz. 185 mg

Cheese, Swiss 1 oz. 270 mg

Cheese, American 1 slice 110 mg

Cheese Pizza ¼ of a 14” 330 mg

Collards, Cooked ½ cup 168 mg

Cottage Cheese 1 cup 155 mg

Custard ½ cup 150 mg

Dates ¼ cup 26 mg

Dried Beans, Cooked

(Lima, Navy, Kidney) ½ cup 26 mg

Egg 1 large 30 mg

Garbonzo Beans ½ cup 90 mg

Ice Cream ½ cup 100 mg

Milk 1 cup 300 mg

Oatmeal, Instant 1 pkg. 150 mg

Orange, Fresh 1 medium 60 mg

Orange Juice, Fortified 6 oz., 200 mg

Oysters, 4 oz., 110 mg

Pancakes, 2–4”, 110 mg

Peanut Butter 2 Tablespoons, 18 mg

Pudding ½ cup, 150 mg

Salmon, with Soft Bones 3 oz ,167 mg

Sardines, with Soft Bones 3 oz., 317 mg

Sherbet, ½ cup, 50 mg

Shrimp, 3 oz., 100 mg

Spinach, ½ cup, 120 mg

Sweet Potato, Baked 1 small, 40 mg

Tofu ½ cup, 250 mg

Tortilla, Corn 1 medium, 80 mg

Waffles, 2 square, 300 mg

Yogurt, 8 oz., 415 mg

Yogurt, Frozen ½ cup, 150 mg

Nutrition Label Facts

Calcium, the major component of bones, is one of the dietary factors most frequently mentioned in relation to osteoporosis. We can use the product label to learn how much calcium is in packaged foods and in vitamin/mineral supplements. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses the term “Percent Daily Value” (% DV) to describe the amount of calcium a food or supplement provides in relation to the general U.S. population’s daily needs.

The 100% DV level for calcium equals 1,000 mg. The % DV on the “Nutrition Facts” panel of a food label or the “Supplement Facts” section of a vitamin/mineral supplement tells how much calcium one serving provides in relation to 1,000 mg. For example: If a food or supplement provides 200 mg of calcium per serving, the label would show a 20% DV for calcium (200/1,000 = 20%).


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