Q: What's the real deal on calcium? How much do I need? Are soy, coconut, or almond milk just as good sources of calcium as skim milk?
A: Calcium's main role in the body is in the building and maintaining strong bones. Calcium also plays an important role in many processes in your body, such as muscle contractions, blood clotting, and nerve signaling. Several years ago there was a lot of buzz surrounding calcium and weight loss, but in the end, eating more calcium did not turn out to be a key factor in accelerating fat loss.
How much to you need? 1000 mg per day. Women older than 50 need a little more (1200 mg per day).
When most Americans think of calcium, they think of milk and dairy products. Either due to a intolerance to lactose (a sugar in milk), an allergy to casein (a milk protein), or just a dietary choice not to consume dairy products, achieving the daily recommended calcium intake through milk and dairy products isn't possible for many people. There are other dietary sources of calcium, but how do they stack up? Here's a table to show you:
Vanilla Soy Milk
Vanilla Almond Milk
Vanilla Coconut Milk
Calcium-Fortified Orange Juice
As you can see soy milk, almond milk, and calcium-fortified orange juice all contain comparable levels of calcium. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that the calcium in soy milk is used by your body in the same way as the calcium in traditional milk. The same is most likely true for coconut, almond, and calcium-fortified orange juice. In addition to getting enough calcium in your diet, make sure to get enough vitamin D and strength train regularly to maximize your bone health.
Meet the Diet Doctor: Mike Roussell, PhD
Author, speaker, and nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical eating habits that his clients can use to ensure permanent weight loss and long lasting health. Dr. Roussell holds a bachelor degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. Mike is the founder of Naked Nutrition, LLC, a multimedia nutrition company that provides health and nutrition solutions directly to consumers and industry professionals via DVDs, books, ebooks, audio programs, monthly newsletters, live events, and white papers. To learn more, check out Dr. Roussell's popular diet and nutrition blog, MikeRoussell.com.