What you don’t know about calcium can hurt you

Help reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, maintain weight and protect your bones for as little as 20 cents per serving. Too good to be true? Pour a glass of milk and read on!

Let’s talk calcium, shall we? When I say calcium most people think “bones”. True, calcium status affects bone density. Given that in 2010 about 52 million people over the age of 50 had osteoporosis or low bone mass, and 40% of U.S. white women and 13% of U.S. white men aged 50 years and above will experience at least one fracture related to osteoporosis in their lifetime, calcium status is significant. Osteoporosis can be debilitating – a real quality of life changer.

But what if you are young and strong and see degenerative bone disease as too far in the future to be of importance to you? What about hypertension or cholesterol? One in 3 Americans has high blood pressure; one in 6 Americans has high cholesterol. Maybe you or someone you love is affected by cardiovascular disease? Did you know that adequate calcium reduces absorption of lipids (fat) in the blood stream, lowering cholesterol and possibly also lowering blood pressure in hypertensive adults? Combine this with the fact that adequate calcium intake appears to help weight maintenance by discouraging fat accumulation in the body via hormone production, and you have a great case for making calcium a part of a healthy heart plan.

Still not convinced? Concerned about diabetes or blood sugar regulation? There is mounting evidence that calcium, when combined with adequate Vitamin D, may optimize glucose metabolism and perhaps reduce onset of diabetes. It is estimated that 1.9 million new cases of diabetes in people over age 20 were diagnosed in the United States in 2010. That is 1 person in 11. Someone you know probably has diabetes or prediabetes. Adequate calcium might play a role in their blood sugar regulation. There is even some evidence that suggests that higher intakes of calcium may prevent colorectal cancer. No wonder milk is the first food for mammals!

Calcium is so much more than bone density. It is a crucial mineral that plays many roles in our body. It is so vital in fact, that blood calcium levels are maintained in the body with tight control – the body leaches calcium from bone (hence bone loss) when we do not take in enough dietary calcium to cover our needs. Unfortunately we may not realize that we have been deficient in our intake until there are signs of bone loss or a fracture from years of inadequate intake.

Want to focus on getting enough calcium as a step toward overall better health? Concentrate on getting at least three servings from the following list every day: low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt or cheese; calcium fortified orange juice; fortified soy beverages, fortified tofu, and canned salmon or sardines with bone. It can be as easy as fortified juice in the morning, a yogurt for a snack and a glass of milk or soy milk at dinner. Calcium from food is an inexpensive, readily available, and a delicious way to care for your whole body.

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