Getting enough calcium

Calcium is very important for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. The amount of calcium needed changes as a person grows older. Most Americans get only half the calcium they need from their diet.

The recommended daily calcium intake for adults ages 19 to 50 is 1,000 mg a day, increasing to 1,200 mg a day for adults older than 50. Calcium is found in many foods, including dairy products such as milk or yogurt. Most postmenopausal women should take calcium supplements, because they do not get sufficient amounts of calcium in their daily diets.

  • Eating foods high in calcium, such as yogurt, cheese, and dark green vegetables like broccoli, is the best way to get the calcium you need.
  • Taking calcium supplements is another way to increase calcium in your diet. However, you need to take supplements that can be absorbed in your stomach. Calcium supplements with vitamin D may slightly increase your risk of kidney stones.1

To increase your body's ability to absorb calcium, take calcium supplements with milk or with foods that contain vitamin D and phosphorus. Taking calcium without vitamin D probably is not beneficial.2

Avoid eating bran (such as bran cereals) at the same time as foods that are high in calcium. Bran decreases the amount of calcium absorbed by the body.

Citations

  1. Jackson RD, et al. (2006). Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the risk of fractures. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(7): 669–683.
  2. Mosekilde L, et al. (2008). Fracture prevention in postmenopausal women, search date January 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence. Also available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Last Updated: November 21, 2008

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