You have probably seen the “milk mustache” on some of your favorite stars, but are you sporting your own? Unfortunately, only 12% of teen girls actually get enough calcium in their diets.
What is calcium? Why do I need to be concerned now? Calcium is a mineral that gives strength to your bones. Calcium is necessary for many of your body’s functions, such as blood clotting and the proper function of nerves and muscles. During the teenage years (particularly ages 11- 15), your bones are developing quickly and are storing calcium so that your skeleton will be strong later in life. Nearly half of all bone is formed during these years. It is important that you get plenty of calcium in your diet because if your body does not get the calcium it needs, it takes calcium from the only source that it has: your bones. This can lead to brittle bones later in life and broken bones at any time.
What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops slowly and is usually caused by a combination of genetics and too little calcium in the diet. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. Osteoporosis can also lead to shortened height because of collapsing spinal bones and an increased chance of a hunched back.
How do I know if I’m at risk? Several factors that put a young person at risk for osteoporosis are:
- White race
- Being female
- Irregular periods
- Little or no exercise
- Low amount of calcium in the diet
- Below normal weight
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Heavy intake of alcohol
It is important to remember that osteoporosis can be prevented. There are some risk factors that you cannot change (like your race and the fact that you are female), but there are some you can! Eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, and don’t smoke!
How much calcium do I need? Children and teenagers between the ages of 9 and 18 should aim for 1,300 milligrams per day, which is equivalent to 4 high-calcium food servings a day for young women. Each 8-ounce glass of milk (whether skim, 1%, 2%, or whole) and each cup of yogurt has about 300 milligrams of calcium. Adults 19 to 50 years of age should aim for 1,000 milligrams per day.
What foods contain calcium? You probably know that dairy foods like milk and cheese are good sources of calcium, but do you know that tofu and beans contain calcium, too? If you are a vegetarian who doesn’t drink milk or eat cheese, you can get the calcium you need from other foods. See the list of high-calcium foods at the end of this guide.
What if I’m lactose intolerant? If you are lactose intolerant and can’t drink milk, there are plenty of other ways to get your calcium. These include fortified soy milk, fortified juice, or Lactaid milk (the lactase enzyme that you are missing has been added into the milk). You may also take lactase enzyme tablets before eating dairy products to help digest the lactose sugar in the milk. Some people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate small amounts of milk or other dairy products at a time.
How can I get more calcium in my diet? •Breakfast Have a bowl of cereal with milk. Use milk instead of water when making hot oatmeal. Drink calcium-fortified orange juice. Make a healthy breakfast shake with a cup of milk and a handful of frozen fruit. Add cheese to your bagel. Most cheeses, except for cream cheese, are high in calcium.
•Lunch Choose milk instead of soda at school. If you don’t like plain milk, try chocolate or strawberry milk. Pack a yogurt with your lunch. Add cheese to your sandwich.
•Snacks If you like coffee-flavored drinks, try a milk-rich latte (decaf is best). Look for cereal bars or energy bars that contain calcium. Check the label to see if calcium is listed. Make hot cocoa with milk instead of water. Eat broccoli dipped in a veggie dip made with plain yogurt. nack on cheese sticks or almonds. Have a yogurt as an after-school snack.
•Dinner Make macaroni and cheese with milk or chowder-style soups. Prepare canned tomato soup with milk instead of water. Try tofu. Include more beans (legumes) in your meals. Make lasagna or other pasta dishes with ricotta cheese. Eat pizza! Have pudding made with milk or frozen yogurt for dessert.
What if I just can’t get enough calcium in my diet? It is best to try to meet your calcium needs through by having calcium-rich foods and drinks, but some teens find it difficult to fit in 4 servings of high-calcium foods daily. If you don’t like dairy foods or calcium fortified juice or soymilk, you may need a calcium supplement. Calcium citrate (for example, Citracal) and calcium carbonate (for example, Tums or Viactiv) are most popular.
When choosing a supplement, keep the following things in mind
•Most calcium supplements have between 200 and 500 milligrams of calcium. Remember, your goal is 1,300 milligrams of per day.
•If you have to take more than one supplement per day, it is best to take them at different times of the day because your body can only absorb about 500 milligrams of calcium at a time.
•Don’t count on getting all of your calcium from your multivitamin. Most basic multivitamin/mineral tablets have very little calcium in them.
•Look for a calcium supplement that has vitamin D added. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
•Avoid “oyster shell” or “natural source” calcium supplements. These may have lead or aluminum in them and are not recommended.
Now that you’ve “boned up” on calcium knowledge, it’s time for a snack…
Food Serving Milligrams of Calcium Dairy Products Yogurt, low-fat (whole) 1 cup 345-415 Ricotta cheese, part-skim 1/2 cup 335 Milk (skim) 1 cup 306 Fortified soy and rice milks 1 cup 300 Milk (1%) 1 cup 290 Milk (whole) 1 cup 276 Ricotta cheese, whole 1/2 cup 255 Swiss cheese 1 ounce 224 Mozzarella cheese, part skim 1 ounce 207 Cheddar cheese 1 ounce 204 Muenster cheese 1 ounce 203 American cheese 1 ounce 156 Frozen yogurt 1/2 cup 103 Ice cream 1/2 cup 84 Pudding 1/2 cup 99
Protein Foods Canned sardines (with bones) 3 ounces 325 Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 261 Canned salmon (with bones) 3 ounces 181 Tofu, firm (prepared with calcium sulfate or calcium lactate) 1/4 block 161 Beans, cooked 1 cup 46-126 Crab 3 ounces 88 Clams 3 ounces 78 Almonds 1 oz (24 nuts) 70 Hummus 1/2 cup 40
Vegetables Collard greens, cooked 1/2 cup 133 Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 123
Kale, cooked 1/2 cup 47 Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 31
Fruits Calcium-fortified orange juice 1 cup 300 Rhubarb 1/2 cup 174 Dried figs 2 figs 62 Orange 1 52 Cereals Total Raisin Bran 1 cup 1000 Golden Grahams 3/4 cup 350 Basic Four 1 cup 196 Kix 1 1/3 cup 150 Values taken from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17
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