Boosting Your Calcium Consumption

An excellent way to boost your calcium intake is with yogurt. That's because yogurt offers not only more calcium cup for cup than milk (400 versus 300 mg) but also contains probiotics—health-protective bacteria that boost your immune system and enhance digestion. When buying yogurt, look for "live and active cultures" on the label. Yogurt is especially healthful if you have had antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics kill both the good bacteria that live in your gut and the bad bacteria that cause health problems; yogurt helps replenish the good ones. The bacteria also digest most of the lactose (milk sugar) in yogurt, so many people who are lactose intolerant can enjoy yogurt as a milk alternative.

Because flavored yogurts can have a high sugar content—above and beyond the 12 grams of naturally occurring milk sugar in 8 ounces (240 ml) of milk—your best bet is to choose plain yogurt and add a teaspoon of honey or jam, or add plain yogurt to flavored yogurt. You'll come out way ahead in terms of sugar content. Remember, frozen yogurt has no active cultures but a high sugar content and marginal nutritional value. Don't fool yourself!

For athletes, yogurt is an easy-to-digest carbohydrate-protein combination that is a smart choice before and after exercise. A study of fatigued athletes suggests that those who regularly consumed yogurt had better immune function (Clancy et al. 2006). How about a postexercise fruit and yogurt smoothie?

Little did she know that her diet was contributing to the amenorrhea and that she was putting herself at risk of developing stress fractures, an early sign of poor bone health. She thought that exercise would keep her bones strong because she'd heard that exercise helps maintain bone density. Exercise does help, but calcium, estrogen, and adequate calories are simultaneously essential.

Her doctor advised her to regain her menstrual period to protect her bone health. Because lack of menstruation is associated with inadequate nutrition, I recommended that she boost her calorie intake by consuming more protein- and calcium-rich low-fat milk and yogurt. After two months of dietary improvements, she regained her menstrual period—a good step toward lifelong health. See chapter 16 for more information about amenorrhea and appendix A for more about osteoporosis.

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