When my older daughter was about 18 months old, she broke her leg in an unfortunate indoor collision with an older child at day care. While her tiny hot-pink cast did make quite a fashion statement, the several weeks of healing and her lack of mobility made life a little difficult for her and the rest of the family. She re-learned how to walk with the cast and is fine today, but it made my family think about our bones a little more.
Bones, of course, primarily are composed of calcium. Without enough calcium in our bones, we literally wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis, Osteoporosis (porous bones) causes bones to become fragile and easily fractured. Even though women are more at risk for osteoporosis, males also can be affected.
Answering “yes” to any of the following questions could indicate you may be more at risk for developing osteoporosis:
- Are you female?
- Do you have a family history of osteoporosis?
- Are you of Caucasian or Asian descent?
- Are you over age 50?
- If female, have you had your ovaries removed?
- Do you smoke cigarettes?
- Is your diet low in calcium (under 1,000 milligrams/day) and vitamin D?
- Is your diet limited in fruits and vegetables?
- Do you limit dairy foods or other calcium-rich foods?
- Do you have a high intake of protein, sodium and caffeine?
- Do you drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day?
Keeping our bones strong and healthy throughout life takes some effort. You can help protect yourself from developing osteoporosis by consuming plenty of calcium-rich foods throughout life and by getting enough weight-bearing physical activity, like walking. Calcium supplements are another option to consider with your health-care provider. Adequate vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium.
Calcium needs differ depending on age. The current calcium recommendations are: 500 milligrams (mg) daily for 1- to 3-year-olds, 800 mg for 4- to 8-year-olds, 1,300 mg for 9- to 18-year-olds, 1,000 mg for 19- to 50-year-olds and 1,200 mg for adults age 51 and older.
Dairy products such milk, yogurt and cheese are excellent calcium sources. A cup of milk, for example, contains about 300 mg of calcium. Some plant foods such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, almonds and dried beans naturally contain calcium. Certain types of orange juice, cereals and other items in the grocery store have been fortified with calcium, too.
To learn more about your calcium intake, read the “percent daily value” for calcium on the Nutrition Facts labels for different food products. Add a zero to this number to convert it to milligrams. For example, a serving of yogurt might contain 35 percent of the daily value for calcium, or 350 mg of calcium.
Here’s a calcium-rich recipe courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Council. It is ready to eat in about 30 minutes.
Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained 1 container (8 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt 1 cup shredded low-moisture part-skim Mozzarella cheese 1/4 cup green onion, chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 2 tablespoons red pepper, chopped
Combine all ingredients except red pepper and mix well. Pour mixture into 1-quart casserole dish or 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with red peppers.
Makes eight servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 3 grams (g) fat, 7 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein and 220 mg sodium.