I am concerned that my 12-year-old daughter isn’t getting enough calcium. How much does she need, and how do I figure out how much she is getting in her diet?
You are smart to be concerned that your daughter may not be getting enough calcium to do her bones good. While we mistakenly think of osteoporosis as Granny’s problem, prevention actually begins in the grandchild years.
According to the NIH consensus report on osteoporosis building strong bones early in life is perhaps the most important determinant of lifelong bone health. While you have until about age 30 to build bone, it’s estimated that between 40 and 60 percent of your bone mass is accumulated during adolescence — and let’s face it: Those with the highest peak bone mass have the greatest advantage for protection against the inevitable bone loss that naturally occurs with age.
While a balanced, healthy diet is important in the development of healthy bones, adequate calcium is tops on the list as the most important nutrient when it comes to striving for peak bone mass. Vitamin D is also an important player, helping the body absorb calcium.
And now for the bad news: While those youngsters, ages 9 to 17 years, need 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily, it’s estimated that only about 25 percent of boys and only a dismal 10 percent of girls in this age group are actually meeting their needs. So much for achieving peak bone mass.
The easiest way to get this amount of dietary calcium is to consume about four servings from the dairy group daily. Calcium-fortified foods, such as juices, are another way to add some calcium strength to the diet. Fruits and veggies will provide a smattering.
To help you do some calcium calculating for your daughter, each of these has 300 milligrams of calcium:
- Milk, 1 cup
- Yogurt, 1 cup
- 1 1/2 ounce natural cheese
- 2 ounces processed cheese