Our skeleton is composed primarily of our bones. Some of us have never broken a bone, some of us weren’t that lucky. As kids, our parents drilled the importance of dietary calcium into us. Who didn’t hear “drink your milk so you can have strong bones!”? Calcium. Fact or fiction? Do we continue to need calcium for bone health as we age? Is calcium just for kids?
The short answer is yes, calcium is important for bone health. Especially when we are young. Calcium builds our bones and is very important in the diet, especially in childhood. Up until our teenage years is the best opportunity to build our bone density, and bone density is a good thing. We want solid bones. It is important to really encourage calcium intake in children. Most americans fall short of where their calcium intake should be, so we really need to focus on it. Where is calcium? There are many places to find it.
- Milk/dairy products/cheese
- Canned fish such as salmon-with the bones
- Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and bok choy
- Black strap molasses (this is a surprising one, isn’t it?)
- And there are plenty of foods fortified with calcium too, like breakfast cereals, and supplements.
Calcium is recognized as so important, in fact, that many foods are now fortified with it. Fortification is adding micronutrients into a food that is not naturally found in that food. Just look in the fresh juice aisle at the grocers and you will see calcium and vitamin D in orange juice. That is fortification, and fortified foods are a good source of calcium as well. It is in bread, cereal, tofu, many foods. It is a perfectly safe and acceptable way to boost calcium intake.
But is calcium important after our teenage years when we are no longer building our bones? Yes, it’s important throughout our entire life. Calcium, phosphate and vitamin D are all important throughout our life for good bone health. We think of bones as something solid and strong, but bones are actually made of tissue. And this tissue has constant turnover. Bones rebuild themselves. So it is important to continue with our calcium!
Besides calcium, what else can help bone health? Physical activity. Exercise builds muscle, but guess what? It also builds our bones. It is especially important beginning in childhood and lasts through our life time. Calcium and physical activity are a winning combination for good bone health. What type of physical activity works? Consider the following:
- Bicycle riding
Really, any activity will be beneficial to bone health. Even going out, grabbing the jump rope and jumping with your kids is good for your health! So grab a glass of milk (skim milk and 1% has just as much calcium as whole, so choose skim and leave the fat behind!) and go for a good brisk walk. Take care of those bones!