Nutrition

Calcium

All foods contain vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients thathelp keep your body healthy. Calcium is especially important for bone health, it is also needed for heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly and for bloodto clot normally. If your daily calcium intake is low, calcium will be removed from the bones to perform these functions.

Dairy products are a good source ofcalcium as well as protein, phosphorus, and other nutrients. In fact, about 70%of calcium in the American diet comes form milk and milk products. Low-fat andfat-free dairy products are just as rich in calcium as full-fat versions--and abetter choice if you are watching the total fat and saturated fat in your diet.The calcium in dairy products is easily absorbed by the body. Other calciumsources include some fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish. Also considercalcium-fortified products such as orange juice, cereal, rice and bread. See the chart below for the calcium content ofsome common foods.

Recent studies indicate that mostadults get only one-third to one-half of their recommended daily calciumrequirement. See the chart below for a list of recommendeddaily intakes of calcium (mg/day) from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Calcium Supplements

People who are unable to consume enough calcium from food sources can make up the difference by taking a calcium supplement. Several different calcium compounds are used in commonly available supplements. These compounds contain varying amounts of elemental calcium, which is the actual amount of calcium available to the body. Read supplement labels carefully to determine how much elemental calcium you are actually consuming.

Tips For Taking Supplements

  • Avoid the use of bone meal or dolomite (these may contain lead or other toxic metals) unless the supplement has the USP symbol - a sign of purity.
  • Calcium is best absorbed when taken in small amounts (500 mg or less) throughout the day.
  • More isn't necessarily better - too much calcium can flood your body's absorption sites and keep you from getting enough iron, magnesium and zinc.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Consult your physician about possible interactions between calcium supplements and other prescription or over-the-counter medications. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a supplement.

The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and in bone health. Vitamin D allows calcium to leave the intestine and enter the bloodstream to beabsorbed.

Vitamin D is formed naturally in thebody after fifteen minutes of exposure to sunlight. Studies show that vitamin Dproduction decreases in the winter and is lower in people who are elderly orhousebound. These individuals may require vitamin D supplements to ensure adaily intake of at least 400 IU (International Units), but no more and 800 IU.

Most multivitamins and some calcium supplements contain vitamin D. Check the label for the amount. Other sources are fortified dairy products, egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver.


Recommended Daily Calcium Intake

Age Ranges
mg/day
Birth - 6 months
210
6 months - 1 year
270
1 - 3 years
500
4 - 8 years
800
9 - 18 years
1300
19 - 50 years
1000
51 or older
1200
Pregnant or lactating women 14-18
1300
Pregnant or lactating women 19-50
1000

National Academy of Sciences, 1997 statistics.

 

Common Foods Rich in Calcium

Dairy Products
Serving Size
Calcium (mg)
Whole Milk
8 oz.
291
Skim Milk
8 oz.
302
Yogurt - Fat Free with added milk solids
8 oz.
415
Ice Cream, Vanilla (3% fat), Hard
1 cup
176
Ice Cream, Vanilla (3% fat), Soft-serve
1 cup
236
Ice Milk, Vanilla, Soft-serve
1 cup
274
Cheese
Serving Size
Calcium (mg)
Swiss Cheese
1 oz.
272
Ricotta Cheese, part skim
1/2 cup
337
Ricotta Cheese, whole milk
1/2 cup
257
Cottage Cheese, 1% fat
1 cup
155
Cheddar Cheese
1 oz.
200
Mozzarella Cheese, part skim
1 oz.
207
Romano/Parmesan
1 oz.
300-400
Fruits & Vegetables
Serving Size
Calcium (mg)
Broccoli, fresh
1 cup
176
Orange, navel
1
56
Orange Juice, calcium fortified
8 oz.
300
Dried Figs
10
270
Collards
1 cup
358
Spinach
1 cup
244
Fish & Shellfish
Serving Size
Calcium (mg)
Varies
N/A
50-180
Canned Sardines, with bones
3 oz.
260
Grains/Beans
Serving Size
Calcium (mg)
Raw Tofu
1/2 cup
260
Oatmeal, instant
2 pkts
326
Vegetarian Baked Beans
1 cup
128
Red Calif. Kidney Beans, boiled
1 cup
116