10 sneaky ways to boost calciumGetting enough calcium is crucial for preventing osteoporosis. Learn how to boost calcium in your diet, even if you can't have or don't like dairy.
Keeping your bones strong is key to preventing osteoporosis, the bone loss that leads to poor posture, back pain, hip fracture, and many of the other problems that can sideline us as we age. The reason calcium is so important? Calcium crystals within our bones are what make them hard.
But the calcium content of our bones is in constant flux. Like all living tissue, our bones are constantly being torn down and rebuilt as calcium is released, reabsorbed, and used to make new bone. Yes, it was important to build strong bones when you were young. But it's important to get plenty of calcium as you age, too, because when the level of calcium in your blood drops, more calcium is released from your bones into the blood. Here, some sneaky tricks for working calcium into your diet and routine.
1. Don't skimp on dairy.
As we get older, many of us forego milk. That's a big mistake, experts say. Unless you're lactose intolerant or vegan, including dairy in your diet is still the best way to maintain your calcium intake. The good news: The fat phobia many people associate with dairy is misplaced. Nonfat and 2 percent milk actually contain more calcium than full-fat milk. And milk haters, don't despair--yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream are all good calcium sources, too.
2. Cheat with treats.
Want a big surprise? Check the calcium content of that tasty frozen yogurt at your local shop; typically even commercially processed frozen yogurt contains 200 to 300 milligrams per cup--less than regular yogurt (300 to 400 milligrams) but still impressive. An even more unexpected way to cheat: Make a cake, pudding, fudge, or other dessert using evaporated milk; one cup contains a whopping 660 milligrams of calcium.
3. Rev up the calcium content of main dishes.
Don't limit your thinking to deli standards like jack, cheddar, and Swiss. Mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan--all of which are easy add to casseroles, pasta, and other main dishes--are excellent sources of calcium. Start your day by slipping some into an omelette or scramble; end it right by sprinkling some on a frozen pizza just before taking it out of the oven.
4. Focus on fortification.
Calcium is such a key nutrient--and studies show that so many of us are deficient in it--that many foods are now fortified to help boost calcium intake. Orange juice, breakfast cereals, soy milk, and any food labeled "calcium fortified" provide great ways to sneak calcium into your diet unnoticed.
5. Soak up the soy.
Here's a secret: Calcium-fortified soy milk actually has more calcium in it than milk--up to 400 milligrams a cup. And recent studies show that the calcium in soy milk is as easily absorbed as that in regular milk. Sneak in more calcium by snacking on fresh or dried soybeans, too. Tofu is also calcium-rich; one half-cup serving contains 250 milligrams, which is 25 percent of your daily needs. For still more calcium, choose tofu that's preserved with calcium sulfate, making it an even better bone-builder.
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