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Calcium gives bones and teeth the strength they need. Without calcium we would be totally unable to walk upright. The most important nutritional sources for this mineral are milk and dairy products. For people who aren’t fans of dairy products, there are alternatives. Besides calcium, strong bones also need plenty of exercise.
Your body’s calcium account
Until we reach the age of twenty, we contribute between 100 and 150 mg of calcium every day to our “bones??? account. Our credit balance reaches its maximum between age 25 and 30. After that point, our calcium account begins to fall steadily – and this is especially true for women during their menopausal years. One reason this happens is that during menopause, the level of oestrogen in the body falls. These female hormones promote calcium absorption in bones and suppress bone breakdown. When they are lacking, the result can be osteoporosis (bone loss): the bones become porous, brittle and break easily. Men can also develop bone loss, as they grow older. However, the fall in hormones does not begin as abruptly in men as it does in women after menopause.
Good sources of calcium
Your body can help to reverse the natural breakdown of bones through exercise and a calcium-rich diet. The German Nutrition Association (DGE) recommends that adults consume 1g of calcium every day. The best sources for calcium are milk, dairy products and cheese. As an example, if you have a glass of milk every day, two slices of cheese and a small container of yogurt, you have already met your calcium requirement. Plant-based foods, such as broccoli, kale, chard, hazelnuts and seeds also contain significant amounts of calcium. In addition, calcium-rich mineral water can make a contribution. The following table gives you an overview.
Milk, milk products and cheese
Amount of calcium contained
|1 glass of milk (1.5 % fat), 200 ml||approx. 246 mg|
|1 container of yogurt (1.5 % fat), 150 g||approx. 185 mg|
|1 slice of Swiss (Emmental) cheese (45 % fat dry weight) 30 g||approx. 309 mg|
|1 portion of kale, 200 g||approx. 424 mg|
|1 portion of fennel, 200 g||approx. 218 mg|
|1 portion of broccoli, 200 g||approx. 176 mg|
|1 portion of leeks, 200 g||approx. 126 mg|
Nuts and seeds
|2 tablespoons almonds, 20 g||approx. 50 mg|
|2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 20 g||approx. 157 mg|
|1 portion of NESTLÉ FITNESS & FRUIT (30 g) + 1/8 l skimmed milk||approx. 303 mg|
|1 litre Nestlé PURE LIFE||approx. 486 mg|
Sources: Die große GU Nährwert-Kalorien-Tabelle [The Large GU Nutritional Value-Calorie Chart] (Gräfe und Unzer, 2004/05), Nestlé nutritional value information
Exercise makes bones stronger
Just maintaining a good supply of calcium is not sufficient to assure healthy and strong bones. You bones also need to be moved. Were you aware that exercise doesn’t just train our muscles? Sports activities also improve our bone health. What is critical to accomplish this is that the muscles exert traction and pressure on the skeleton. Such loads stimulate our bones to increase their mass. The bones store larger amounts of calcium and this makes them sturdier and more stable. The natural breakdown of bone mass is significantly reduced. Even regular walks or swimming or water gymnastics twice a week for half an hour will promote bone formation. Targeted forms of strength and coordination training work even better, as do power-walking or light running training. An additional benefit: physical activity helps your coordination, sense of physical balance and provides a general feeling of wellness. Regular exercise will help you stay as mobile as possible throughout your life.