Guest Columnist

Drinking milk has become more fashionable lately with the "Got Milk" advertising campaign that shows famous people with a milk mustache. But how do you know if you are getting enough milk?

IDEA Health and Fitness Source recently published an article explaining how to be sure you are getting the calcium you need.

The article mentioned a study performed by Tums (an antacid that contains calcium) which found that after taking calcium supplements for three months, 50% of the women had reduced premenstrual symptoms such as cramping, headaches, mood swings, tension, food cravings and water retention.

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), calcium is important for our bodies because it helps prevent osteoporosis, which affects more than 25 million women over the age of 45 in the United States and Canada alone.

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to increase your bone density before the age of 30 by exercising and eating a well-balanced calcium-rich diet. After the age of 30, bone density has reached its peak; however, diet and exercise still prevent the deterioration of the bones.

Most women do not get the calcium they need. According to the ADA, high intakes of caffeine, alcohol, sodium, and protein increase the amount of calcium lost in urine. Also, calcium absorption decreases with age and severe bone loss can occur after menopause.

The IDEA Health & Fitness Source article provides some tips from nutritionist and IDEA contributing editor Debra A. Wein, MS, RD. The tips are as follows:

1. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE CALCIUM'S IMPORTANCE. About 99 percent of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones and teeth. The remaining one percent is in your blood and soft tissues.

This one percent helps facilitate muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulses. If you do not consume enough calcium, then you don't have enough for this one percent of circulating calcium. If you don't have the one percent, your body takes stored calcium from your bones and teeth, and that is how your bones begin to deteriorate in osteoporosis.

2. KNOW HOW MUCH CALCIUM YOUR BODY NEEDS. Adults should consume 1000 to1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. Postmenopausal women should consume as much as 1500 mg per day. Teenagers should consume at least 1300mg per day.

3. IF YOU CAN, EAT PLENTY OF LOW- AND NONFAT DAIRY PRODUCTS. The best source of calcium is found in dairy products. Three servings per day will provide about 900 mg of calcium. A serving might be a glass of milk, a serving of yogurt, or two ounces of cheese.

4. CONSIDER NONDAIRY SOURCES OF CALCIUM AS WELL. You can get your calcium from green, leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, or broccoli; some cereals; tofu; and calcium-fortified orange juice.

5. IF YOU DON'T GET ENOUGH CALCIUM FROM FOOD, TAKE A SUPPLEMENT. It is important that you try to get your calcium from food because the body more readily absorbs it, but taking a supplement is better than nothing at all. To increase absorption, take you supplements with meals, spaced throughout the day, in doses of 600 mg or less.

6. GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D. Vitamin D is essential to calcium absorption. Sources include vitamin D-fortified milk or soymilk, supplements and sunshine.

7. AVOID DRINKING TOO MUCH SODA. If you drink three or four 12-ounce cans of soda a day, you may be consuming enough phosphorus to prevent your body from using calcium correctly.

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