Calcium, one of milk's most important nutrients, is essential to good health. Even though it is the most abundant mineral in your body, calcium is one of the most frequently lacking nutrients in the American diet. Did you know that if you don't get enough calcium, your body begins to take it from your bones? If your body continually calls upon the bones for calcium, they become brittle and weak. This is what leads to the crippling disease called osteoporosis. That's why calcium plays such an important role in building and maintaining strong bones. But that's not all — it helps your heart beat, helps muscles relax, helps blood clot and helps your nerves send messages throughout your body.
Everyone needs calcium, whatever the age. Calcium is important during childhood and adolescence when bodies are growing. During the middle age years, you need calcium to keep bones strong. After that, calcium is even more essential as bones lose more of their density.
Because it is so important, doctors say we need lots of calcium in our diet. By drinking just three eight-ounce glasses a day, you can get the calcium you need. Here's a simple chart that shows daily calcium recommendations: