Bone Up on Calcium

Strong, healthy bones come from a diet rich in calcium. Learn why dairy isn't your only source.
A Major Mineral
eating yogurt
Yogurt is just one way to get a daily
dose of calcium.

Calcium is important at every age, but early adulthood is the best time for building bone mass. Bones increase in density until about age 30, but more than 95 percent of bone mass is accumulated by about age 20.

Unfortunately, 80 percent of teenage girls and 60 percent of teen boys aren't getting enough calcium, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This can put them at higher risk later for osteoporosis, a symptomless disease in its early stages but one that causes bones to deteriorate.

Adults, too, are falling behind in calcium intake. The average adult gets between 500 and 700 milligrams of calcium each day, far below the National Osteoporosis Foundation's daily recommendation of 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams. Many women have osteopenia -- lower amounts of bone mass than expected for their age --but have not yet developed osteoporosis.

Recommended Daily Amounts

Here's what you need at every age and stage of life.

  • Ages 1 to 10: 800 to 1200 mg
  • Ages 11 to 24: 1200 to 1500 mg
  • Women age 25 to 50: 1000 mg
    (pregnant and breastfeeding women should check with your doctor about increases during those life stages)
  • Men age 25 to 65: 1000 mg
  • Postmenopausal women:
    1000 mg if on hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
    1500 mg if not on HRT
  • Men over age 65: 1500 mg

Good Food Sources

Three to four daily servings of dairy products -- about 1,000 milligrams -- can protect your bones. Eight ounces of milk or yogurt 2 ounces of cheese 1-1/2 cups of ice cream These all count as one serving, and provide approximately 300 milligrams of calcium each. Broccoli, tofu, and canned salmon (with the bones) are also good sources of calcium.

Other ideas include:

  • Use milk instead of powdered creamer in your coffee.
  • Sprinkle sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or cheese on your salad.
  • Drink a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice.

Continued on page 2:  Calcium Supplements