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Calcium – Its Importance for Seniors

Calcium is one of the two most important nutrients for strong bones and teeth (vitamin D is the other). Calcium also ensures that muscles, cells and nerves work properly. Unfortunately, calcium levels become depleted as we age for the following reasons:

  • As we eat less we take in less dietary calcium. Seniors may have poor appetite in general or illnesses which decrease appetite.
  • The efficiency with which the kidneys can retain calcium decreases and that leads to increased calcium loss in the urine.

That is why calcium intake recommendations are higher for seniors. Women aged 51 and older should have 1,200 mg of calcium each day. Men aged 50 to 70 years of age should have 1,000 mg a day and men aged 71 and older should have 1,200 mg a day. Three 8-ounce glasses of milk contain approximately 1,000 milligrams of calcium but not everyone can drink that much. What are other ways to get enough calcium? The National Institutes for Health recommends that calcium intake be increased through food whenever possible, rather than by taking supplements. That’s because nutrient-dense foods that contain calcium may also contain other great vitamins and minerals like vitamin B, vitamin D and iron.

Many foods contain high levels of calcium and they may not be the first ones that come to mind. For example, in addition to milk and dairy products, you can get calcium from some forms of tofu, dark-green leafy vegetables, (like the ones mentioned below), soybeans, canned sardines, salmon with bones, and calcium-fortified foods. Here are the foods which have the highest levels of calcium:

Collard greens: 1 cup of these cooked greens contains 268 milligrams of calcium. It also contains three day’s worth of vitamin A that is good for eye health. These greens are a southern favorite but they are available across the country and are easy to cook. Collard greens are traditionally cooked with butter and fattening meats like bacon; they also taste great sautéed with healthy olive oil and garlic.

Figs: You may be surprised to learn that ½ cup of dried figs contains 121 milligrams of calcium. They are sticky and very sweet, filled with fiber and potassium. Figs are also packed with magnesium, a nutrient that the body uses in numerous important functions like strengthening bones and maintaining a steady heart rhythm.

Kale: One cup of chopped raw Kale contains 101 milligrams of calcium. It’s a superfood and in addition to calcium, each serving has only 30 calories, a day’s worth of vitamin C, and a large dose of vitamin K which helps the blood to clot. Kale is delicious in salads and can be combined with other greens and vegetables.

Broccoli: Two cups of raw broccoli contain 86 milligrams of calcium. It also contains nearly twice the vitamin C of an orange. Research shows that diets high in vegetables like broccoli may be lower the risk of certain types of cancer, including colon and bladder cancer.

Bok Choy: This Chinese cabbage contains 74 milligrams of vitamin C in each cup. It has only 9 calories and is a great source of vitamins A and C and potassium. It is great in stir-fry’s, soups and chopped in salads.

Oranges: One large orange contains 74 milligrams of calcium. One cup of orange juice contains 27 milligrams. They are also packed with vitamin C, low in calories and filled with antioxidants that fight misbehaving molecules in the bloodstream.

All of this nutrition is essential for the well-being of your loved one, but you may not have the time to cook daily meals for them. Home Care Assistance caregivers are trained in nutrition and culinary arts at Home Care University. To learn more about how we can support you and your aging loved one, watch the videos here and listen to the experience of our clients and caregivers.