Calcium: Getting to the Bones of It

From whole foods to fortified products to vitamin supplements, calcium is an essential nutrient throughout every life stage, but it’s not just for healthy teeth and bones (even though 99% of it is stored there). This multi-functional mineral is an unsung hero when it comes to maintaining human health. As children, we need calcium for bone formation; but, as we age, it helps protect us from fractures, osteoporosis, and even diabetes. In fact, new evidence continues to show that calcium is a major factor in reducing the risk of heart disease, inflammation, and other chronic illnesses.

Calcium Foods

When the body runs low on calcium, it transfers its stores using one of three organ systems—kidney, intestines, and bone—potentially putting at risk vascular, muscle, nerve, intracellular, and hormonal functions. Over time, calcium deficiencies can cause serious health problems; but small, constant changes made over the course of each life stage can help keep calcium levels at normal range, and, ultimately, maintain endurance, health, and longevity.

Maintaining bone health throughout your life

According to the National Institutes of Health and other sources, the minimum calcium requirement for healthy adults is 700 mg per day to maintain health and anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 mg per day to prevent deficiencies and reduce the risk of diabetes and other chronic conditions. However, a recent study indicated that the average intake of females of various ages from France, Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom was about 500 mg per day or almost 1,400 mg shy of the minimum requirement come the end of any given week.

While calcium intake varies slightly depending on age, gender, and even population, the major groups at risk for calcium deficiency are: women, the lactose intolerant, adolescents, and the elderly. For female adolescents, adequate calcium is crucial for bone formation and growth. Later in life, women are at risk if their baselines are not already strong, if they develop eating disorders, or if they partake in extreme physical activities high risk for calcium. During the postmenopausal stage, hormonal changes may affect bone mineralization. Those with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance—the body’s inability to manufacture the lactase enzyme needed to break down the sugar found in milk—often follow a dietary restriction that could put them at risk for calcium deficiency. Lastly, adolescents tend to develop dietary habit changes (i.e., substituting soda for milk) as they age and the elderly may experience medication interactions that decrease calcium absorption, resulting in osteoporosis and putting them at risk for hip fractures.

The calcium collaboration

Calcium has a strong and interdependent relationship with phosphorus, vitamin D, and protein. Its balance with phosphorus in the kidneys is especially important during periods of growth for bone mineralization. Vitamin D boosts calcium absorption to maintain proper and consistent levels for everyday metabolic functions. Muscle protein works together with calcium to create the necessary bone matrix needed to support human health. 

Calcium to the rescue

Emerging data and recent trials with calcium supplementation have shown to be an effective strategy to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. If dietary calcium cannot be consumed—for example, in the at-risk groups listed above—then supplements would be the way to go. Calcium supplements come in a variety of forms—from tablets to liquids—and different calcium compounds may have a better absorption rate if taken in smaller doses, with meals, or with vitamin D. (If you are unsure which calcium supplements are right for you, speak with your doctor.)

Adequate calcium intake through whole and fortified foods—such as orange juice or cereals with added calcium—may help maintain a normal body weight, thereby decreasing the risk of obesity and related chronic conditions. Fermented foods containing calcium, such as kimchi, yogurt, and aged cheeses, help support beneficial gut bacteria.

A study of adults over the age of 50 found a significant reduction in the risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture when taking 1,200 mg of dietary calcium per day. Increased muscle strength and bone density was, not surprisingly, found in groups who (a) included high quality fruits and vegetables containing calcium and vitamin D in their diet, (b) engaged in moderate physical activity, and (c) maintained a healthy body weight.

Don’t got milk?

Many people may recognize the well-known “got milk?” advertising campaign, but dairy is not the only way to get calcium. In fact, for many (vegans and the lactose-intolerant, to name two), dairy isn’t even a consideration. The best way to overcome these dietary challenges without risking calcium deficiency is through a varied and diverse diet.

For example, one cup of whole milk yields about 250 mg of calcium, but so does a cup of calcium-fortified soymilk or a half-cup of tofu. Sardines come in at 46 mg each, a tablespoon of sesame seeds has 88 mg, and a cup of collard greens will give you about 84 mg. Granted, a whole food diet is the preferred way to get calcium, but, choosing the right combination of whole foods, fortified products, and supplements may make it easier to tailor your daily calcium intake to your specific nutritional needs and health goals.

Calcium for your consideration

Maintaining bone health does not have to get more difficult with age and, as I continue to say, nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Understanding calcium’s role in a healthful diet, incorporating a wide variety of foods to meet dietary guidelines, including supplements when necessary, and making the best choices throughout each stage may just put you on the road to a long and healthy life.

Image credit: FoodsNG

TEDxManhattan (Sat, 3/7/15): Changing the Way We Eat

If you’ve been keeping track of my Twitter feed or are a part of my LinkedIn network, you know that my boyfriend and I will be hosting a viewing party of the TEDxManhattan live-streaming event “Changing the Way We Eat” at our apartment in the East Village, New York City, on Saturday, March 7, 2015. As I did last year, I’m opening the invitation to anyone who follows this blog.

OTHER INFO:

  • Food will be provided (menu still TBD), but you can BYO food or beverages, if you wish.
  • Kids are welcome.
  • We have cats in case you are allergic.
  • This is not a fund-raiser/there is no charge to attend.

The entire event is from 10:30 am – 6:00 pm ET. Since we have a teeny apartment, we are asking everyone to RSVP by Wed, 2/25 for their preferred session(s), noted below, so it doesn’t get too crowded. (I’ll e-mail you our exact address after you’ve replied).

Session 1 (10:30 AM – 12:25 PM)
Introductions
Nikiko Masumoto – Legacy of three generations of Japanese American family farmers.
Anim Steel – Food justice.
Ali Partovi – What’s the real reason organic food costs more? (Hint: It’s not because it’s more expensive to produce.)
Stephen Reily – How do cities build platforms to help the local food economy achieve sustainability and scale?
Film clip: The Meatrix, re-make and re-launch of the hugely successful 2003 viral phenomenon
Michele Merkel – What is legal is not always right: Fighting for justice in rural America.

BREAK 12:25 – 1:35 PM (webcast offline)

Session 2 (1:35 – 3:35 PM)
Marcel Van Ooyen – Scaling up local food distribution to take it from niche to mainstream.
Robert Graham – Teaching doctors about the importance of food to health.
Stefanie Sacks – How small changes in eating can make big differences.
Joel Berg – The only real way to end hunger in America.
Dana Cowin – The power of ugly vegetables: Why ugly, bruised vegetables are the future of food.
TEDxManhattan Award Winner – Stephen Ritz, Green Bronx Machine. School. Kids. Community. Food. The educational community center Steve is building in a school in the Bronx.
DJ Cavem – Health education through art and hip hop music.

BREAK 3:35 – 4:15 PM (webcast offline)

Session 3 (4:15 – 6:00pm)
Henry Hargreaves – How end-of-the-world doomsday preppers are thinking about their food.
Film clip: Anna Lappe, Real Food Media Project winner
Shen Tong – The impact of venture capital money and investment dollars in the food system.
Kendra Kimbirauskas – The rift between the good food movement and the explosion of factory farms in the U.S.
Film clip: Regina Bernard-Carreno and Alison Cayne
Danielle Nierenberg – Why the food system will fall apart without women farmers.
Danny Meyer – Fine dining and chain restaurants: The evolvement and overlap of the two.

END 6:00 PM (webcast offline)

We look forward to sharing good food and conversation with you!

If you are unable to attend, but would like to learn more about the event or watch on your own, click here to visit the official TEDxManhattan website. Please feel free to post comments below about what you thought after watching the event.

TEDxManhattan (Sat, 3/1/14): Changing the Way We Eat

If you’ve been keeping track of my Twitter feed or are a part of my LinkedIn network, you know that I’ll be hosting a viewing party tomorrow, Saturday, March 1, 2014, for the TEDxManhattan live-streaming event “Changing the Way We Eat.” This may seem like a nutty move, but I’m very trusting of my readers, so I’m opening the invitation to anyone who follows this blog. I’m not crazy enough to post my exact street address here, but I’ll say that it’s at my apartment in the East Village, New York City.

If you’re interested, please click here to RSVP and I’ll send you the address.

OTHER INFO

  • Food will be provided, but you can BYO food or beverages, if you wish.
  • Kids are welcome.
  • We have cats in case you are allergic.
  • This is not a fund-raiser/there is no charge to attend.

The entire event is from 10:30 am – 6:30 pm EST, but you can drop by whenever your schedule allows and stay for as short or as long as you wish; however, if you’d prefer to join us for a particular session, here are the details:

10:30 AM – Session 1
Brian Halweil, Editor, Edible East End; Publisher, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn
Peggy Neu, President, The Monday Campaigns
Kathy Lawrence, Program Director, School Food FOCUS
Michael Rozyne, Executive Director, Red Tomato
Tama Wong, Principal, Meadows and More
Megan Miller, Founder, Bitty Foods
Steve Ritz, Founder, Green Bronx Machine
Andrew Gunther, Program Director, Animal Welfare Approved
David McInerney, Co-Founder, FreshDirect
Dr. Lance Price, Professor, George Washington University
Bill Yosses, Executive Pastry Chef, The White House
David Binkle, Director of Food Services, Los Angeles Unified School District

1:40 PM – Session 2
San Van Aken – Tree of 40 Fruits, Artist
Stefani Bardin, Faculty, The New School
Matt Moore, Family Farmer, Artist, Activist, The Digital Farm Collective
Maisie Ganzler, Vice President, Bon Appetit Management Company
Regina Bernard-Carreno, Assistant Professor, Baruch College, CUNY
Ann Cooper, Founder, Food Family Farming Foundation
Sunny Young, Director, Edufood Consulting
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Virginia Clarke, Executive Director, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders
LaDonna Redmond, Founder, Campaign for Food Justice Now
Alison Cayne, Owner, Havens Kitchen
Elizabeth Meltz, Director of Food Safety and Sustainability, Batali/Bastianich Hospitality Group
Nikki Silvestri, Executive Director, Green for All

4:20 PM – Session 3
Mitchell Davis, Executive Vice President, James Beard Foundation
Myra Goodman, Co-founder, Earthbound Farm
Kerry McLean, Director of Community Development, WHEDco
Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United)
Cheryl Kollin, Founding Principal, Full Plate Ventures
Clint Smith, Educator, Parkdale High School
Peter Hoffman, chef owner of Back Forty and Back Forty West
Chellie Pingree, Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives (Maine)
Kenneth Cook, President and Co-founder, Environmental Working Group
Tom Colicchio, Chef, Restaurant Owner, Head Judge “Top Chef”, Cookbook Author

We look forward to sharing good food and conversation with you!

If you are unable to attend, but would like to learn more about the event or watch on your own, click here or here. Please feel free to post comments below about what you thought after watching the event.

So juicy.

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about juicing before, so today’s your lucky day, reader!

A few years ago, the bf bought me this monster chomper and, while I don’t use it as often as I’d like (hello, sinkful of dirty dishes and compost bucketful of discards), when I do, it makes me feel like I’ve done something good for myself.

Everyone I know right now is sick with the flu or some other gross, disgusting, mucus-y illness.  I refuse to fall prey to these germs as well and I believe juicing helps me through these seasons because there’s no way I could eat a bushel of oranges (or however oranges are sold) in one sitting in order to get all of the vitamins and nutrients needed to fight a cold, but I can definitely drink the juice of a bushel*.

The other day I juiced up a bunch of kale, an apple, and a lemon**.  Today, my juice is pictured here: quite simply, a couple of carrots, a couple of oranges, and a pink grapefruit.  Could you imagine eating all of that stuff in the “before” photo…together…in a row?  Enter, the lovely, whirled-up concoction on the right.

Fun facts:

  • Kale – provides comprehensive support for the body’s detoxification system; high in Vitamins K, A, and C
  • Apples – help regulate blood sugar (I use this to cut the bitterness in my green juices)
  • Lemon – good source of Vitamin C, which is vital to the function of a strong immune system
  • Carrots – protect cells from damage; high in Vitamin A (beta-carotene)
  • Oranges – super high in Vitamin C
  • Pink grapefruit – high in Vitamin C

*Disclaimer: I have no idea what a bushel of oranges looks like, so this might be a lot of big talk, but you get my point.
**Normally, I would also add ginger and parsley to this mix, but I was out of both that day.