The other day a friend of mine showed me a picture. At first glance I thought it was a new piece of abstract art she had purchased, but on closer inspection, she sadly informed me that it was a picture of what her bones looked like now. Indeed, it was bone that had been stretched thinly with many holes almost resembling Swiss cheese. And my friend is only in her mid fifties. Although osteoporosis runs in her family, she did sheepishly admit that she had not done all she could through her years to bone up on calcium and keep her bones strong.
Due to advances in medical science, my friend is going to be ok with some new medications, but she now kicks herself for the lost opportunities she had to really try and prevent much of her bone loss. Osteoporosis, the condition my friend now has, is a condition of gradually weakening brittle bones. As the bones lose calcium and other minerals, they become more fragile and porous. Luckily it did not take a fall for my friend to discover she had osteoporosis. But for many, the disease is silent since there are no symptoms. But luckily, there is a lot we know now to help prevent osteoporosis the best we can.
A few factors that can’t change for many; being female, being Caucasian or Asian, a low body weight or small body frame, family history and simply aging. But other risk factors such as smoking, heavy drinking, inactivity and a food plan low in calcium can put your body in jeopardy of developing osteoporosis. Let’s take a look at the this last factor; calcium and how you can “bone” up on it!
Calcium is like the money you deposit and withdraw from your bank. Because bones are living tissue, calcium gets deposited and withdrawn daily from your skeleton. Small amounts of it are withdrawn for other purposes, so regular daily deposits of calcium are needed. And calcium has partners; vitamin D and phosphorous helps the bone absorb calcium. When you don’t consume enough calcium or if your body does not absorb it adequately (because you are short on Vitamin D) the process gradually depletes bone, leaving a void in places where calcium otherwise would be deposited making bones weak and brittle. While calcium plays a major role in bone development, it also is important for other health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney stones and if you are at high risk, possibly even colon cancer.
So how much calcium do you need? For adults 19 to 50 about 1000 mg a day is recommended. For age 50 plus , an increase to 1200-1300 mg is recommended. Food choices can supply an adequate amount of calcium, but for those who fall short, on the advice of a physician, calcium supplements may be worth looking into. But remember, using supplements as a substitute for food sources can give you a false sense of security. Calcium supplements can’t make up for your lifestyle choices. With that said, if you need more calcium in your food choices, here’s how!
Dairy is the first logical choice to look for calcium. Yogurt, milk and cheeses (all skim milk of course!), are excellent sources of calcium. Dairy foods also contain vitamin D and phosphorus, helping calcium to be absorbed Instead of reaching for soda or coffee during your “coffee break, reach for a glass of milk. Many soy milks are also fortified with calcium, if you are lactose intolerant or simply do not care for milk products. And if you must have your coffee, order latte or cappuccino and have it with skim milk.
Vegetables also have calcium. Dark leafy greens such as kale, mustard, collard, and turnip greens, broccoli and bokchoy are very good sources. In one half cup of these vegetables you could obtain about 35 to 50 mg of calcium. Try adding them more often to your meals.
Soy products particularly calcium fortified soy milk and tofu are good sources too. Try having a meatless meal at least once week with tofu. You’ll increase your calcium intake and decrease animal fat consumption.
Think fish when you think about calcium. Fish with edible bones such as salmon and sardines can easily be incorporated into salads and casseroles.
Think about calcium every time you cook. Make soups and hot cereal with milk. Mix dry milk powder into meatloaf and casseroles. Add broccoli and bokchoy into soups and stir fries. Puree cottage cheese; add some dry herbs and use as spread for breads or use as a dip for vegetables.
Adding flavor to milk also helps! Add 1/4 cup puree berries or a small banana to milk and whirl in a blender. Or add a teaspoon of heart healthy peanut butter and a dash of low calorie chocolate syrup to milk for a rich taste.
There is no doubt that calcium is an important mineral. By increasing the amount of calcium in your food plan, hopefully your bones with the “picture” of health!
By preparing snack foods that contain calcium rich ingredients, you’ll begin to understand how delicious getting calcium can be!
3/4 cup plain non fat yogurt ½ cup part skim ricotta cheese 1 ½ Tbsp low fat mayonnaise 6 sun dried tomatoes, rehydrated and finely minced 1 Tbsp minced fresh chives, dill, basil or any combination 1 tsp fresh lemon juice salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients. And mix until smooth. Serve with fresh vegetables such as calcium rich broccoli, steamed or raw.
PRODUCT OF THE MONTH: SUPERMARKET FINDS
When planning my holiday appetizers this past season, I had a request from the masses to still serve cheese. As it is quick and simple, it quelled the pre -dinner hunger pangs nicely, but without adding too much fat. My selection? Cabot, the makers of fine Vermont cheeses, offers delicious 50 and 75% reduced fat cheddar cheese that tastes just as good as the full fat versions. And with 20% of your calcium needs met by a 1 ounce serving, you might just think of ways to add it to your everyday meal plan as well as for the holidays. In your grocers dairy case. Retails $2.49. Www.cabotcheese.com By:Robyn Webb