We grow up hearing, “Drink your milk! You need more calcium.” Yes, we need sufficient calcium, but is milk the best source? However, if you ask (and we did) the nutritionists at our parent company Nutritional Weight & Wellness, they would say no and we’ll explain why.We’ll also share a list of calcium-rich foods to incorporate in your diet and what to look for in quality calcium supplements.
The Dairy Myth
The United States has one of the highest rates of dairy consumption, yet according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass. Wait, that doesn’t make sense— if we eat so much dairy why do so many individuals have low bone mass? Well, recent research in the Journal of Osteoporosis International and research done at Harvard has debunked the idea that we need to consume dairy for strong bones. Many countries where very little dairy is consumed have some of the lowest rates of osteoporosis. In fact, we did just fine without dairy for most of human history.
Other Food Sources of Calcium
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, the parent company of NutriKey we always believe food should be the first source of nutrients in our diet. But if you’re dairy-free do not fret; you can get adequate calcium from vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens, sardines, canned salmon with the bones and nuts. Try our delicious Crunchy Broccoli Salad and Kale Salad to boost your calcium intake. If you’re a fan of sardines (in our experience you either love them or hate them) try the Sardine Salad with chickpeas.
Here’s a great list of calcium sources we recommend adding to your own favorite recipes or dishes.
You may be wondering about those commercials for “freshly-squeezed” orange juice fortified with calcium. Is that a good source? Not so much, and here’s why. The calcium found in orange juice is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is the cheapest and least absorbable form of calcium available. You read that right – even though you’re drinking calcium in your juice, your body isn’t able to absorb that form. What a waste! Unfortunately, many supplements also contain this same form of calcium. Plus, orange juice is full of sugar. Although it’s natural sugar, drinking a 16-ounce glass of orange juice has just as much sugar as a can of pop.
Common Reasons to Supplement with Calcium
Wondering if you need to supplement with calcium? Here’s a list our nutritionists came up with for reasons why supplementing is a good idea.
That leads us to who should take calcium? If you can relate to anything in the above-mentioned list, you may want to consider taking calcium.
Two specific groups should be supplementing for sure.
Calcium benefits us in other ways, too. For example, research shows that calcium helps prevent muscle cramps and spasms and helps protect against colon cancer, according to The Journal of the National Cancer Institute. If you want to learn even more about calcium, listen to our Dishing Up Nutrition podcast about Important Minerals.
Which Calcium Supplement is Right for You?
So if you’ve decided to supplement with calcium, what form is most absorbable and beneficial? Here are our three top picks. As an added bonus, all three are 15% off all October long, making it a bit easier to sample which one works for you.
How much calcium do you really need? The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for average needs is 1000 mg for men ages 18-70 and women ages 18-50, and 1200 mg for men ages 71 and above and women ages 51 and above.
If you’re not sure what supplement or dosage is right for you we can help? Our dietitians and nutritionists at Nutritional Weight & Wellness will recommend both food and supplements based on YOUR needs during a virtual one-on-one nutrition counseling appointment.
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Shea B, Wells G, Cranney A, et al. (2002) Meta-analyses of therapies for postmenopausal osteoporosis. VII. Meta-analysis of calcium supplementation for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Endocr Rev 23:552.
Chapuy MC, Arlot ME, Duboeuf F, et al. (1992) Vitamin D3 and calcium to prevent hip fractures in the elderly women. N Engl J Med 327:1637.
Chapuy MC, Pamphile R, Paris E, et al. (2002) Combined calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation in elderly women: confirmation of reversal of secondary hyperparathyroidism and hip fracture risk: the Decalyos II study. Osteoporos Int 13:257.
Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Krall EA, Dallal GE (1997) Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on bone density in men and women 65 years of age or older. N Engl J Med 337:670.