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Reflecting on the last couple of years of being a dietetics student and pretending that someone asked me to pick one message to pass on I would automatically default to calcium. Despite the fact that I obviously view calcium as one of the most important nutrition messages, for some strange reason, I have not written anything about it! There was the one post two years ago on soymilk vs. cow’s milk but that hardly scratched the surface. So, let me finally explain why I think calcium is so important.

You have until the age of 30 (approximately) to reach your peak bone density. Bone density is the degree of compactness of bone tissue, in other words, it’s a reflection of your bone strength. After the age of 30 bone loss is inevitable either from age, menopause in women or other risk factors. How much bone you have accumulated at peak bone mass determines how much you can remove before crossing the threshold for osteoporosis – think of a piggy bank…same idea.

In adulthood, calcium is still really important because even though calcium supplementation will not halt bone loss it does appear to reduce it! In other words, fracture risk is lower for someone who is consuming calcium compared to someone who avoids it.

So, what do the numbers look like? School-aged children and adolescents need 1,300 mg of calcium a day; adults require 1,000 mg and older adults (50+) need 1,200 mg of calcium a day. These numbers are based on maximum deposition of bone during growth. Older adults need a little more to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

These numbers may sound overwhelming but hopefully after showing you some examples you’ll realize they’re not so bad!

  • 1 cup of milk = 300 mg
  • 25g of cheese (half a serving) = 200 mg
  • ¼ cup of almonds = 75 mg
  • ½ cup of hummus = 50 mg
  • 1 medium orange = 50 mg
  • And the vegetable with the most calcium is….kale! So, enjoy those kale chips!

Now, go buy yourself a latte!

Image courtesy of Great Beyond

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PS) Check out this interactive calcium calculator to make sure you're on the right track!