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Calcium: your bones will thank you

Calcium: your bones will thank you

Reviewed by Amy Shelton, R.D., Clinical Dietitian

Parents: Please share this article with your teens. You can help by adding different sources of calcium to your family's daily meals.

Are your parents always nagging you to "drink your milk?" Well, they may actually have a point. Calcium is an essential mineral needed by the body to develop, strengthen and maintain healthy bones and teeth. It also helps control muscles and nerves, blood clotting, blood pressure and immune processes.

Calcium is particularly critical during adolescence when approximately 40% of total bone growth occurs. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, nine of 10 teen girls and seven of 10 teen boys fail to meet the daily calcium recommendations.

What is recommended? The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences recommends that children and teens ages 9-18 get 1,300 milligrams per day. Although signs of low calcium consumption may not be visible right away, a lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis or weakened bones later in life. 

Don't think you're getting enough? Increasing calcium in your diet is as easy as consuming more dairy products, dark green vegetables and foods fortified with calcium such as orange juice.

Dairy products are our most concentrated food sources of calcium. One cup of milk contains 300 milligrams, one cup of yogurt around 400 milligrams and 1 ounce of cheese about 200 milligrams. Flavored or chocolate milk also has 300 milligrams of calcium, but with added calories and sugar. However, it is possible to get enough calcium without consuming dairy products. Alternate sources of calcium include dried beans, fish with edible bones, tofu, calcium-fortified soy milk or orange juice, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collards and turnip greens. Several companies are also now fortifying breads, cereals and crackers. The "Nutrition Facts" label will help you determine if calcium has been added.

If you continually fall short of meeting the recommended amount, a calcium supplement can help. Make a conscious effort to consume enough calcium and your bones will thank you.


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