NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Why Do I Need Calcium?

Why Do I Need Calcium?


          We often associate calcium with growing children and building strong bones – all of which is true.  Calcium is important though for adults too!

A daily supply of calcium is important for:

• Healthy bones

• Healthy teeth

• Muscle movement

• Nerve conduction

• Blood clotting


Not enough calcium puts you at risk for weak or brittle bones that can easily break as well as muscle cramps. Calcium continues strengthening our bones until we reach the age of 20-25 years, or when they reach their peak mass. After that age, calcium helps bone maintenance as well as slowing down bone density loss, which is a natural part of the aging process. People whose calcium intake is inadequate before the age of 20-25, have a considerably higher risk later on in life of developing brittle bone disease or osteoporosis, because calcium is drawn from the bones as a reserve.


The best way to get the calcium you need each day is by eating foods with calcium. Calcium rich foods not only give your body calcium, but also other important nutrients that help your body absorb the calcium in food. Lactose in milk helps your body absorb the calcium in milk and milk products

Which foods are rich in calcium? Rich sources of calcium include:

  • Milk, Cheese and Yogurt
  • Nuts and seeds, including pistachio, sesame, almonds, hazelnuts
  • Beans
  • Figs
  • Broccoli and Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Many fortified breakfast cereals
  • Many fortified drinks, including soy milk and a variety of fruit juices
  • Some dark-green vegetables may contain high levels of oxalic acid which reduces the body's ability to absorb calcium.

    How much calcium should I consume each day?  Kids ages 1-3 need 500 mg of calcium a day, or about two 8-oz. glasses of milk. Kids ages 4-8 need 800 mg of calcium a day, or about three 8-oz. glasses of milk. Teens ages 9-18 need 1,300 mg of calcium a day, or about four 8-oz. glasses of milk. Adults ages 19-50 need 1,000 mg of calcium a day, or at least three 8-oz. glasses of milk and adults over the age of 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium a day, or four 8-oz. glasses of milk


    Why can't someone just take a calcium supplement?  Supplements are not substitutes. A calcium pill shouldn't take the place of the calcium in food. A glass of milk, for example, not only provides calcium but also eight other essential nutrients. One of these key nutrients is vitamin D, which is important for calcium absorption.  Try “Cream of Broccoli Soup” for an added boost of calcium on our cold winter day.


    Cream of Broccoli Soup


              2 cups chicken broth

              1 10-ounce package chopped broccoli

              4 Tablespoons chopped parsley

              1 medium onion, chopped

              2 Tablespoons lemon juice

              2 cups evaporated nonfat milk

              1 Tablespoon cornstarch

              Dash nutmeg

              2 teaspoons garlic salt

              ¼ teaspoon pepper

              Parsley for garnish


              Heat broth with broccoli, chopped parsley, onion and lemon juice to boiling.  Cover and heat until broccoli is tender, according to package instructions.  Remove vegetables from broth with a strainer and cool.  Place vegetables in blender and add evaporated milk until blender is three-quarters full.  Add cornstarch and blend until smooth.  Slowly stir the vegetable-milk mixture, the rest of the evaporated milk, and the nutmeg, garlic salt and pepper into the broth.  Heat over low flame until thickened, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil and boil lightly for 1 minute.  Serve hot, garnish with parsley.


              Servings: 5, ¾ cup each. Calories per serving: 125. Calcium per serving: 355 mg

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