WHAT IS CALCIUM?
Calcium is an essential mineral with many roles in the human body; it is needed for healthy muscles, heart, and to help our blood clot. However, most of the calcium in our bodies is in our teeth and bones.
WHERE DOES CALCIUM COME FROM?
Our bodies cannot make calcium; it must be obtained through our diet. If our diet is poor in calcium, our body will take it out of its “calcium bank”, our bones. If our diet is chronically low in calcium it will lead to thinner, weaker bones over time.
HOW MUCH CALCIUM DO I NEED?
Our need for calcium changes over time. It also depends on gender. The following table summarizes the recommended total calcium intake:
- WOMEN 50 and younger, 1,000 mg daily; 51 and older, 1,200 mg daily
- MEN 70 and younger, 1,000 mg daily; 71 and older, 1,200 mg daily.
WHAT FOODS ARE THE BEST SOURCES OF CALCIUM?
Dairy products such as milk and yogurt are excellent sources of this mineral. If you do not consume milk products, you can also get enough calcium from fortified products such as juices, snacks, soymilk, etc. However, you should read the labels to confirm the levels of calcium provided by each food product.
If you would like to estimate your weekly calcium uptake, you can take a look at The National Osteoporosis Foundation(NOF) calcium calculator. This is an excellent resource to plan weekly diets rich in calcium.
WHAT IF I WOULD LIKE TO ADD CALCIUM TO MY DIET WITH SUPPLEMENTS?
The NOF provides excellent advice on choosing calcium supplements. Their advice is provided here:
- Choose brand-name supplements with proven reliability. Look for labels that state “purified” or have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol.
- Read the product label carefully to determine the amount of elemental calcium, which is the actual amount of calcium in the supplement, as well as how many doses or pills you have to take.
- Calcium is absorbed best when taken in amounts of 500 – 600 mg or less. This is the case for both foods and supplements. Try to get your calcium-rich foods and/or supplements in small amounts throughout the day, preferably with a meal.
- Take (most) calcium supplements with food. Eating food produces stomach acid that helps your body absorb most calcium supplements. The one exception to the rule is calcium citrate, which can absorb well when taken with or without food.
- When starting a new calcium supplement, start with a smaller amount to better tolerate it. When switching supplements, try starting with 200-300 mg every day for a week, and drink an extra 6-8 ounces of water with it. Then gradually add more calcium each week.
- Side effects from calcium supplements, such as gas or constipation may occur.
- Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about possible interactions between prescription or over-the-counter medications and calcium supplements.
I AM TAKING ENOUGH CALCIUM NOW, IS THAT ENOUGH?
For calcium to be fixed in your bones you also need to consider optimizing your vitamin D levels. You can find more information on Vitamin D on our blog.
Your DNA can also play a role in the levels of Vitamin D. Both the MyStrongBones and MySleepInsights reports can provide you with DNA insights on this critical vitamin.