increase calcium intake

Calcium for the Young Athlete

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Calcium and Vitamin D are big topics for me as I continue working with young athletes.  I see many stress fractures commonly caused by a combination of overuse, under-resting, and suboptimal nutrition intake, specifically of calcium and vitamin D.  I have also had a number of friends ask me specific information regarding calcium and vitamin D and so, while not going into specific recommendations, I am dedicating a full post to these two nutrients. This and other posts will talk about general information. If you have real concerns that you or your athlete are not getting enough calcium, you should formally talk with your doctor or sports dietitian. Stay tuned for posts focused specifically on recipes and sample meal plans to come!


WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL WITH CALCIUM & VITAMIN D?

Calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients with an important role in bone health.  While calcium plays an essential role in bone development, vitamin D is a nutrient that aids in the absorption and regulation of the calcium.  Therefore, these two nutrients work together to protect against the loss of bone mass and maintain strong bones, which is especially important during the teen years when bones tend to grow at a more rapid rate. Calcium is also used for things like muscle contractions and heart function. The body uses the calcium in the blood for these functions. If not getting enough calcium to keep blood levels normal, the body will pull that needed calcium from the bones. Thus the reason we need to be getting calcium in what we eat and drink!


HOW MUCH CALCIUM DO YOUNG Kids & Teens NEED?

  • 4 - 8 years old: 1,000 mg / day

  • 9 - 13 years old: 1300 mg / day

  • 14 - 18 years old: 1300 mg / day


HOW MUCH VITAMIN D DO KIDS NEED?

  • 1 - 18 years old: 600 IU / day

WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF CALCIUM?

Calcium doesn’t have to come from just dairy. There are non-dairy sources too. Just remember that if you choose to get it from non-dairy sources, you are going to need bigger portions of those calcium-containing foods!

  • Leafy greens (kale, bok choy and collards)

  • Chia & sesame seeds

  • Figs

  • White beans

  • Almonds

  • Broccoli (small amounts)

  • Milk (any %. They all have the same amount of calcium per serving)

  • Yogurt

  • Cheese

  • Cottage cheese

  • Canned salmon

  • Calcium - fortified tofu

WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN D?

  • UV exposed mushrooms

  • Fortified milk substitutes & yogurts

  • Egg (yolks)

  • Salmon & tuna

  • Ready-to-eat cereals


SIMPLE WAYS TO BUMP UP YOUR CALCIUM INTAKE:

  • Make oatmeal with milk or calcium-fortified milk substitutes

  • Fruit smoothie made with milk or yogurt

  • Add cheese to eggs and sandwiches

  • Drink a glass of milk or chocolate milk with meals or as your after practice snack (love these Horizon milk boxes that can be thrown in a lunchbox or sports bag!)

  • Pack string cheese as snacks

  • Add dry milk powder to oatmeal, soups, stews and baked goods

  • Include a yogurt & fruit parfait for breakfast or as an after-dinner snack

  • Top a baked potato with steamed broccoli, 1/4 cup shredded cheese and plain yogurt

  • Add 1/2 cup of cooked calcium-rich greens to meals

  • Snack on 1/2 cup cooked soybeans or 5 dried figs or toss over salads

  • Make a breakfast shake with calcium-fortified beverage, fruit & greens

  • Add chia seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies and salads

  • Include a glass of calcium - fortified orange juice with breakfast or a snack

NUTRIENTS TO NOTE

Foods containing oxalates can inhibit calcium absorption.

Higher oxalate - containing foods = beans, nuts, soy beans, and some dark leafy greens like spinach.

Lower oxalate - containing foods = kale and Bok choy

This doesn’t mean you need to cut the higher oxalate - containing foods out of the diet, but try to incorporate some of the lower oxalate and non-oxalate - containing foods more often.