related links

Cheese is a super source of calcium. Our Healthy Guide to Cheese teaches you how to tell Munster from mozzarella and gives you some cheesy recipe ideas too.

Eat smart and lose weight with the FoodFit Plan.

Nutrition Smarts

Mighty Mineral

Calcium—you know you need it, but you're not sure you're getting enough. We've known for ages how important this mineral is for strong bones and teeth, but we're just beginning to tap into just how beneficial it really is. Calcium has been found to be important for preventing weight gain too! Time to bone up!

Navigating The Dairy Case

There are plenty of great ways to get enough calcium into your diet in a day; all it takes is knowing where to find it. With so many new choices on the market, today's dairy case can be overwhelming. Look for yogurt in an array of flavors, cottage cheese, regular cheese, and a slew of dairy and non-dairy milk. The best thing about all these choices is that most everything now comes in a low fat or fat free variety that still tastes great.

  • Start your day with low fat cottage cheese and some sliced fruit, or grab a yogurt and sprinkle some granola on top.
  • Try low fat or fat-free milk. You'll cut the calories and fat, but still get all the calcium benefits. Even chocolate milk comes in a low fat variety these days.
  • Look for products that include inulin, a naturally occurring, fiber-like carbohydrate that's found in fruits and vegetables. Inulin is now being used in yogurt and other dairy items because it's been found to increase the activity of live cultures and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. Inulin's biggest bonus is that it aids in the absorption of calcium.

How Much is Enough?

Take a look to see how much calcium you need each day:

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
4 to 8 years : 800 milligrams
9 to 13 years : 1300 milligrams
14 to 18 years : 1300 milligrams
19 to 50 years : 1000 milligrams
51 to 70+ years : 1200 milligrams


New evidence shows that yogurt can help build stronger bones. In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers examined the diets of 29 postmenopausal women who usually took in little calcium. Half of them consumed three servings of fruit-flavored yogurt and the other half consumed three servings of a gelatin snack for seven to 11 days. Researchers found that the women who ate the yogurt improved the overall quality of their diet. Their bones were also stronger, based on tests of bone breakdown. An additional benefit of eating yogurt was that the women felt fuller throughout the day.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy yogurt:

  • A serving of yogurt provides 30% of your Daily Value, or about 300 milligrams of calcium. Take time to check labels for number of calories. The sweetened varieties pack about 250 calories and about 29 grams of sugar. Keep in mind that although about 12 grams are naturally occurring sugars from the milk in yogurt, other sweeteners are added in the form of sugar.
  • Break out of your rut by trying yogurt in savory dishes. Use plain nonfat (or low fat) yogurt instead of mayonnaise or sour cream when making salad dressings or dipping sauces.
  • If you can't completely eliminate the mayo or sour cream, use just half and substitute yogurt for the other half. This works especially well for dishes like tuna, salmon or chicken salad, as well as potato salad. No one will know the difference!

Stronger Bones and Slimmer Waistlines

Evidence continues to mount that calcium, especially from dairy products, may help regulate body weight. In one study, women who consumed lower amounts of calcium gained an average of nearly a pound a year by mid life. But women who ate higher amounts of calcium—the amount found in three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt, averaged just a slight weight loss.

The misconception that skim or fat free dairy products are skimmed of vitamins and protein continues to flourish. The truth is, the only difference between whole milk products and fat free or low fat dairy products is the calorie and fat count. The fat goes, but the nutrients remain intact.

Many Americans are lactose intolerant or just don't like the taste of cow's milk. Soymilk is becoming mainstream and offers many of the same benefits as cow's milk. Just make sure to select a brand that is calcium-fortified.

Get a delicious dose of calcium with these FoodFit recipes:

Strawberry, Yogurt and Granola Parfaits with Blueberry Sauce.
Lemon-Dill Cucumber Dip
Fresh Fruit with Maple-Vanilla Yogurt Dip
Herbed Yogurt Dressing
Bill Wavrin, Rancho la Peurta Spa, Baja, Mexico
Banana Fruit Smoothie


Sign up for FoodFit's FREE newsletters

Get healthy recipes, nutrition information and fitness tips!

privacy policy Submit


FoodFit is a part of HealthCentral
© 1999- The HealthCentral Network, Inc., Copyright All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy and Terms of Use