Healthy eating habits/Calcium, Vitamin D and Bone Health in Women over 50

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In women over the age of 50, the amount of Calcium their body needs daily increases. This is because changes in their body’s hormones means that they require more Calcium to keep their bones healthy and strong. Unfortunately many women do not meet these requirements, and risk losing bone mass. It is important to understand where and how they can increase their Calcium intake each day. Below is some information about what Calcium is and does, why it is important, where to find it and how Vitamin D helps Calcium to help women over 50 have strong and healthy bones.

Calcium[edit]

What is Calcium?[edit]

Calcium is a nutrient that is an important part of bones. It also has other roles in the body such as helping our muscles contract, helping our heart beat and helping our nerves send messages.

What are my requirements?[edit]

Women aged 51-70 years old need 1300mg of Calcium per day. [1] Serves of dairy: 4 per day

  • 1 serve of dairy equals 250ml of milk, 3/4 cup of yoghurt or 2 slices of cheese [2]

Calcium and Bone Health[edit]

Think of calcium in bones like money in a bank. Every day we deposit the calcium we eat into the bone bank and withdraw the calcium we need for our body to work properly. When we are teenagers and young adults our body is building up our bones, so if we are eating enough Calcium, our deposits into the bone bank are more than our withdrawals. When we are in early to middle adulthood our withdrawals and deposits should be equal, again, as long as you are eating enough calcium to make that deposit. However for women, once they get to the age 50, changes in their body’s hormones mean that their withdrawals get larger and larger. This is why it is important to make sure you eat enough calcium every day.

Food Sources of Calcium[edit]

Food Sources of Calcium

[3] [4] [5]

Dairy Foods[edit]

Good Sources:

  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Tasty Cheese
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese

Other Sources (with not quite as much Calcium as those foods listed above):

  • Feta Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese

Non Dairy Foods[edit]

Good Sources:

  • Soy/Rice/Almond Milk
  • Sardines with bones
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Dried Figs
  • Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Tofu

Other Sources (with not quite as much Calcium as those foods listed above):

  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Oranges
  • Sesame Seeds

Tips to include more Calcium into your day[edit]

[6]

  • Layer spinach into a lasagne
  • Tahini dip and broccoli florets for a snack
  • Add tofu to a stir fry
  • Make a snack mix of almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and dried apricots or figs
  • Add yoghurt to soups or as use a salad dressing

Calcium Supplements[edit]

Should I take a supplement?[edit]

If you cannot get enough Calcium from foods, then the current recommendations are to take a supplement. It is important to meet your Calcium requirements, but not exceed the maximum daily Calcium intake of 2500mg. Too much Calcium can increase the risk of heart attack in older women. [7] If you are concerned about whether you are getting enough Calcium, visit a dietitian.

Types of supplements[edit]

There are two main types of supplements; calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. The difference is the way the calcium is packaged in the tablet. When we get over the age of 50 our body more easily absorbs calcium citrate supplements. [8] Most calcium supplements will come in the form of 1000mg per tablet, however the calcium is better absorbed if you have 500mg (so ½ a tablet) twice per day with food. [4]

Vitamin D[edit]

What is Vitamin D?[edit]

Like Calcium, Vitamin D is a nutrient important for Bone Health. Vitamin D is important in helping calcium be absorbed from food, helping the Calcium get to the bones and keeping the amount of calcium in our blood constant. Vitamin D’s role in bone health lies mostly in its ability to help calcium travel from our food, to our bones. It also plays an important role in maintaining the bone’s strong structure. [9]

What are my requirements?[edit]

Women aged 51-70: 10 micrograms of Vitamin D per day [10]

Sources of Vitamin D[edit]

Sunlight

Food Sources[edit]

[11] [12]

Good Sources:

  • Fatty Fish
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna

Added to foods such as:

  • Margarine
  • Milk
  • Orange Juice
  • Cereal

Vitamin D and Sunlight[edit]

Humans are able to capture the sun’s UV light and when it hits the skin, turn it into Vitamin D. So how much sunshine do you need? It depends on the type of skin you have and the season of the year. For example in winter, Melbournians need around 2-3 hours of sunlight on their hands, arms and face, but in summer need only a few minutes per day. If you have darker skin you may need up to three times as long in the sun, as darker skin is not as good at making vitamin D as pale skin.[13]

Where can I get more information?[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Nutrient Reference Values. (2006). Calcium. Retrieved from http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/calcium
  2. Eat for Health (2014). Healthy eating for adults brochure. Retrieved from http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55g_adult_brochure.pdf
  3. Osteoporosis Australia. (2010). The Calcium content of selected foods. Retrieved from http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/sites/default/files/files/calcium-food-table-web.pdf
  4. a b Whitney, E., Rolfes, S. R., Crowe, T., Camerson-Smith, D., and Walsh, A. (2011). Understanding Nutrition; Australia and New Zealand edition. South Melbourne: Cengage Learning Invalid <ref> tag; name "(Whitney et al, 2011)." defined multiple times with different content
  5. Osteoporosis Australia. (2014). Calcium. Retrieved from http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/calcium
  6. Healthy Bones Australia. (2012). Calcium Tips. Retrieved from http://www.healthybonesaustralia.org.au/how/calcium/calcium-tips/
  7. Kouris-Blazos, A. Food Sources of Nutrients; Macronutrients, Micronutrients, Phytonutrients and Chemicals. Elsevier; Sydney
  8. US Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Calcium fact sheet for consumers. Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/
  9. Brown, J. E., Isaacs, J. S., Krinke, U. B., Lechtenberg, E., Murtaugh, M. A., Splett, P. L., Stang, J. and Wooldridge, N. H. (2014). Nutrition Through The Lifecycle, 5th Edition. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning
  10. Nutrient Reference Values. (2006). Vitamin D. Retrieved from http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/vitamin-d
  11. National Osteoporosis Foundation. (2014). What is Vitamin D. Retrieved from http://nof.org/articles/10#WhatisVitaminD
  12. US Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Vitamin D fact sheet for health professionals. Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/
  13. Cancer Council Australia. (2014). How much sun is enough? Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/vitamin-d/how-much-sun-is-enough.html