The body requires constant, well defined levels of calcium in the blood at all times to maintain proper heart conduction and muscle function. It does this by pulling calcium from the biggest reservoir in your body- your bones! Your body accomodates this loss by constantly replacing it with calcium that you consume in your diet.
Calcium requirements: For adults, the range is from 800mg- 1200mg per day. For teens, pregnant and lactating women, and menopausal women, that target increases to 1200mg per day to supply needs for rebuilding bones and thus, protection against osteoporosis.
Calcium SupplementsThe body requires constant, well defined levels of calcium in the blood at all times to maintain proper heart conduction and muscle function. It does this by pulling calcium from the biggest reservoir in your body- your bones! Your body accommodates this loss by constantly replacing it with calcium that you consume in your diet.
Calcium requirements for adults range from 800mg- 1200mg per day. For teens, pregnant and lactating women, and menopausal women, that target increases to 1200mg per day to supply needs for rebuilding bones and thus, protection against osteoporosis.
Calcium supplements: The most common type is calcium carbonate. This form is the cheapest to manufacture, but it is also the most difficult for the body to absorb. In addition, supplementing with the carbonate form of calcium may increase your chance of developing kidney stones, unlike calcium citrate. Calcium citrate is pricier, but easier to absorb, as well as the "chelated" forms of calcium. When comparing labels, look for the specific amount of "calcium" or "elemental calcium" of each capsule of tablet, not just the total milligram amount of the supplement.
Calcium in the diet: Be sure to focus on the total amount of calcium that you receive through your diet in addition to supplementation. Common food sources containing calcium include almonds, sesame seeds, almond milk, oranges, dairy products (see section below "Concerns about Dairy"), sardines, tofu and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens and bok choy. Since these vegetables impart many important nutrients and protective health benefits in addition to calcium, it is is a good idea to focus on meal choices that include at least one of these each day. Steaming or lightly sautéing fibrous greens is a great way to make their nutrients more easily absorbed. Broccoli sautéed with sesame seeds is an excellent Calcium packed dish.
How to take calcium: Supplemental calcium is best absorbed when taken with meals, and unless a healthcare professional recommends you to do otherwise for your specific concerns. Select products with either a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of calcium: magnesium to support the requirements of each nutrient.
Magnesium is one of the most deficient minerals in the US diet (along with Zinc). It is critical for the body to properly use calcium and promote bone growth and repair. Some important functions regulated by magnesium are muscle relaxation, heart rhythm, blood pressure reduction, glucose metabolism, energy, and brain function. Although many supplements come in a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, if you are deficient in magnesium, you may benefit from taking twice as much magnesium than calcium or more. Common magnesium deficiency symptoms are insomnia, high blood pressure, tight muscle, charlie horses, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, depression, poor energy, and weight problems.
If you have problems with heart arrhythmia, kidney stones, prostate cancer or have been diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism, talk to your doctor first to find out the correct amount of calcium to supplement with your diet.
I do to help prevent osteoporosis?
1. If you are a woman, you should be consuming between 1,000mg to 1,200mg of calcium
per day from combined food and supplement sources, 400mg of magnesium, and 1,000
IU of Vitamin D (or from the sun a few times a week wearing no sunblock except on
face if desired. Read more here for Dr. Holick's
Vit D recommendations).
2. Bone formula supplements should include a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium unless
you have symptoms of magnesium deficiency (insomnia, high blood pressure, tight
muscle, charlie horse, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, depression, poor energy),
and then you should have a more equal ratio. Try to also increase sources of dietary
magnesium with food choices such as: artichokes, figs, barley, buckwheat flour,
oat bran, brown rice, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, and a variety of beans.
3. Increase weight bearing exercises, examples include: weight lifting, toning,
Pilates, yoga, tai chi, dancing, and participation in sports.
4. AVOID SODA. (including diet sodas.) Soda intake is significantly associated with
bone loss and demineralization, especially in women. This is believed to be a result
of the phosphoric acid content in these drinks.
5. Avoid excess consumption of refined and sugary foods.
6. Avoid ingestion of excess animal proteins in diet. Balance your protein requirements
to include adequate vegetable sources of protein.
7. Limit sodium consumption.
8. Oral birth control pills: When young women begin taking estrogen medications,
especially when they are still in their teen years, it limits their time in establishing
peak bone mass by "tricking" the body into an earlier skeletal maturity. It is therefore
particularly important for this demographic to properly supplement calcium into
Concerns About Dairy Products
While standard American nutritional guidelines encourage eating at least 3 servings
per day of dairy, this advice has come under fire by many experts in nutrition.
There is no clear evidence that dairy products are necessary for a healthy diet,
especially if an individual eats a carefully balanced diet high in green vegetable
sources and nuts/seeds which include calcium along with adequate protein consumption.
Ideal Calcium Source? Consuming dairy may not be an ideal way to
get your calcium because of its net acid effect. Since dairy is acidifying in nature,
and since calcium's primary role is to alkalinize, much of the ingested calcium
from dairy is used to neutralize the acidifying effect of the dairy on the body.
Therefore, the net calcium amount is often negative and bone calcium loss may occur.
That's why greens and nuts actually provide more bioavailable calcium than dairy.
Is Dairy in the US Healthy? The quality of dairy products in the
US had drastically changed over the years and (unless Organic non-rBGH) is filled
with hormones that have adverse health effects. You can read more about the dangers
of milk from the Cancer Prevention Coalition
Many adults lack the enzyme "lactase" (50-60% in some studies) and are unable to
tolerate consumption of milk and uncultured milk products. Still others may have
a sensitivity to one of the proteins contained in milk products, which has been
linked to a variety of issues ranging from intestinal irritations, allergies, and
neurological problems. There have been many people who have noticed an improvement
in their chronic complaints once they discontinued their intake of dairy products.
Benefits of Dairy
For those who can tolerate milk products without problems, especially cultured ones
such as yogurt, Kefir and cheese, there may be many benefits. These are natural
sources of beneficial probiotic bacteria, high quality proteins, and fat soluble
vitamins like A and D. To make the healthiest choices for dairy products, choose
organic options made from whole milk not non-fat or
low-fat since they do not contain the vitamins or anti-cancer
CLA found in dairy fat. Choose plain yogurt over flavored or fruit varieties,
as these may have a high sugar content. This may be especially true of "low fat"
flavored choices. (You can always make your own fruit yogurt by adding fresh berries
of your choice to plain yogurt.) Regardless, it may be wise to limit your servings
of dairy, and still choose high calcium vegetable sources to balance your dietary