May is National Osteoporosis Month, so now is a good time to take a look at your diet and figure out if you're getting enough calcium and Vitamin D to keep your bones strong and back straight for decades after you get your AARP card.
In general, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium (for women -- who need more than men and tend to be the hardest hit by osteoporosis) is between 1,000 and 1,200 mg. A serving of milk is about 300mg of calcium, so you're supposed to be drinking three glasses of milk per day. If you're not, then you're probably not getting enough calcium.
But what should you do if don't care for milk… or if you're lactose intolerant? What if you're counting calories and just can't squeeze the extra into your diet?
Don't fret. Here are 10 tips for adding and keeping that important calcium in your daily routine.
- Quit drinking soft drinks. High phosphate levels in the blood (which can be caused by consuming large quantities of pop) leach calcium from your bones and prevent the absorption of new calcium.
- Get enough Vitamin D. Calcium is absorbed by the body and used only when there is enough vitamin D in your system. A balanced diet should provide an adequate supply of vitamin D from sources such as eggs and liver. Since most people don’t care for liver, go ahead and enjoy your omelets (and add some spinach!)
Don't forget that sunlight also helps the body naturally absorb vitamin D, and with enough exposure to the sun, additional food sources may not be necessary.
- Eat your beans (baked). One cup of baked beans has 154mg calcium (remember the target is 1,200mgs/day).
- Canned Salmon. Three ounces of canned salmon contain 181mg calcium. Salmon also is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Calcium fortified foods. Many foods are now calcium-fortified. You can find calcium fortified soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, orange juice, cranberry juice, breakfast cereals, breakfast bars at almost every grocery store.
- An 8oz glass of calcium-fortified orange juice provides about 300mg of calcium – which is about the same as a single serving of milk.
- One cup of calcium fortified soy milk has nearly 300mgs of calcium AND can be used over calcium fortified cereal. Two great sources of calcium in one meal.
- Oatmeal isn't just for breakfast. One cup of oatmeal not only provides 100–150mg of calcium, it is also a versatile add-in to many other foods and can be used to goose up the calcium quotient in your breakfast cereal, added to yogurt, or even mixed in with your favorite baking recipes.
- Eat your veggies... especially spinach, broccoli and dark green leafy vegetables. Kale, parsley, broccoli, spinach and other dark green leafy veggies each provide about 100mgs of calcium per serving. In addition to just making an effort to eat your greens, you can also try substituting raw spinach for iceberg lettuce on your sandwiches and in your salads.
- Go Nuts. Almonds and brazils nuts contain about 100mgs of calcium per serving and are both recommended snacks for people on low carb diets.
- Drink your latte. My personal favorite! A Starbucks Grande latte provides almost half your daily calcium needs and is such a pleasure. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can get your latte made w/ soy instead of cow milk.
If the gourmet fancy coffees wreak havoc with your budget, just mix a cup of regular coffee with a cup of milk (or skim milk to reduce the calories, or soy milk to eliminate lactose) – microwave the milk first to make your homemade latte nice and hot.
- Take an Over-the-Counter Calcium Supplement. You can add a calcium supplement like Os-Cal® or even Tums® to your daily routine to make up the calcium gap. Word of caution… Just because a single Tums has 200mgs of calcium doesn’t mean you can take 5 a day to meet your RDA. It is ultimately and primarily an antacid, not a calcium supplement, and as such it can have a detrimental effect on your digestive system if taken long term.