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Calcium Calculator

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Calcium is important for everyone at every stage of life. But how much do we need and how can we get it? Dr. Mulvihill has the answers in her special report, "The Calcium Calculation."

Carol George could be considered a poster child for calcium. She takes a supplement every day and tries to make sure she eats foods rich in the mineral.

"I usually take it through yogurt, which has calcium in it. I drink soy milk with the smoothie and my fruit, so I mix that in the morning. And there are other meals that I have throughout the day... cheese has calcium in it," she says.

At her age Carol makes sure she gets 1500 milligrams of calcium a day. Her mother had osteoporosis, and getting enough calcium is one of the easiest and most effective ways of avoiding the bone crippling disease.

Doctor John Swartzberg, editor of the UC Berkeley Wellness Newsletter, says calcium is important for a wide range of reasons.

"We need calcium primarily for our bones, but we need calcium for our entire body, because all of the metabolic functions of our body are to an extent, either greater or lesser, dependent on calcium," he explains.

So when should we start counting on calcium? Well, children between the ages of 4 and 8 need around 800 milligrams of calcium a day. Children 9 to 13 need around 13-hundred milligrams. Eighteen to 50 year olds need around one thousand. Men over 50 need 12-hundred. And postmenopausal women and everyone over age 65 needs 15 hundred milligrams a day.

As with any nutrient, the best way to get calcium is from food rather than a pill. So what are the best sources? Well an 8 ounce serving of yogurt has three to 400 milligrams of calcium. A cup of milk 300 milligrams--that applies to regular milk as well as low and non fat milk. A cup of kale has 95 milligrams and a cup of broccoli 70.

And of course foods that are rich in calcium may also be rich in many other nutrients. But to get the most from food, you need to do your homework.

And what if you can't get enough calcium from your diet? Doctor Kim tackles that issue in part two of "Calcium Calculator" on Friday.

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