Calcium is an important part of a balanced diet. That’s because calcium is not only important for strengthening bones (which is especially important because it helps prevent musculoskeletal injuries during exercise), it also regulates your blood pressure, help secrete hormones and digestive enzymes, assists directly with weight loss, regulates heart muscle function, helps boost your metabolism. One animal study even showed an increase in core temperature related to calcium consumption. Remember, when body heat rises, so does metabolic rate. Not a diary fan? Don’t worry; many foods are rich in calcium.
Choose Foods Rich in Calcium
The easiest way to stock up on your calcium needs is by eating dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. But there are many other foods that are also rich in calcium. They include dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, and collards; fish with edible bones; calcium-fortified soy milk; tofu made with calcium; shelled almonds; turnips; mustard greens; sesame seeds; blackstrap molasses; calcium-fortified cereals; and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Dairy products help boost metabolism and build strong bones because of their high calcium levels. Some studies have even suggested that the calcium in dairy products may facilitate weight loss.
One such study featured three groups of obese subjects, each of whom was on a diet that would promote a weight loss of a pound a week for 24 weeks. Each group received a different amount of calcium: The lowest received 430 mg/day through their diet; the middle group receive 770 mg/day through the same diet, plus supplements; and the third group received 1,100 mg/day wholly through diet. At the end of the study, the group receiving the lowest calcium had lost nearly 15 pounds, the middle group had lost 19 pounds, and the group that ate the most calcium-rich foods had lost 24 pounds, 66 percent of which was fat from their abdominal area (as opposed to the low-calcium group which lost 19 percent of fat from their abdominal area). As you can see, it pays to include dairy in your diet.
A serving of milk, especially cow’s milk, helps build strong bones by supplying the body with nearly 30 percent of its daily calcium needs and 20 percent of its phosphorus needs, as well as plenty of vitamins A, D, and K, and two of the B vitamins that are needed for heart health and energy production. If you’re lactose intolerant or are opposed to drinking cow’s milk but still want the milk you drink to have a positive impact on your metabolism, make sure your rice, soy, or almond milk is fortified with these vitamins and minerals.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium that also provides about 9 grams of animal protein per 6-ounce serving plus vitamin B2, vitamin B12, potassium, and magnesium. One of the most beneficial aspects of yogurt comes from the use of active, good bacteria known as probiotics.
Probiotics adjust the natural balance of organisms, known as microflora, in the intestines to aid digestion. To make sure your favorite brand of yogurt contains active cultures, look for labeling that says “live and active cultures”, or for words such as Bifdus regularis, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, or bifdobacterium.
Eat Reduced-Fat Cheese
Cheese is a great source for protein, vitamins, and minerals, but it is also high in calories and saturated fat. So, while you shouldn’t cut it out altogether, it would be wise to make a habit of choosing reduced-fat cheese, which has about 30 to 40 percent fewer calories and less fat. Try the following suggestions so you don’t overdo how fat you’re eating:
Use half of what you would normally use in recipes.
To boost flavor but reduce calories, use higher-flavor cheese sparingly: Parmesan, Romano, blue cheese, Gorgonzola, goat, feta, or extra-sharp Cheddar.
Eat cheese with lower fat alongside higher-fiber foods, such as apples, pears, whole-grain bread or crackers, or beans so you feel full faster.