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Calcium is Essential in Your Diet

Did you know that the human body contains more calcium than any other mineral?

Nashville, Ark. – Did you know that the human body contains more calcium than any other mineral? In fact, for a 130 pound adult, almost 3 pounds of the body is calcium. Of course, your body composition depends upon the size of your body frame, the density of your bones, and, if you are older, how much bone loss you have already experienced.

            Calcium is the main mineral found in bones and teeth. In fact, about 99 percent of your body’s calcium is in your bones. The remaining one percent is found in your cells and other body fluids.

            Calcium has other roles beside that of helping build strong bones and teeth. Although used in small amounts, it helps your muscles contract, your heart beat, your blood clot, and your nervous system send messages. All of these functions are vital to your health.

            It is super important for young people to drink milk! Not only are they growing fast, this is the time that we can “store up” calcium in our bones. During childhood and the teen years, bones grow long and wide, therefore helping a child to grow taller. At around age 20, that phase of bone building is complete. You can continue to add calcium to your bones until somewhere around the age of 30-35. At this point, we can no longer “store up” calcium in the bones. From that age on, we must just replace what we use each day.

            Think of the calcium in your bones as a bank with you making a deposit each time you consume a food containing calcium. Because bones are living tissue, calcium gets deposited and withdrawn daily.

            If the calcium is needed for functions such as helping your muscles contract, a small amount is withdrawn. To keep your bones strong and your account full, you need to make regular deposits by eating calcium rich foods. Think of it as your little “emergency account” for when your nutrition choices may come up short.

            Statistics show that many women and adolescents need to eat plenty of good sources of calcium for healthy bones throughout life. That means consuming at least three servings daily from the dairy group.

            Eating foods rich in calcium will help ensure adequate intake. The best source of calcium comes from dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. When selecting foods from the dairy group, choose ones that are low in fat, or fat-free, to avoid getting too much saturated fat.

            It’s important to remember that foods other than the dairy group can provide calcium. This includes fish eaten with bones, such as salmon and sardines.

            Some vegetables also provide calcium including leafy green vegetables, legumes and grain products. Even some processed foods have added calcium, such as orange juice and some bread products.

            While these foods add calcium to the body, some foods take calcium out of the body. Soft drinks and caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption. Therefore, it is essential to limit the amount of these drinks.

            Calcium is a vital mineral in our diet. Make sure you are getting the amount you need. For more information on the importance of calcium in the diet, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

            This delicious recipe was prepared by Kash King, a member of Show Stoppers 4-H Club, for the recent 4-H Dairy Foods Contest.

Chicken Enchilada Dip

1 (12.5 oz.) can chicken, drained and shredded

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 c. sour cream

1 c. Mexican blend cheese

1 (4 oz.) can green chilies

            Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Lightly spray a medium baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer mixture into the baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Serve warm with chips or crackers.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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