If your diet is constantly low in calcium-rich foods over a long period of time, and calcium continues to be depleted, the bone structure will weaken. This may increase the chances for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a painful condition in which bones weaken and become brittle, porous, and are prone to fractures. Women are especially at risk. They have less bone mass to start with than men. They also lose bone mass even faster as they grow older. 

Calcium also plays a vital role in other body functions. It is needed for the blood to clot properly, for nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. Current research is also pointing to the fact that it may also be helpful in keeping blood pressure down. Dietary surveys suggest that many people with high blood pressure eat significantly less calcium, than those with normal blood pressure.

Thank goodness, nature makes it easy to get the calcium we need. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, milkshakes, puddings, and ice cream are the best sources. Other good sources of calcium in nondairy foods include canned sardines or salmon with bones, almonds, broccoli, mustard greens, tofu, fortified citrus juices, corn tortillas, and calcium enriched antacid tablets.

Here are some general guidelines for making sure you get enough calcium:

  1. Choose milk and other dairy products as a regular part of meals.
  2. Use dairy products liberally. Add cheese to sandwiches, salads, or soups.
  3. Serve calcium-rich desserts such as pudding, ice cream, or ice milk.
  4. Use dairy products in recipes and as a cooking ingredient.
  5. Include nondairy sources of calcium in the diet.

The suggested daily servings from the milk, cheese, and yogurt group are:

Age and Servings

  • Children: 2-3
  • Teenagers: 3
  • Adults: 2
  • Pregnant or nursing mothers: 3
  • Pregnant or nursing teenagers: 4

Milk is a calcium-rich food that provides about 280 milligrams of calcium per 1 cup serving. To get the same amount of calcium from other dairy products you could eat 1 to 1 ½ ounces of cheese or 1 cup of yogurt. Those individuals trying to reduce calories or fat in the diet can choose dairy products made with low-fat or skim milk.