Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions, including building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, nerve function, and muscle function. Unfortunately, many people do not consume enough calcium in their diet, which can lead to a calcium deficiency and health problems. The good news is that there are many sources of calcium, and with a little planning, it is easy to increase your intake. In this article, we will look at where calcium can be found in the diet and provide tips for boosting your intake.
Why is Calcium important?
Calcium is needed for many vital functions in the body, including:
- Building and maintaining strong bones and teeth
- Nerve function
- Muscle function
- Blood clotting
- Regulating heart rhythm
Calcium is especially important for children and teenagers who are still building bone mass and for women, who have a higher risk of osteoporosis as they age. However, it is important for everyone to consume enough calcium in their diet to maintain good health.
Sources of Calcium
There are many sources of calcium in the diet. The most well-known source is dairy products, but there are many other foods that contain calcium, including:
|Food||Serving Size||Calcium Content|
|Milk (nonfat, skim)||1 cup||302mg|
|Cheese (low-fat)||1 ounce||200mg|
|Yogurt (low-fat)||1 cup||345mg|
|Tofu (firm)||½ cup||253mg|
|Sardines (with bones)||3 ounces||370mg|
|Kale (cooked)||1 cup||94mg|
|Collard Greens (cooked)||1 cup||268mg|
|Fortified Orange Juice||1 cup||349mg|
Dairy products are the most well-known source of calcium, with milk and cheese being the most popular options. Yogurt is another great choice and can be enjoyed as a snack or added to smoothies and other recipes. Because dairy products are also high in fat and calories, it is important to choose low-fat or fat-free options.
Many non-dairy foods are also good sources of calcium, including tofu, sardines, and leafy green vegetables like kale and collard greens. Certain brands of fortified orange juice also contain calcium, providing another option for those who do not consume dairy products. Some grains and cereals are also fortified with calcium, but it is important to check the label to make sure they are not high in sugar and other additives.
Calcium supplements are also available and can be used to boost intake. However, it is always best to get nutrients from whole foods whenever possible. If you do choose to take a supplement, be sure to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to make sure it is appropriate for you and that you are taking the correct dosage.
Tips for Boosting Your Calcium Intake
Now that we know where calcium can be found, let’s look at some tips for boosting your intake:
1. Eat Calcium-Rich Foods
The easiest way to boost your calcium intake is by eating foods that are high in calcium. As we’ve seen, dairy products are an excellent source, but there are many other options as well. Try adding more leafy greens like kale and collard greens to your diet, or adding tofu to stir-fries and other recipes.
2. Choose Fortified Foods
Many foods, including orange juice and certain cereals and grains, are fortified with calcium. Adding these fortified foods to your diet is an easy way to increase your intake. However, be sure to choose brands that are low in sugar and other additives.
3. Use Calcium-Fortified Products
Many non-dairy products, including plant-based milks and yogurt, are now fortified with calcium. These products can be used as a substitute for dairy products in recipes and can be a good option for those who are lactose intolerant or who choose not to consume dairy products.
4. Take a Supplement
If you are not able to get enough calcium from your diet, a supplement can be a good option. However, it is important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before taking a supplement to make sure it is appropriate for you and to determine the correct dosage.
Common Questions About Calcium
1. How much calcium do I need?
The recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is 1000mg to 1200mg per day. Children and teenagers may need more, depending on their age and gender. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you determine how much calcium you need based on your age, gender, and other factors.
2. Can I get enough calcium from my diet?
It is possible to get enough calcium from your diet if you consume a variety of calcium-rich foods. However, if you are unable to consume enough calcium from your diet alone, a supplement may be needed.
3. Can I get calcium from supplements?
Calcium supplements can be a good option for those who are unable to get enough calcium from their diet. However, it is important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before taking a supplement to make sure it is appropriate for you and to determine the correct dosage.
4. What are the risks of taking too much calcium?
Taking too much calcium can lead to health problems, including kidney stones and constipation. It is important to get the correct amount of calcium based on your individual needs.
5. Are there any foods that inhibit calcium absorption?
Some foods can inhibit calcium absorption, including foods high in oxalic acid, such as spinach and rhubarb, and foods high in phytic acid, such as beans and whole grains. However, these foods can still be part of a healthy diet as long as they are consumed in moderation and other calcium-rich foods are included.
6. What are the symptoms of calcium deficiency?
Calcium deficiency can lead to a variety of symptoms, including weakened bones, tooth decay, muscle cramps, and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor to determine if a calcium deficiency is the cause.
Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions. It is important to consume enough calcium in your diet to maintain good health, and with a little planning, it is easy to increase your intake. By eating calcium-rich foods, choosing fortified products, and taking supplements when necessary, you can ensure that you are getting the correct amount of calcium for your individual needs.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Calcium and Milk: What’s Best for Your Bone Health? Accessed August 2021 from <https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/calcium-and-milk-whats-best-for-your-bones-and-health>
- Mayo Clinic. Calcium Supplements: Do They Interfere with Blood Pressure Drugs? Accessed August 2021 from <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/calcium-supplements/faq-20058046>
- US Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Accessed August 2021 from <https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf>