Calcium is integral to bone and muscle health. A calcium deficiency can lead to a lot of different health problems, including osteoporosis. Despite knowing all this, many people still do not get enough calcium on a daily basis.
What You Need To Know
- Calcium and Vitamin D combined are both essential nutrients for good health.
- Calcium is optimized with the addition of other vitamins like K2 and minerals such as magnesium.
- There are some delicious ways to get these vital nutrients into your diet, including dark leafy greens, canned fish, and dairy.
When you hear “bone health,” calcium is probably one of the first things you think of. Humans need calcium to build and maintain strong bones, and 99% of the body’s calcium is in the bones and teeth. It is also necessary for maintaining healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body. It plays a role in muscle movement and cardiovascular function.
Almost every cell in our body uses calcium in some way. Our nervous system, muscles, heart and bones all utilize calcium. Our bones store calcium in addition to providing support for our bodies. As we age, we absorb less and less calcium from our diet, causing our bodies to take more and more calcium from our bones. Over time this aging process can cause or contribute to osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.
How Much Calcium Is Needed?
Current guidelines for calcium intake for bone health recommend between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams (mg) per day, depending on your age and gender. You can get your daily calcium intake from a supplement, from your food, or both. Calcium from dietary sources benefits health. A calcium-rich diet has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension.
Below are the current recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, by age:
- Women 50 and younger: 1,000 mg per day
- Women over 50: 1,200 mg per day
- Men 70 and younger: 1,000 mg per day
- Men over 70: 1,200 mg per day
Some of the Top Calcium-Rich Foods:
- Fortified orange juice
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens
- Fortified soymilk
- Enriched breads, grains, and waffles
- Fortified cereals
15 Simple Ways to Increase Calcium Consumption
There are many easy ways to boost your calcium intake by sneaking these foods into your daily diet:
- Drink skim milk instead of soda at lunch
- Use milk instead of water in soups, breads, sauces or salad dressings
- Add milk to tea or coffee in the morning
- Buy juices and cereals fortified with calcium
- Add beans to soups, chili and pasta dishes
- Grate low-fat cheese over soups and salads
- Enjoy a smoothie made with yogurt
- Try plain yogurt as a vegetable dip
- Stir some nuts into a yogurt cup as a snack
- Include leafy vegetables in baked casseroles such as lasagna
- Eat hot oatmeal made with milk for breakfast
- Snack on crunchy broccoli instead of potato chips
- Substitute plain low-fat yogurt for recipes that call for sour cream
- Treat yourself to pudding made with skim milk for dessert
- Take a daily supplement, available in capsules or chewable tablets
Ask Your Doctor
When you are trying to decide how much calcium you need, remember to consult your physician. Your doctor is a good starting point for preventing osteoporosis. Calcium supplements, as well as other types of supplements, can interfere with certain medicines. A good example of this is iron. When you take iron and calcium supplements at the same time, they interfere with each other, and your body cannot absorb them properly.
If you are having trouble with how to find a calcium supplement or have any other questions, our doctors are always willing to help you reach your optimal health. Osteoporosis is a very serious disease.
To learn more about bone health or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call us at 800-698-1280.