Got Calcium?

Got Calcium?

by Kim Hardin, RD

If you think calcium is just for kids, think again. After age 50, you need 1,000"1,300 milligrams per day.

Calcium does more than strengthen bones and teeth. It helps prevent colon cancer, hypertension, kidney stones, periodontal disease, and weight gain.

So, how do you get all the calcium you need? The best way is from the foods you eat, especially low-fat dairy products. Other good sources include salmon with bones, almonds, deep green leafy vegetables, and fortified foods like cereals and orange juice. Here are some excellent sources and the amount of calcium found in each:

Dairy Group Calcium
Plain low-fat yogurt / 8 oz 452 MG
Fruit flavored yogurt / 8 oz 345 MG
Low-fat mozzarella cheese / 1.5 oz 311 MG
Skim milk / 8 oz 316 MG
2% low-fat cottage cheese / 1 cup 156 MG
Protein Group Calcium
Salmon with bones / 3 oz 181 MG
Whole dry roasted almonds / 1/3 cup 126 MG
Vegetable Group Calcium
Frozen cooked kale / 1/2 cup 90 MG
Frozen cooked broccoli / 1/2 cup 47 MG
Fortified Foods Calcium
Ready-to-eat cereal Check labels; varies by brand
Calcium-fortified orange juice Check labels; varies by brand

Source: "Thinking About Calcium?" National Dairy Council, 1999

You can easily get the calcium you need by choosing three low-fat dairy products per day and a cup of calcium-fortified orange juice. However, if you don't like or can't tolerate dairy products, you may need a supplement. For best results, choose one that contains vitamin D, and divide the dose so you take it twice a day instead of once. The supplement is absorbed better if you take 500 mg in the morning and 500 mg in the evening than if you take 1,000 mg once a day. Consult your dietitian or health care provider if you need help choosing the supplement that's best for you.