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Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in our body, with about 99% stored in our bones and teeth. The rest is found in our blood and soft tissues, where it’s critical for many important things, like helping our hearts beat, blood clot, muscles move and nerves function.
OUR BONES ARE OUR BODY’S EMERGENCY CALCIUM SUPPLY!
If we don’t consume enough daily calcium to support these bodily functions, our body takes what it needs from our bones and, as we get older, we lose the ability to replace that mineral loss, which can lead to fragile bones later in life. So, the earlier we start being mindful of our calcium intake, the better!
BONES ARE LIVING TISSUE!
Did you know that bones are dynamic, living tissue? The bones go through a continual cycle of change – as well as building completely new bone when we’re young, damaged or old bone tissue is resorbed by the body and replaced by new. When we’re young, this process is very balanced, but as we get older, bone loss starts to exceed the formation of new bone.
THE BEST SOURCES OF CALCIUM
Dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt are by far the best sources of calcium, and canned fish with edible bones, like salmon and sardines, are great too. Vegetables including kale, cabbage and broccoli are also high in calcium, but you need to consume large portions to achieve an adequate daily intake.
WE NEED VITAMIN D TO ABSORB CALCIUM!
Vitamin D is necessary for calcium to be absorbed and used by the body. Your skin produces vitamin D naturally when exposed to sunlight. But due to climates with little sunlight and a lot of time indoors, our bodies also rely on getting vitamin D from food or supplements. We can also get vitamin D from the food we eat, including eggs, fatty fish and fortified foods.
KIDS NEED CALCIUM TO BUILD STRONG BONES
Kids and teens grow fast and 90% of our bone mass is built during childhood and adolescence. So it’s important to make sure kids and teens consume adequate calcium to help build optimal bone density during this rapid growth phase to ensure optimal bone health throughout adulthood. Recommended daily intake of calcium: 1-3 years 450mg / 4-10 years 800mg / 11-17 years 1150mg (EFSA, 2015).<br /> If you ’re worried they might not be getting enough from the food they eat – especially if they can’t eat dairy produce – you might want to top up their intake with a multivitamin that includes calcium and vitamin D.
WE HIT PEAK BONE DENSITY IN OUR 20S
We hit our peak bone mass in our early 20s – this is the moment our bones will be as strong and dense as they can ever be! And at around 30, bone formation starts to slow – this is the point that resorption of old bone may start to exceed the formation of new bone.
Recommended daily intake of calcium: young adults (18-24 years) 1000mg / adults 950mg (EFSA, 2015).
Make sure your bones are at optimal density while you can, by making sure you’re getting plenty of calcium-rich foods, and top up with a multivitamin or a calcium supplement if needed.
EATING FOR 2! – CALCIUM DURING PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING
During pregnancy – and breastfeeding – some of the calcium consumed by mum goes to support the baby’s development of bones and teeth. Like all micronutrients, the baby’s needs always come first, so if she doesn’t consume enough calcium during this time, her body will take what it needs from her bones to support her needs – and baby’s. Recommended daily intake of calcium: young adults (18-24 years) 1000mg / adults 950mg (EFSA, 2015). If you’re pregnant, planning pregnancy, or breastfeeding, and concerned you don’t consume enough calcium, you can top up your intake with a calcium supplement, but consult your health practitioner first to make sure.
PRESERVING BONE DENSITY AFTER 50
Once we hit around 50, our bone mass starts to decline, and this loss is even more rapid for women when they enter menopause. And while bone mineral loss is a normal part of the ageing process, it’s not impossible to help slow this process by making sure you get adequate daily calcium every day!
Recommended daily intake of calcium: 950mg (EFSA, 2015).
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY HELPS KEEP BONES STRONG AND HEALTHY!
Weight-bearing exercise is great for bone health at any age! Using your own weight to put stress on your bones helps stimulate bone growth and can also help to slow down age-related bone density loss. So make weight bearing activities, calcium and vitamin D part of the daily routine for you and your family and pave the way for a strong and healthy future!
REFERENCES:
EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA). Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for calcium. EFSA J. 2015;13(5):4101-83. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4101.
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