Monthly Archives: August 2016

Bone Up To Avoid Bone Loss

Are your bones rattling for more milk?  If your calcium intake isn’t sufficient, your bones become your body’s backup source of calcium.  Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is needed for nerve conduction, blood vessel contraction and dilation, muscle movement and even cellular communication.  If calcium intake is not sufficient to perform all these activities then the body pulls the calcium from the bones.  Later in life this leads to osteoporosis, a debilitating condition causing vertebrae to crumble, increased likelihood of fractures with falls, and stooped posture.

Bone Formation

Bones are constantly in a state of renewal.  In adolescence, more bone is created than removed, with peak bone mass attained by the early twenties.   Around 30, that ratio reverses to more bone breakdown than creation.  The more bone mass attained in those crucial first two decades, the better the bones can weather the aging process.  Unfortunately,  43% of the US population, even with the use of supplements, fails to get adequate calcium intake – particularly girls ages 4 to 18, and males aged 9-18 and over 51.

Bones Require Adequate Calcium Intake

Getting adequate calcium intake, either through diet or supplements, is essential for bone strength.  And making sure your children and young adults are getting the minimum requirements is really an investment in the future.  The chart below, along with much of the information here is from the NIH, lists recommendations based on age and sex.  Our bodies only absorb about 30% of the total calcium that is consumed.   There are many factors that affect absorption including:

Calcium Recommendations

  1.  The amount consumed at one time.  The more calcium consumed, the less is absorbed.
  2.   Rate of absorption decreases with age, going from 60% as infants to less than 15% in older adulthood.
  3.   Adequate vitamin D intake enhances calcium absorption.  Vitamin D is obtained from sunlight and dietary intake.
  4. Alcohol intake can reduce calcium absorption and also interfere with the production of Vitamin D into its active form.
  5.  Interaction of dietary calcium with other food components, particularly oxalic and phytic acid.  High levels of oxalic acid are found in spinach, collard greens, beans, sweet potatoes and even rhubarb.  High levels of phytic acid are found in whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts and soy isolates.  So consuming milk with any of these foods will decrease the absorption of calcium from the milk.

Factors Affecting Absorbed Calcium

Once calcium is absorbed, there are other factors that can leach calcium out of our bodies through urine, feces and sweat.

  1. High sodium intake increases calcium excretion.
  2. Consuming a diet high in protein and grains increases the production of metabolic acids which then increase calcium excretion.  Eating more fruits and vegetables shifts the body’s acid base balance to a more alkali environment that decreases calcium excretion.

Good Sources of Dietary Calcium

Certain foods are very high in calcium and are easy and affordable to consume.  The chart below lists the best sources of calcium:Foods High In Calcium

Labels do not list the actual amount of calcium in a product, only a percentage based on a 2000 calorie diet.  Making sure people under 30 consume at least 3 servings from the top foods on this list will give huge payback in years to come.  As a child I remember eating sardines crumbled up with saltine crackers.  Sardines are also really high in omega 3’s and an excellent source of protein, I just wish I liked them now.  My primary sources of dietary calcium are yogurt, low-fat milk and occasionally cheese.  I do take a calcium carbonate supplement that provides 333 mg per tablet.

Bone Up On Your Calcium Intake

Pay attention to how much calcium you are consuming.  Getting too much calcium can cause constipation and has also been associated in some studies with prostate cancer and heart disease.  Aim for three servings of the top three listed foods and you know you are getting enough.  Having worked as a nurse in long term care and seeing the frequency of spinal compression fractures and hip fractures, especially in women, motivates me to be mindful of my calcium intake.  Maintain your bone bank by making adequate daily calcium deposits!

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthier lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

Your Ticker Talking, “Too Much Salt!”

Sodium in SauceI asked my husband to pick up some tomato sauce the other day and what he came home with made my heart skip a beat.  I looked at the label and couldn’t believe what I saw – enough dietary sodium to get my heart pounding!  My mouth is drying up like a sponge in the sun just thinking about how much sodium I poured over my healthy stuffed cabbage.

Determining the Amount Of Dietary Sodium

To find out the amount of salt, in the form of sodium chloride, in a food product look at the serving size, the total number of servings and the amount of sodium per serving on the nutrition label.  In this 29 oz can of Hunt’s sauce there are 410 mg of sodium in each of the 13 servings.  That’s a grand total of 5330 mg in this high sodium sauce!  My ticker wasn’t just talking, it was screaming at me.  Each of my stuffed cabbages delivered nearly 1100 mg of sodium.  No wonder I was really thirsty a couple of hours later.

Dietary Sodium Hurts Your Heart

Sodium, like a sponge, makes your body hold on to water.  That extra fluid increases the volume of fluid your heart has to pump, increasing workload on the heart and raising blood pressure.  The extra workload and pressure can stiffen the arteries, leading to heart disease.  Two-thirds of all strokes and half of heart disease are caused by high blood pressure.

The average American consumes 3440 mg of sodium daily, well above the 2015 Nutrition Guidelines and the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of 2300 mg for people aged 14 and older.  Have high blood pressure already?  The recommended amount of sodium is even lower, at 1500 mg daily.  You can reduce sodium in your diet.

Where’s The Sodium In Your Food?

Sodium is found in canned goods and most processed foods like cold cuts, packaged meats, and prepared foods.  Most restaurant foods are saturated with sodium.  McDonald’s Quarter Pounder With Cheese contains 1100 mg of sodium.  Simply, sodium is added to nearly everything that requires shelf life and is saving you a step.

The best way to reduce sodium in your diet is to get only products that say sodium free, are flash frozen or are fresh.  Read labels to become aware of the sodium level in products – they vary widely.  There are some tomato sauces that have no added sodium.  When you cook, use spices other than salt to add flavor.  Let people add their own salt (keeping in mind that 1 tsp of salt contains 2325 mg of sodium) rather than letting salt embed itself during the cooking process. lists some other ways to reduce sodium in your diet.  And you might find that if you are already taking medicine for hypertension, getting your daily sodium intake to 1500 mg might provide an opportunity to get off some medications.

You Can Reduce Dietary Sodium

I consumed nearly half my daily allotment of sodium in that one serving of sauce.  And the worse thing…is that it tasted way too salty.  Normally I use a tomato sauce that has no added sodium – my dear husband was sent on a nonspecific mission.  I should have been more clear.

Taste buds do adjust to a low sodium diet.  I make most of my meals from scratch, rarely adding salt and have my own time-saving steps by cooking in bulk and freezing or “re-creating” previously cooked meals into something different.  I’ve tried to reduce sodium in my diet.  I’d like to keep my ticker running smoothly and not hear it talk at all.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word