Calcium: Are You Getting Enough?
Protect your bone health by ensuring the right daily dose
Calcium is an important mineral that your body uses not only to build strong bones, but to keep your muscles and nerves working and your heart pumping, according to the Mayo Clinic. Are you getting enough?
Many people aren't getting enough
Many people, particularly children, adolescent girls and adults over age 50 are falling short, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recommends that adults between the ages of 19 and 50 get 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and that includes women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Children need less, between 200 and 700 mg between the ages of 0 and 3 years. Children ages 4 to 8 need about 1,000 mg, and adolescents also need a boost of about 1,300 mg per day.
As women and men age, they also need more calcium. Women should get 1,200 mg starting at age 51, and men should increase their intake to the same amount when they reach age 71.
A lack of adequate calcium in the diet may lead to weak bones and low bone mass, and children might not grow to their full potential, according to the Mayo Clinic. Low calcium can also lead to a bone disease called osteoporosis, which could put you at high risk for bone fractures, according to the National Institutes of Health.
How to ensure more calcium in your diet
So how do you make sure you're getting the right amount? It's important to understand which foods contain calcium and when it might be a good idea to add a supplement to your diet. Some of the best known sources of calcium are milk, cheese and other dairy products. An 8-ounce glass of skim milk has about 299 mg of calcium, and an 8-ounce serving of yogurt weighs in at 415 mg.
Other good sources include the following:
- Salmon, 3 ounces, 181 mg
- Sardines, 3 ounces, 325 mg
- Mozzarella cheese, 1.5 ounces, 333 mg
- Broccoli, 1/2 cup, 21 mg
- Fortified cereal, 1 cup, between 100 and 1,000 mg
- Tofu, 1/2 cup, 138 mg
Some individuals might have a tough time getting all the calcium they need from their diet, such as vegans, people who are lactose intolerant or people who eat a lot of salt and protein, which can flush calcium from your body. Certain medical conditions may also affect calcium absorption.
If you can't consistently get the calcium you need from food sources, talk to your doctor about adding a supplement to your diet.
There are four different kinds of calcium supplements, including the following:
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium citrate
- Calcium gluconate
- Calcium lactate
Your doctor can help you choose the right supplement based on your dietary needs, potential side effects and whether you take medication.
It's also important to make sure you're not getting too much of a good thing. There is some evidence that excess calcium raises heart risks, according to the AARP. The maximum daily limit for adults is between 2,000 and 2,500 mg per day.
Take a few minutes to focus on how much calcium is in your diet to make sure you're getting just the right amount to protect your bone health and keep your body healthy.