Calcium: What's the Best Source for You?
We all know that calcium is needed for strong bones and to help fend off osteoporosis. But how much do you need and what are the best sources?
Adults ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily to maintain good health, while those past the half-century mark require 1,200 milligrams a day, according to the National Institutes of Health. These amounts can be from dairy products, other food and drinks and calcium supplements.
"A diet that includes fruit and vegetables provides 200 to 300 milligrams daily," said Joanna Meyers Casale, RD, a Lourdes Health System dietitian. "A diet that also includes milk and dairy products puts you into the neighborhood of 600 to 800 milligrams."
Food vs. Supplements
Experts say the best way to get most of our nutrients is from food. With calcium, though, people need to watch the foods they consume because dairy products can contain saturated fat, which increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. In addition, vegetables like spinach and chard contain oxalate, which interferes with the absorption of calcium.
Good sources of calcium, Casale said, include one packet of calcium-fortified oatmeal (350 mg), 8 ounces of nonfat milk (302 mg), one cup of plain, low-fat yogurt (300 mg) and 6 ounces of calciumfortified orange juice (200-260 mg).
If you wish to take a supplement, most are made with either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate contains twice as much calcium as calcium citrate, but requires stomach acid to be absorbed so it must be taken after a meal. Calcium citrate can be taken any time and should be the choice of individuals taking medicine to treat acid reflux, since lower amounts of stomach acid mean they won't absorb calcium carbonate properly.
"If you take calcium supplements, take them in small doses--500 milligrams or less--a few times a day. Your body absorbs smaller doses better," Casale said. "But don't overdo it. The absolute most you should get is 2,500 milligrams a day."
Staving Off Osteoporosis
While calcium is important, it does not work by itself. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that adequate calcium and vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium, along with a healthy diet and physical activity, can help reduce the risk for osteoporosis later in life. Postmenopausal women, for example, need 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily. Calcium and vitamin D are combined in some supplements.
A bone densitometer, or DEXA scanner, can determine your risk for osteoporosis by identifying bone loss at fracture sites such as the spine, femur and hip.
Bone Up on Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break. Call 1-888-LOURDES (568-7337) to receive this FREE brochure on how to protect your bones and prevent osteoporosis.
For more information about Lourdes experts, call 1-888-LOURDES (568-7337) or visit the Lourdes Health System Web site at www.lourdesnet.org.
Find out if you're at risk for osteoporosis with a DEXA scan at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County. To schedule your scan appointment online, visit www.lourdesnet.org and click on "For Patients."